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In an increasingly competitive marketplace, law firms are under pressure to continually improve their operations and deliver an enhanced experience for clients. While firms can leverage technology to do this, it’s vital that they are investing wisely, intentionally and with purpose – especially given the current commercial landscape of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Before responding to requests for new tech or cutting edge IT solutions, law firm business and IT leaders must understand and plan for change. There must be an IT strategy in place, which aligns with the business’s direction and overall growth strategy, which will enable strategic decision making
In this webinar, Chris White, Head of Consultancy, and Robert Rutherford, Chief Executive Officer, will give an introduction to IT strategy for law firms. They will discuss the strategic importance of IT for law firms and how they should organise it.
Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities for recovering spend quickly and effectively – largely around better cloud management and resource allocation. Of course, any cost-cutting measures need to be performed in a controlled way to ensure the integrity, performance and security of the cloud platform is not compromised.
1. Reserved instances
Ensure that you are using reserved instances where appropriate. Many organisations are still using pay as you go billing and ultimately losing out versus locking in pricing for a year or more. In some scenarios, you can save more than 70% with reserved instances.
2. Review licensing
It’s worth regularly reviewing licensing, particularly around the Microsoft stack. Microsoft makes regular changes to licensing, particularly around cloud-based services; some small adjustments can deliver significant savings within an estate. It’s worth noting that many organisations are doubling-up on licensing, particularly when using Azure and Microsoft licensing, i.e. Not using the Azure Hybrid Benefit program. If you bundle this program with reserved instances then savings of up to 80% can be made.
3. Price matching
Most public and private cloud providers will match their direct competitors on price. If you are up for renewal on your cloud platform or are not in a contract it’s important to take this into account. Also, even if you are in a contract it may be worth speaking to your provider about extending your contract term for a reduced monthly fee.
4. Look at containers
Containers are lighter weight than virtual machines and thus cost less. It’s worth looking at your applications to see which could be repackaged into containers to reduce the VM footprint and also costs.
5. Testing environments
Many organisations are paying to host their dev and testing environments. This is typically unnecessary and most cloud providers will allow you to run these workloads and licenses at a significantly reduced cost.
6. Move databases from virtual machines
Often, due to technical and operational familiarity, a lot of databases sit on VMs when they could sit in an elastic database. There are significant cost-savings, resiliency and often security benefits to be gained here, often without a huge amount of work.
7. Look for redundant disks
So many cloud estates have idle disks lurking around with them. It’s important to identify where these are, as they will be costing you every month. Most cloud providers, particularly within the public cloud arena make this easy, i.e. Look at the disk owner (or lack of) within the Azure portal’s disk screen.
8. Look at storage tiering
It’s easy overtime for data usage on disks to change. It’s important to ensure that the right data is stored on the right type of disk to ensure you are paying the right amount to store or process that data. Storage tiering, particularly automatic storage tiering, if not in use already should be evaluated to get the right balance between demand and price.
9. Look at uptime requirements
Many services within an organisation don’t need to be on in the evenings or at the weekend. In many cloud environments, you are going to be paying for those resources, if you are using them or not. If a server is only used between 8am to 8pm then why pay for those additional hours it’s not being used? You won’t save 50% of costs as it’s probably idling, but you could save 20% or 30%. When you extrapolate that over a number of servers and a number of days the savings do ramp. Most cloud providers have automated tools to help you automatically deallocate resources and shut idle systems down.
10. Break down virtual machines
Consider a larger number of smaller VMs compared to 1 large VM. This splits the workload and can help availability, whilst importantly making it easier to power down more resource when not in use.
11. Consider PaaS rather an IaaS
For example, Remote Desktop Services (RDS) require multiple gateway servers to build/run/maintain on top of session hosts, Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) removes the need and ultimately the costs operate and manage these servers.
12. Look at your egress bandwidth
Always consider your egress requirements and what connectivity would be most suitable for your setup, such as using Microsoft ExpressRoute may be more cost-effective than running complex site-to-site VPNs.
