Peer to Peer

June 2009

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Page 5 of 99 6 Peer to Peer BEST PRACTICES I n the mid 1990s and after more than 100 years in business, my firm faced a crisis that threatened its existence. In order to survive, the firm took drastic steps to increase efficiencies and committed to a philosophy of doing more with less. Attorneys were asked to share assistants, draft more of their own documents and enter their own time. Standards were set and adhered to by attorneys, administrators and staff. Thanks to these and other measures, the firm is now back from the brink and enjoying a period of rapid growth; however, we are still facing the same economic challenges as most other businesses. Indeed, the mantra to "do more with less" is even more relevant in today's environment, and makes prudent spending practices and savvy resource management policies look increasingly desirable. Also, as our IT staff of seven has demonstrated, you can trim expenses while still doing an admirable job of supporting users and systems and even improving technologies and processes. As with so many things, when it comes to IT spending, it is usually very difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. Once users get accustomed to certain levels of service and reliability, it is difficult to curtail expenses without critically impacting services and support or derailing important initiatives. So how do you cut the budget while maintaining, or even improving, your level and quality of service? Here are some broad ideas to keep in mind as you deal with the challenges facing us all in the coming months and years. Doing More With Less: Or how I learned to support over 400 attorneys and staff with only seven IT staff members. Assess Your Environment Take a step back and start at the top. Know your environment inside and out. If you haven't assessed your IT environment in years, it may be time to take a fresh look at what you have in place. You need to understand everything you are doing with systems, support, staffing, processes, documentation, training and strategy. Get outside help if you need it. A fresh set of eyes can help retint your own rose-colored glasses. Be honest and critical in your assessment, and you will certainly find things that can be improved. Even well-established, well-functioning systems and processes can have some fat to be trimmed. Follow the Path There is a critical path of prerequisites you must follow with IT projects, so make sure you are doing things in the right order. Technologies are interdependent and build upon one another. Ensure you have thought through the sequence of your projects so that you do not get to a "wait state," a time when a critical project is held up because a supporting system is not quite ready. Don't let anyone force a project through prematurely. Fiercely defend this critical path. Review Your Strategy Take a good look at your IT strategy. Does it jibe with the results of your assessment? Too many strategies are little more than a laundry list of initiatives or an IT wish list. Make sure your strategy is in line with the firm's overall business strategy. If you are not sure what that is, ask! Cut what you can that doesn't align. bill Mcconville is the it director at the new york law firm hiscock & barclay, llP. bill was previously applications manager at Powell Goldstein llP in atlanta and has management experience in the hospitality and entertainment industries. bill has been in it since 1994 and has a bachelor's degree in information technology and a Master's of business administration. he can be reached at

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