Headspace by Greg Bray

Thoughts and observations of an often displaced Aussie, working to rid the professional world of paper - one page at a time - visit me at OzDox.com.au

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Is this the best thing I could be doing with my time?


"Is this the best thing I could be doing with my time?"

These immortal words were scribbled on a small yellow Post-it note placed strategically in the top right hand corner of the computer monitor. The owner of the computer was the senior partner at a firm where I was recently implementing a CRM system.

It was his personal reminder that he should avoid becoming side-tracked by following up on non-productive administration tasks and sacrificing his $255 per hour hourly rate. Indeed, the day to day issues of running his firm had become quite a "time-suck", particularly preparing his computer systems for my CRM installation.

The problem was that this particular attorney was a bit of a "dab hand" at office technology, and secretly enjoyed the challenges of hunting down technology issues and searching for solutions. In fact, he likened the research elements of dealing with Information Technology to those that he had refined as a corporate litigation attorney.

Managing a firm of under 20 staff, he had decided that they did nor require a full time IT Administrator - an assumption that I generally agree with for firms of that size. He was using a local IT company for outsourced support, but their hourly rate ($150 per hour) seemed extravagant and they were generally only called on for mission critical issues - mail server crashes, server replacements, etc.

And so how firm's daily computer"fires" were chased down and extinguished by the firm's senior partner, and instead of researching case law he was now researching printer driver issues.

The obvious issue here is a simple economics. The partner would fix a printer driver issues in an hour, at an expense of $350 in lost revenue, as opposed to using his IT company to fix the same issue in half the time and a quarter of the cost. The decline in productivity from the partner was also adversely affecting his paralegal productivity too, as he was taking on less work so that he could dedicate more time to running the IT infrastructure.

Profit & Lost reports began to highlight this trend, which, as a careful small business owner, our partner monitored frequently. He recognized the problem, placed the sticky note on his monitor and has the IT company deal with most issues - big and small.

Having been inside over hundreds of law firms, this is an extremely common situation in small firms. Often the surrogate IT person is the Office Administrator, or some other designate that happens to know more about computers that anybody else or forgot to step backwards when volunteers were called.

I liken this approach to deciding to build a house, and then looking around your property for the building materials. Wouldn't you just go out and purchase the materials that will work best for your new home?

So choosing an IT company to support your small business is an important decision, and choosing the right one is a subject I will deal with in the future. But just as important is your decision as to how involved your outsourced IT support is in your daily office technology issues, and will depend on the technological aptitude of your own staff. Monitor your productivity reports and financial statements to get the right balance.

And the next time somebody knocks on your door and asks if you know how to assemble a bound PDF document with bookmarks, ask yourself:

"Is this the best thing I could be doing with my time?"



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