Preventing future wastage
Whether you’re planning to migrate for the first time, planning to invest further in cloud, or you’re evaluating the suitability of your current platform, it’s essential that controlling waste remains a priority.
Optimising cloud computing spend is an ongoing challenge due to the cloud’s highly dynamic nature. Every time a new application is launched in the cloud or more cloud resources are allocated, cloud usage, and therefore spend, increases too. However, with automated policies and regular reviews you can ensure costs remain under control and prevent unanticipated bills.
It’s too soon to tell what the long-term financial impact of the pandemic will be, but in times of financial difficultly, IT spend can often be the first one on the chopping block – even with the best of intentions to maintain or increase that spend. Therefore, it’s more important than ever for IT Managers and teams to dig deep and assess what it truly being spent. Controlling cloud spend will not only make forecasting easier, but it’ll also free up budget for further digital transformation projects.
Need help optimising your cloud computing spend further?
With over 15 years’ experience in analysing, designing, deploying and managing all types of cloud platform, QuoStar is ideally placed to help you get more from your cloud computing budget.
We can help identify measurable costs savings, without negatively impacting the performance, reliability or security of your cloud platform, with a Value Enhancement Audit.
Get started today by booking a free online review with one of our cloud consultants. We’re here to help and can offer no-obligation advice about cloud computing, specific to your business requirements.
Investing in a company’s IT systems is now a regular part of planning.
However, it’s easy to focus on only a few areas of the business instead of taking a holistic approach. In order to avoid this scenario, the company must look at all areas of the business to build a robust IT infrastructure.
How to manage your IT investment
Connecting the dots
The challenge of migrating legacy systems and platforms can put businesses off IT improvement. It is a time-consuming process, especially if the business has expanded through M&A activity or partnerships. In most cases, data will be stored on different systems and in different formats, so consolidation is quite significant and will inevitably require a sizeable investment.
This issue can often go ignored as staff grow used to working with disparate data sets and systems. However, this severely hampers productivity as employees have to navigate multiple programs to find client information or historical data. It is also likely that mistakes can be made when the data does not exist on a single accessible platform. Well-thought migration and consolidation, will streamline processes and allow the business to focus on delivering results.
Bringing on help
To achieve the best possible results, IT investment often needs to go beyond in-house systems and tools. As competition increases, businesses need to improve both their output and processes; this is where investment in outsourcing providers can prove invaluable. However, many often overlook this solution, largely due to historical views of outsourcing.
It is important to remember that outsourcing does not mean replacing the internal team with a third party. That is an option but is by no means the only choice available. More often than not, outsourcing provides enhanced support on projects and services, alleviates the burden of certain processes or simply provides advice on current business practices. If outsourced effectively, the IT team will have more time to develop and improve processes, while the third party deals with the day-to-day tasks.
Planning for the worst
IT investment typically aims to improve current technology or streamline certain processes, but there can be a huge gap when it comes to planning. Businesses are so familiar with using technology they often forget to strategically plan how to mitigate risks and unforeseen issues that can occur when things go wrong – be it a system failure, security incident or transport strike. When the company is hit by an unexpected event, staff can often scramble to continue their working day. Without a clear strategy in place, the business risks financial loss due to the inability of staff to work effectively and efficiently. This doesn’t even take into account areas, such as reputation damage and regulatory penalties.
IT has a vital role to play in providing a comprehensive, structured and strategic business continuity plan that is able to respond to any challenges that can impact company operations. A key barrier to making improvements in this area is due to how the company views its IT priorities. Regulation, data protection and the general running of the hardware can seem like the most important parts of the business. However, if you do not account for the day-to-day, these large-scale IT challenges will not matter – the business will simply suffer from a lack of planning.
IT investment is a vital part of how a company operates. However, it cannot focus on a single area of the business. Simply investing in cybersecurity alone will not improve internal processes or streamline activity. To build a comprehensive IT operation, you need a balanced approach that takes into account all aspects of the business.
Businesses whose boards have strong digital skills enjoy benefits including 17% greater profits, 34% higher return on assets and 38% faster revenue growth according to a report by MIT SMR.
