Many firms are coming up to a decision point. Windows XP will no longer be supported after April 8, 2014. Accordingly firms are looking at replacing their desktop or laptop XP machines with Windows 7 (or perhaps Windows 8) PCs. Or are they? There has been a considerable growth in BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices) to work. iPads and other tablets have made considerable inroads. Many lawyers now operate using an iPhone, Android or Blackberry or indeed a lightweight Mac Air – and don’t relish the idea of lugging a PC laptop around. So what is a firm to do?
Before they embark on a considerable technology spend, it behooves firms to stop for a moment and take a strategic view towards their next technological platform and objectives. Robert Half Legal latest report:
Future Law Office: Technology’s Transformation of the Legal Field provides considerable insights into how technology is shaping the practice of law.
Here are our (condensed) summaries of some of their key findings:
- With smartphones, tablet computers, wireless networks and cloud computing, telecommuting is on the rise.
- The physical footprint of today’s law firm is shrinking. Some offices are even going completely virtual.
- Clients are demanding secure portals and collaborative spaces – revealing a critical need for secure technology sharing environments.
- Social media use is on the rise but many lawyers and firms still have concerns about privacy and the inadvertent disclosure of client information when using social media.
- Technology has leveled the playing field enabling solo practitioners and small law firms to establish a large- firm-like presence online.
- e-Discovery remains both a growth area and a challenge.
In order to spend those technology dollars wisely, a firm should undertake a strategic technology audit. This is not a technology exercise – rather it is a hard-nosed management overview and analysis of where the strengths and weaknesses of the firm is in relation to how the underlying technology of the firm supports the strategic goals of the firm.
April 8, 2014 will be arriving sooner than expected. It would be comforting to know that your firm has done the critical analysis and planning well in advance. There are three key questions to ask:
- What do we have?
- What do we need?
Underlying this analysis is the litmus test put forth by no less than Bill Gates:
The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.
This indicates that the analysis is much deeper than perhaps first anticipated. You are looking at the workflows in your firm and whether those underlying work flows are efficient before you apply technology. Moreover what are the anticipated new work that the firm will be taking on in the future – is your underlying technology capable of supporting those new ventures efficiently and effectively?
In our view, firms should be starting this planning and analysis now – in order to have everything in place when the time comes when XP slides into the sunset.