It’s a pretty typical day in your life as a prominent attorney. After successfully arguing a high-profile case in court, you gather your files together and head out to the parking garage to find your car. On the way to the courthouse that morning, the “change oil” indicator had started to flash—so, naturally, you remove your blazer, roll up the sleeves of your shirt or blouse, and immediately start to perform the lube job, right there in the parking lot.
Wait—that doesn’t seem quite right.
Upon reflection, maybe the court’s garage isn’t the best place to be crawling around under your car. Safety concerns aside, you’ll probably raise a few eyebrows among your colleagues. You’re really not dressed to be dealing with a messy car repair. And who brings four quarts of oil and a filter to work, anyhow?!?
Improving efficiencies in your law practice requires a little common sense
In addition to practicing law, attorneys are looking for opportunities to streamline their work, increase their productivity, and reduce their own cost of doing business in order to make themselves and their practice groups more competitive and effective.
One obvious way in which firms can improve on efficiencies and maximize performance is by the use of technology. Information technology allows for doing more with less, quicker than any human, and simplifies the most tedious of tasks. Every “efficiency improvement plan” should capitalize on the many positive aspects IT can lend.
Using technology wisely is key in the improvement puzzle. Being proactive with technology is paramount. Your plan should always include an ongoing technology support component.
Just like changing oil in a vehicle helps to keep it running smoothly, maintenance of critical business systems is crucial to the health of your company’s IT infrastructure.
So, when your “change oil” light came on, was it really necessary to drop everything and perform the routine maintenance right then and there? Fortunately, the answer is “no.” The manufacturer set up the warning signal as a convenient reminder to the vehicle’s operator. (It really is useful, of course. Never changing the oil would make the car run much less efficiently and could eventually cause catastrophic failure. Changing the oil every day would be an inefficient use of resources—wasteful and inconvenient. Receiving a reminder at an appropriate interval is a great convenience.)
To continue our analogy: While some “do-it-yourselfers” out there enjoy getting their hands dirty, the vast majority of people “outsource” oil changes to someone who is well-trained and performs that type of service routinely. Likewise, as legal firms lean heavily on technology in their endeavor to become better, faster, and stronger in their business functions, it is imperative to keep the “vehicle” (technology infrastructure) proactively serviced.
Managed IT services helps law firms’ efforts at improving efficiencies
Many law practices have found that partnering with a trusted IT services provider for necessary proactive IT functions makes them more effective. More than anything, an efficient IT solution provides peace of mind that the firm’s “vehicle” to overall improvement is running optimally. An expert team of highly-trained and certified systems engineers can deliver a host of technology services:
- Monitoring: Proactive monitoring of critical network components ensures that systems are operating at peak performance. Monitoring should include 24×7 notification of any systems that fall outside preset thresholds. Think of proactive monitoring as a “change oil light.”
- Proactive Software Updates: This is typically a monthly service in which system engineers apply critical security patches and updates to your firm’s systems. Software updates should be just one of many tasks performed on a monthly proactive checklist—similar to a multi-point inspection during your car service experience.
- End-User Services: Users can call a remote services support center—you probably know it as “helpdesk”—for technical support on software and hardware. Typical calls are related to password resets, drive mapping, and general network/workstation support. The ideal service provider maintains a local 24×7 support center staffed by certified engineers—and the best IT service providers boast quick response times (I love to brag about my own company’s record of answering helpdesk calls within four rings!) To stay with the car analogy, this is could be considered as OnStar services.
- Backups: Think of data backups as a spare tire. Though never fun to change a tire, they are essential for keeping your car on the road. Backups should occur daily. The backup system should monitor, verify, and test the backed-up data to make certain recovery is attainable.
- High Availability: It is common for families to have multiple vehicles. In the event something happens to one car, another is available to drive. High availability should be thought of in terms of Business Continuity—making certain business can proceed in the event of a catastrophic failure. Most often these redundant systems will reside in the data center of your trusted IT services provider and will be set to failover automatically when needed.
- Budgeting and IT Roadmapping: Having a solid business plan, including a financial aspect, is crucial to success. Technology is an important component of modern businesses; therefore, it should be in your overall business strategy. Many organizations may have a small IT staff but do not have the luxury of retaining a Chief Information Officer. A managed IT services provider should fill this void by guiding businesses toward technology that will improve overall efficiencies and reduce risk. You have a similar plan in place when preparing for a road trip: You give due consideration to the route (including known weather or traffic concerns), and you take into account the lodging expenses, gasoline needed, and overall budget.
- Secure Network Operations Support: Security among organizations is quickly rising to the forefront due to the increasing number of breaches suffered by businesses of every size. It’s not a matter of if a company’s security will be compromised, it is when. Some organizations are mandated by regulation (HIPAA, SOC, or GLBA, for example) to be aggressive with their security strategy, including many layers of defense. Other non-regulated industries are adding security layers for fear of losing sensitive client data or intellectual property. One layer that is gaining popularity in all types of industries is real-time monitoring and mitigation of high-risk security events. Think of this as having a security camera on your parked vehicle at all times. In the event of suspicious activity, the garage door is closed on the culprit.
- On-site Service: This may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes an IT problem will require hands-on support. If it’s part of your service agreement (rather than an add-on service for an add-on fee), it’s more efficient for your firm and reduces the worry about unexpected expenses. Think of this a Triple-A roadside service.
While internal IT staffers have handled many of these services historically, by 2015 most law firms have discovered that outsourcing these duties can actually make the firm’s IT staff stronger and more efficient. By partnering with a team of experts for day-to-day monitoring and routine reactive support of the technology “vehicle,” your firm can reallocate its top internal IT talent to larger technology initiatives that will aid in reaching goals for improving efficiencies.