Any of those advantages would put a company in a powerful place against their competitors, so how does this one difference deliver all three? And if it’s so impactful, why do so few businesses have IT on their board?
6 reasons why having IT on the board makes such a difference
1. IT and business alignment
Businesses without IT leadership on the board often have a siloed or even antagonistic view of IT. In these environments, IT is often labelled as a non-contributor to the business since they aren’t directly creating revenue. Even worse, an uninformed board rarely considers how the essential work of IT allows revenue-generating departments to succeed.
Resentment easily grows between departments in this scenario and causes in-fighting, loss of talent and a stressful work environment. This leads to long-lasting reputational damage, a reduction in business productivity and ultimately, lower revenue.
Once senior IT executives are present on the board though, they can clearly communicate IT’s value, potential and contributions. Improving alignment and collaboration whilst reducing friction across the business.
2. A lower technical debt
Digitally strong leadership is aware of the concept of technical debt and invest intelligently to eliminate it. Businesses without IT executives or their IT support provider on their board, are rarely even aware of technical debt and make flawed business decisions as a result.
Problems accelerate for non-savvy businesses if misconceptions such as IT being a ‘necessary evil’ or a business ‘cost’ get out of control and begin influencing the board’s decisions. This causes technical debt to accumulate even faster – narrowing cash flow, increasing job disengagement and lowering the business’ productivity ceiling.
If IT has a voice on the board, they can address these misconceptions and release the stranglehold on investment and advancement they cause. This reduces technical debt, improves day to day operations (and thus profits) and re-opens the gates to innovation by strategically investing when appropriate opportunities arise.
It might sound crude, but if someone’s job or ego isn’t at risk, genuine change and progress don’t happen. Having board members who are accountable for IT multiplies the impetus for delivering on IT’s full value and encourages greater performance. This ultimately accelerates project delivery and the achievement of companywide and departmental KPIs.
In businesses without IT representation on the board, the strategic direction of IT rarely fits with the overall business strategy and maybe even works in a competing direction.
A simple example of misalignment would be if the business wanted to increase customer engagement and service, but IT had an ongoing implementation of a business management solution like ERP or Practice Management with a poor CRM system built-in.
If IT had representation on the board, they could have seen the misalignment and raised it prior to purchase. Even if the software was already bought, they could have reviewed an additional CRM product that integrates with the other line of business applications and makes up for the existing solution’s shortfalls. While there would be additional costs, the CIO would clearly define ROI in advance, with support from marketing.
IT leadership on the board can also lead to other projects which deliver on the business strategy. This would create overarching benefits, from back-office automation in any sector through to shop floor management systems in manufacturing, and perhaps AI or general process improvements in legal firms.
However, more commonly than misaligned strategies, businesses without IT on their board rarely have a real IT strategy at all. Usually just having a budget and a refresh cycle documented; putting them far behind the pack.
5. A more pressing attitude to risk management
A board without IT leadership can place a disproportionate amount of focus on extraneous risks whilst critical IT risks go unaddressed. Even if IT has a solution to hand, the board may still deny funding since they don’t understand its importance.
Consequently, increased downtime, business disruption and lost money should be expected as the underlying infrastructure becomes neglected. Downtime alone costs the average business about £4,300 per minute – a painful sum for a non-savvy board’s inaction.
But downtime is not the only risk a board without an IT presence will fail to address. Cyber-security, reputational damage, data loss and other critical issues will go neglected without the correct emphasis from IT.
When IT has its place on the board, the correct emphasis is placed on IT risks since there’s an inherent understanding of their importance. Pressing issues can be correctly raised, evaluated and solved by top-down management, reducing downtime, disruption and the associated costs.
6. Broadened horizons
If you look at a CIO’s job description, you’ll see requirements like:
Create business value through technology.
Strategic planning of business growth objectives.
Ensure tech systems and procedures lead to outcomes in line with business goals.
Oversee the development of customer service platforms.
Manage IT and development team personnel.
Approve vendor negotiations and IT architecture.
Information risk management.
Establish IT policies, strategies, and standards.
Develop and approve technology futures and budgets.
