Using Technology Audits to Save Money in Law Firms

My latest technology column for the ABA Journal is out. It’s called “Countdown to Savings” and it focuses on ways that law firms can use technology audits, from the simple to the complex, to get information that they can use to make good business decisions about technology.
The idea is that too often law firms make guesses about technology needs, Even a simple counting can give you a numerical / factual basis for making better technology decisions. As I commonly do, I wanted to focus on the business side of legal tech more so than on the purely technical side.
My sense for the value of tech audits stems in no small part from my own experience one day at a former law firm. Our one-person IT department left without warning and I spent the day with a consultant brought in on an emergency basis struggling to answer basic questions like: how many PCs on your network? what version of the network software do you use? how many users do you have?
It’s a lot easier when you have the numbers upon which to base your decisions. Here are two examples.
First, note how your decision-making changes when asked to approve a purchase of a new scanner when you know that you have two aging scanners versus learning that you have six of them scattered around your office. Your decision might move from whether to purchase to whether to move locations and better deploy to match workflow.
Second, note how your decision on who gets to use a software program for which you have 50 licenses changes when you know that you have 24 users as compared to 48 users.
I like the way tech audits can be used to gather “actionable intelligence” to help you make real-world decisions. The column sets out the wide range of technology audits you can use – from the simplest (running a free tool to find out the hardware and software on your computer or walking around and counting PCs) to the most complex (sophisticated network audits or security audits run by outside experts).
The decisions that I think tech audits can really help you make are those that save you money. And that’s a good thing these days.
The response to this column surprised me. I had a larger than usual number of emails, all quite positive. Yet, if you visit the article (and I hope you will), you’ll see a couple of quite negative comments.
I note these comments because they surprised me. In fact, I had to re-read the article (in part because I actually wrote it several months ago and my columns usually get edited for space reasons) after I read the comments. Substantively, I have no problem with the comments although I do think they take me to task for a postion I did not and would not take – they emphasize that there are definitely audits that lawyers will want either their IT department or outside technology consultants to run. I think my article actually makes that point, but the comments provide some good emphasis. No, what surprised me was the condescending tone of the comments, from people apparently so new to the legal profession. I know that I still have a lot to learn, so it’s interesting to see the level of confidence the commenters already have and the tone and attitude they are willing to take at this point in their careers. I’ll let you be the judge. I’ll probably write a response to the comments at some point.
The comments seem to take the position that lawyers should never do anykind of tech audit and that all audits be left to tech professionals. I’m not sure that I can agree that it makes sense for a small firm to hire an outside expert to count the number of scanners it has or do other simple counts. Perhaps I used the word “audit” too imprecisely, but I think there are many ways we all can obtain the types of actionable numbers we need to make business decisions about technology.
Check out the column and see what you think.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
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Comments

  1. says

    I understand your pain. Too often in my old firm I’d have days where the IT guy would decide to make it a early day and take off with little warning other than a single sentence email. We’d have to spend the day tracking him or someone down to solve the inevitable emergency.