Beneath the IT-specific language, these are all essential skills for a board member to have. Without IT leadership present at board level, these are skills you’re missing out on.
But specific skills aren’t the only thing boards with no IT representation miss out on. Thanks to their unique mindset, a proven business executive with a vast knowledge of Information Technology and its application can challenge assumptions and find opportunities in overlooked areas.
Why do so few businesses have IT leadership on their board?
Based on all these factors, you may assume every business has IT leadership at board level. However, you’d be wrong.
For a start, most IT support providers lack a mature enough offering to include true board-level assistance. This makes it nearly impossible for businesses who outsource their IT to have IT present on their board. (IT support providers with this level of ability do exist, but they’re rare.)
Many businesses also still ‘tolerate’ IT, rather than seeing its value-enhancing potential.
You may realise the illogic in this excuse. While the salary may be large, it would likely be a fraction of the potential increase in revenue a savvy board can drive, let alone the potential at the bottom line. However, short-term costs are often a driver for many businesses, so they cannot see the value they’re missing out on.
But there’s a reason that excuse makes even less sense and it’s that, if you’re smart, getting the skills doesn’t cost a lot either.
Taking advantage of an outsourced service like a CIO on-demand service gives you access to exactly the same calibre of seasoned IT executive, without the costs, risks and hassle of hiring and leading an internal big hitter.
You’ve probably heard the old adage “you get what you pay for”, meaning if you choose a cheap product, you can probably expect problems. But is this true when it comes to IT support?
Well, yes… yes it is.
With one of the most well-known benefits of outsourced IT support being its’ cost-effectiveness, many companies rush to find the lowest price they can. But if you’re selecting your IT support provider solely on cost, then you could be in for a nasty surprise. Just as a bigger provider doesn’t guarantee better service, a cheap quote doesn’t guarantee cheap service in the long run!
IT support prices vary widely from provider to provider, but be wary of any quotes which significantly undercut others. If the price seems too good to be true it probably is. So always be on the lookout for hidden costs. Maybe your proposal says you’re getting a ‘fully-managed IT service’ for only X amount per month, but what’s really included? For example, you have access to the Service Desk but is that 24x7x365 or 9-5 Monday to Friday? Or ‘security’ is included but what exactly does this entail – is it a firewall, anti-virus, network scans? Those elements alone do not mean you are secure.
This option is typically suited to small businesses and start-ups who are not heavy technology users yet and have budgetary constraints. There is usually a set hourly cost for reactive support, but the exact price can depend on the role you require – for example, a senior consultant usually charges a higher hourly rate than a systems engineer. Sometimes there are additional charges for transport and travel time.
Some companies will sell blocks of hours, also known as a “time bank”, with the price determined by the numbers of hours you buy. There may be a discount for bulk buys, but be aware that some companies may put an expiration date on the hours you purchase.
Your ad-hoc IT support may include a small monthly retainer to cover the cost of the initial take on, ongoing maintenance and network monitoring. You should be clear exactly what your ad-hoc support covers and what you can use your hours for e.g. can I use my hours for strategic guidance and IT consultancy.
If IT is an essential part of your business, or your company is growing quickly, then, typically, you should avoid ad-hoc support as it simply isn’t cost-effective over the long run. If you end up requiring day-to-day support then purchasing hours or paying for reactive support will get very expensive – and likely slow down your operations.
What is managed IT support?
The price of fully managed IT support typically depends on the number of servers, computers and devices to maintain. However, some companies do charge by the number of end-users instead so make sure you check with your provider.
Typically a fully managed IT support service will include telephone, email and remote support, alongside onsite visits when required. A quality IT support company shouldn’t limit your support, for example how many calls you can make and what they will support. If you use extremely bespoke applications then you may need to make allocations, but your IT company should provide guidance.
However not every managed service provider is transparent when it comes to pricing. It’s still very common for providers to offer tiered pricing, where the support you receive depends on your tier. For example, you may have seen pricing plans with levels such as:
Bronze / Basic / Standard
Silver / Preferred / Advanced
Gold / Elite / Premium
Platinum / Ultimate
Watch out with tiered pricing!
Tiered pricing can become extremely complicated because one plan includes some features and not the other. You may only receive remote support with a Bronze Package, but the Gold Package may include remote, telephone and on-site support.
You can also expect to find different levels of support at each tier. For example, all levels may have access to help desk support but at the Bronze level, you can only access that support between 9 am – 5 pm – or log a certain number of tickets per month.
Check the SLA
Another thing to be wary of is your Service Level Agreement (SLA). This can massively impact service, support and response times – which can negatively impact the running of your business. Every provider should have transparent SLAs which detail how they prioritise issues and the response times for each level. If a provider won’t – or can’t – give you the details of their SLAs then step away now. The best thing you can do is choose an IT support provider who is completely transparent with pricing and SLAs.
Every provider will have different IT support packages, so check exactly what yours includes. While it may seem like a good price initially, it could cause you problems in the long run. A fully managed service should be just that, it shouldn’t have unnecessary limits. You should both be working in partnership.
The continual running of IT operations in your business is essential for it to survive. This means you need to have a qualified team on hand to manage your systems. But the cost of hiring and retaining such a team internally is something only the largest companies have the time and budget for. To gain the competitive advantage big players get from their internal teams, smaller businesses have turned to IT outsourcing as a way to strike a balance between performance and cost. One of the most talked-about benefits of IT outsourcing is the cost savings it can bring, although the benefits extend far beyond this. However as there’s no one set pricing model it can be difficult to understand exactly what’s included, and if the service is priced appropriately.
Below are some of the most common pricing models you are likely to be presented with when exploring IT outsourcing providers.
Monitoring only pricing model
This pricing model typically provides network monitoring and alerting, but with different levels of service. For example, for a small business, it may include patch management, antivirus and anti-spam updates, disk optimisation and backup monitoring on a flat monthly fee. Additional remediation work, identified through monitoring, would be an additional charge.
For larger businesses, the internal IT team would receive monitoring alerts, with the provider responsible for all incident resolution.
Per-user pricing model
Most per-user pricing models charge a flat monthly fee per end-user to cover IT support across all devices. This is a very straightforward pricing model and ideal for those companies with a tight budget as it allows you to budget for your IT support exactly. It also makes it easy to forecast for any business growth. Planning to take on an extra 20 employees this year? You can see exactly how much that growth is going to cost you in terms of IT support.
Per-device pricing model
Another option is for IT support providers to charge per device, e.g. desktop, laptop, mobile, server. There would usually be one flat price per device type, which again makes it relatively easy to see exactly where your costs are coming from and allow you to budget for future additions e.g. you decide you want every member of the sales team to have a tablet for remote working. The per-device model will often come out marginally more expensive than the per-user model – owing to the fact a single user will likely have multiple devices which need covering.
Ad-hoc pricing model
The ad-hoc model means rather than paying a flat monthly fee you pay as and when you require support. This may sound good but, since prices can’t be normalised, you will likely end up paying far more overall. Additionally, as IT becomes increasingly critical, a purely reactive approach to IT support will leave you hurting after a major incident due to prolonged downtime and a large bill from your support provider. Because of this, the ad-hoc model is becoming increasingly rare with most businesses having transitioned to a fully managed service or “all-you-can-eat” model.
Tiered pricing model
Tiered pricing is where different bands of support are available. The higher the band, the more services or perks you’ll gain access to but at a greater cost. For example, you may see bronze, silver and gold tiers.
This is one of the most common pricing models but it does have its difficulties. As each tier includes its own services and limits, what can initially seem like great value can become a headache. For example, you take out a bronze level IT support contract which includes data backup. Imagine the worst happens and you lose your files. Then, on top of that, you find out your backup only covers a certain period – excluding the period you’ve lost.
It’s not to say that tiered pricing won’t work for some businesses, but if IT is critical for your operations it’s probably not something to gamble on. A fully managed service should be fully managed. There should be no limits on what your support includes.
‘All you can eat’ pricing model
The all you can eat model allows for an unlimited amount of support at a fixed rate each month. This makes it ideal for nearly every type of business looking to outsource their IT. It’s technically the same as the top level of a tiered pricing model, but without the artificial inflation from the lower tiers. This typically makes the all you can eat model better since it will include everything you need whilst being at a predictable cost.
When looking at this model, it’s important to check if it includes out-of-hours support as standard. Depending on the provider, 24/7 support might be there by default or it might have an additional charge. Although, it’s typically worth the extra money to have full peace of mind and to be able to prevent a late-night incident impacting the following day.
The start of the new financial year means that every department is battling for a “piece of the pie” as budget allocation gets underway. Staff bonuses, business development and branding are often top priorities for available budget. This leaves the IT department with little investment to cope with the security threats aimed at the legal sector.
QuoStar CEO Robert Rutherford says that firms should really consider IT a tier one investment, not an “afterthought”. One of the reasons is that law firms are an attractive target for hackers is partly due to the financial transactions they carry out. A serious breach will not only impact on revenue but will be a big blow to reputation. For some firms…
As we all know, the legal sector is changing and changing fast. Several emerging challenges in the sector are driving this change, namely: globalisation, shrinking margins and innovation. But whilst change can be uncomfortable, failing to adapt means you die.
This may seem like a scary prospect (and it is) but the legal sector has the advantage of not being the first to go through these challenges. The world of manufacturing has suffered from the exact same problems of globalisation, shrinking margins and innovation and what separated the winners from the losers in that sector was their ability to leverage a set of principles known as Lean.
Manufacturers who both used technology to provide a competitive advantage and understood and implemented the principles of Lean become experts at adjusting to rapid change – something that law firms have traditionally resisted. However, as the pace of change increases in the legal sector, it’s something you will need to start doing.
So, to keep you interested, how will Lean help your legal firm? In short, you’d use proven business tools and strategies to allow you to survive and thrive in shifting sands, by:
Improving delivery times
Increasing client satisfaction
Pricing work more accurately
Freeing up resources across your firm
Making lawyers more efficient
What is Lean?
Lean was born in manufacturing and was originally developed and used by Toyota engineers in the ’40s. Now, as you’d expect with continual improvement Lean has changed and matured. Generally, today when most people talk about Lean they are talking about Lean Six Sigma. This process was developed by Motorola in the late ’80s and is still widely used by all sectors, from finance through to retail. You’ll know that it’s not common in the legal space, very bizarre.
In short, Lean was born for the ‘systematic’ elimination of waste (“known as Muda”) in a process. Lean also seeks to identify and eliminate waste through overburden (“Muri”) and waste created through unevenness (varying) workloads. There is also a focus on the client who consumes a particular product or service around “value”. So it’s about reducing waste internally and increasing value for the client.
Now, if the potential here isn’t exciting you, you may be in trouble. If you also think you are already all over these elements, then I’ll almost guarantee that you aren’t. There is always room for improvement, everything can be improved. It’s about prioritisation. Prioritising what improvements deliver the greatest gain to the firm and ultimately the client. I’m a big believer in win-win relationships and that means the client has to be your partner, not simply a bill payer.
How does lean deliver improvements?
Lean uses the acronym DMAIC to structure improvement, generally continuous improvement, which is of course absolutely essential in a law firm in this day and age. DMAIC is always applied in the order shown below and stands for:
Identify the business/process issue
Record the requirements of the client and the firm
Finalise the project focus
Define the project scope
Collect the required business data
Determine the performance of the process
Clarify the business opportunity
Identify quick wins where possible
Undertake root cause analysis
Quantify the opportunity for gain
Prioritise root causes
Understand and develop potential solutions
Develop and select evaluation method and criteria
Monitor and adjust
Ensure desired gains are delivered and sustained
Standardise gains through standardisation
The above obviously goes around and around in a continual cycle. It’s surprising how many firms don’t have live documented processes and procedures. If you don’t have SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) then you are going to have to start. If you don’t have processes defined, how can you evaluate them and improve them?
Why is Lean particularly relevant in law firms?
This is the biggest issue – legal firms, in essence, are simply a business, predominately a service business and a consulting firm. Individually, they aren’t particularly different in what they do (although the individuals inside a firm of course have their specialisms). This means that a client choosing between one firm which hasn’t adopted Lean and still has a lot of waste (and thus, higher costs) and another firm that has adopted Lean, the client will choose the Lean firm every time.
A significant number of law firms have been way behind the curve in innovation for a long time and some who believe they are innovative are not. Not when you look at the advanced systems, processes and structures in other sectors. To begin making some real forward change, law firms need to start at the beginning and audit their existing systems to identify waste.
For Lean to be effective, firm leadership must embrace the principles. You can’t delegate and forget – leadership must be responsible, passionate and championing the reduction of waste and continual improvement in a firm. If you don’t do this then your competition will be, or an entity that isn’t even a competitor right now will be. Change in the legal sector isn’t a threat to those who embrace Lean – it’s an enormous opportunity and one you’re missing out on right now.
Do you know how much your firm spends on printing? It’s okay, most firms don’t. Even they think they do it’s pretty much guaranteed that their actual spend is a lot higher. After all, there’s a lot of hidden costs when it comes to print, which many people don’t consider.
Luckily it’s easy to transform this environment and straightforward to get started. MDS – or Managed Document Solutions – can help to not only reduce your print budget but help you to better understand and allocate it. Along the way you’ll also be improving processes for employees, increasing efficiency and helping your firm to become more productive.
1. Reduce the number of devices
Personal printers may seem like the cheaper option but they’re probably costing you a fortune in ink. Even worse, you have no way to track who’s spending what. Reduce the number of devices by migrating users over to larger multi-function devices (MFDs), which allows printing, scanning, copying and faxing within one machine and are also durable enough to meet the needs of several users. Less equipment means fewer costs and fewer problems.
2. Create a digital environment
How many boxes of documents do you keep in your offices? What about in your offsite storage? For some firms, it’s going to be in the thousands per year. Offsite storage is an overhead which is ever increasing, plus then you have to add on the transportation costs of sending employees back and forth to collect necessary documents and the time they lose doing that. Rules-based scanning and routeing make it easy to transform your paper documents into digital ones – increasing security and search capabilities while reducing ongoing storage costs. Clients, other law firms and even courts are now accepting digital files in place of hard copies – for some a digital copy is now expected as the norm.
3. Think before you print
How many times do you print a document just to proofread it and shred it? How many times do you print an article just to read it and bin it? How often do you print a file in colour, only to realise you need it in black and white? These seem like insignificant costs individually, but if everyone follows these practices then the costs soon mount up. Detailed reports and analysis will allow you to see exactly who’s been printing what. You can break these reports down by office, department or individual to see who should be footing the bill. Some solutions can also be configured to display popup notifications when employees try to print certain documents to remind them: “do you really need to print this document?”
4. Stop printing twice
It’s a common occurrence, you finalise a document, press print and then spot a spelling mistake on the first page. They’re no way you can hand this off to a client now, but never mind because you can just print it again. Usually, when you hit print, the document is sent and printed automatically at the device linked to your computer. With a “follow-me” solution documents are held in a virtual printer queue, and are only released when a user signs in to the device and hits print. If you realise you’ve made a mistake, simply sign and delete the document. You can also configure your device to automatically delete documents in the queue after a set time period.
5. Track the paper trail
Somewhere in your office is an employee who feels the need to print everything. You don’t know why and, more importantly, you don’t know who they are (so you can’t track them down and stop them). How much is this wasteful printing practice costing your firm? When people are aware of how much their printing costs, then the amount they print usually declines. Start tracking and analysing how much each individual is spending on printing, and share these reports with individuals.
6. Prevent colour printing
Colour is sometimes necessary but it doesn’t need to be a part of everything you print. You can’t rely on users to check that grayscale box every time they print, but you can rely on colour printing rules. Deny colour printing from certain applications, like email, automatically route jobs to a lower-cost colour printing or prevent certain employees from printing in colour altogether.
7. Convenient Printing
MFD’s can be just as convenient for users as personal printers. Centralised software means that users can print from any devices on the network, as their files and documents are stored on a server and are only released once they sign in at a device. Yet the device isn’t the only thing standing in the way of convenient printing, workflows are. Custom designed workflows will allow employees to complete their most laborious or recurrent processes in a matter of clicks, improving their day-to-day activities and reducing printer-related frustration.
8. Reduce calls to the help desk
The centralised software allows for easy maintenance, by letting administrators easily see what happening on every device on the network, with the need for site visits. You can remotely schedule your devices to undergo maintenance, all at the same time, and ensure that each one is running the latest software version, helping decrease costly downtime. The virtual printer queue also ensures that at least if one device is down and unusable, then employees can simply sign in at another and print from there.
9. Recover printing costs
Do you charge your clients for printing costs? So many of the old Managed Print outfits sell ‘cost recovery’ solutions and also claim firms can profit from print. Honestly, there are not many clients who will swallow this and it will generally reflect negatively on your firm. You can, however, use the technologies for understanding where you are printing, i.e. against particular matters and clients. This is useful and can potentially aid you to address costing and identify workflow and process changes to protect your margins. You should be looking to reduce print, not profit from it.
One of the most commonly cited benefits of the cloud is its potential to reduce and optimise IT spend. With your data being stored in the provider’s data centre, you no longer require costly server equipment in-house, nor the cooling equipment, electricity bills and maintenance costs that come with it.
There are also no hardware or software upgrades to unexpectedly deal with and it’s commonly run on a per-user, per-month model – providing long-term cost savings too.
With cloud service providers regularly promoting all these benefits, and more, it can seem like a complete no-brainer. Surely every type of business should be adopting cloud!
Unfortunately, it’s not always the best fit for everyone, and one of the things you should be considering right now are the costs, and if your IT budget can cope with them?
What are the operating costs of cloud computing?
Cloud computing is a paradigm shift from using in-house infrastructure. With in-house infrastructure, you pay for the hardware and then can do whatever you want with it. With cloud infrastructure though, you get access to the hardware for ‘free’ but have to pay for anything and everything you do with it.
This includes paying for things you usually take for granted such as:
Data storage space
Disk read operations
Disk write operations
Sending data outside the server
Running applications on the server
This means cloud can end up as a service which snowballs in price as you use it for more and more functions.
The good news is that these prices only get out of hand if you choose the wrong provider or service. The bad news is that choosing the wrong provider is very easy if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.
If the proper analysis is performed before a vendor or solution is chosen, the operating costs should typically be less, or at worst case the same as delivering a service internally. But even if direct cost savings are minimal, you still gain access to top-class infrastructure and systems without the associated capital expenditure, and without needing to hire, train and retain staff to manage such a system.
How to choose the right cloud vendor?
It’s a bit of a wild-west out there at the moment and unfortunately, the cloud gold rush means you have cowboys looking to make a quick buck or amateurs putting their customers at risk. If you know what you are doing and fully understand your requirements it’s easy to assess the market… but most people don’t have that knowledge and need a bit of help.
The most common issue we see when helping turn around cloud projects is that the business didn’t have sufficient in-house IT knowledge and bought a cloud service the word of a sales guy.
Lots of vendors in the market are trying to make businesses believe adopting the cloud is as simple as buying a new server or replacing desktop PCs. Not only is this a lie but it opens the door to a host of hidden costs down the line.
Where are the hidden costs likely to spring from?
Hidden and unnecessary costs come from a variety of places in a cloud project:
Misjudging the complexity and time involved in migration.
Overlooking the correct levels of security and resilience when deciding on a vendor or solution.
Believing that by choosing a cloud service, risk and management just vanish.
Service or relationships falling apart.
Pulling data from systems and keeping cloud systems talking to other solutions.
Massively over-specifying cloud solutions and forgetting you can scale your operations to only what you use.
How can CIOs guard against the hidden costs?
As always if you are undertaking any project of size then it’s all about the planning. If you don’t feel 100% comfortable then pick up the phone and get an expert in. Even if it’s just for a day to sanity check everything. Too many CIOs are too proud to have their judgement double-checked, and this can prove costly – in many ways.