For the love of tech
For any of you that are in an IT team, this is a tough one isn’t it? Enough said – you know what I mean!
Technology is everywhere, in everything that we do. We live in a digital, connected age where even the most mundane objects have core technology and connectivity whether we know it or not, and if it doesn’t have that capability now then it may well do soon.
Much of this technology is no-touch or light-touch and therefore easy to absorb into our lives, but when it comes to the work environment, we are toe-to-toe with systems that we either love, hate or are indifferent about.
Unfortunately, not many IT teams can claim that the majority of their users love the technology and support that they provide, but why is this? IT teams believe they provide solutions that are specifically aimed at making users’ lives easier and more efficient, so what are we getting so wrong?
10 reasons users complain about IT
- I don’t know what the IT Strategy is/don’t understand the IT Strategy
- Communications from the IT Team are too often/too little
- Communications from the IT Team are too complicated/not relevant
- I didn’t choose this application/it isn’t right for the way I work/isn’t as easy as my iPhone/Google
- There are too many applications making my working environment confusing and inefficient
- I wasn’t trained properly and am not confident in using the application
- The application or system is slow/keeps failing
- I have reported an issue and the IT Team were slow to respond/I haven’t had a response
- Once the IT Team responded it took too long to resolve the issue
- The application is legacy and is holding me back
As a member of an IT team, we know that our user base is diverse and that an individual’s response to technology is unpredictable at best. In previous years we might have said that the younger generation would pick up on all types of technology (personal and business) much more quickly, but this is no longer necessarily true – I have met new younger members of staff who are terrified of technology (personal and business) and older members of staff who are excited by it.
My view of why this might be is that the new generation are obviously far more exposed to technology, but the newer technology is intuitive and doesn’t require a tech-savvy brain to understand it. When faced with a business IT application, it is likely to be a bigger and more complex beast and you need a different skill set than those required for mobile apps and gaming. Those who have been in a business environment for some time will already have the business processes embedded and can therefore see the benefit of a system that is intended to simplify the process or make it more efficient.
Law firms have some additional factors at play. I have often wondered why new members of staff (particularly Trainee Solicitors) who appear to be excited about the use of technology in law very quickly become indifferent and/or frustrated by it. One influencing factor may be the time/fee-based culture of a law firm: one of the key factors in becoming profitable is to maximise use of time and this can only really be achieved by systemising inefficient processes, mainly with the use of technology. Any failing in the technology therefore will have a direct impact on the billable hour and ultimately profitability, so technology becomes a perceived (or actual) barrier to performance.
In some instances, this is absolutely the case – having the right technology can affect the firm’s performance but there is always the balancing effect of the cost of implementing and maintaining the right technology. However, we do need to recognise those circumstances where the issue is that the firm or individual are not making best use of the technology available.
In particular, the lack of emphasis on fee earners to embrace IT training remains a significant barrier. For the successful use of technology, it is essential that users prepare for how to use technology in a non-stressful environment.
For example, before we all got used to Zoom and Teams the use of video conferencing was the bane of many IT team lives. Often fee earners would turn up on time (or a little late) and try to join a webinar on unfamiliar software with dire results and subsequently be very frustrated with the technology. Equally, how many times have we heard of people manually calculating settlement figures as they didn’t know how to do pivot tables or sums within Excel?
I also think that there is a definite trickle effect from the attitude within the firm and/or team leadership (including the IT team) that can make any technophile a technophobe and vice-versa. One of my key messages explored in other articles is that you need to get the narrative right throughout the whole business, and this is something that can significantly affect the attitude to technology and change.
So here are my five simple steps to getting your staff to love technology and your IT team:
Get the narrative right throughout the business – do not leave this to chance, drive it through a formal communication plan
Involve all of your staff in the IT decision-making processes either by engaging them directly in the decision or by communicating decisions along with the rationale
Keep your infrastructure and application stack simple, relevant and responsive, and train staff not just at implementation but at regular intervals afterwards
Make sure the IT team are on message, on form and online – their exemplary attitude, training, knowledge and availability is critical
Ensure that staff are aware of the Service Level Agreement for IT support so that they know what to expect, deliver to these levels, monitor success and publicise the results
One final point. My observation has been that whilst people generally don’t like ‘IT speak’ and acronyms (which can be confusing and alienating) they do obviously like to feel that there is an opportunity to up-skill. Introduce IT language where you can, explain it and make it part of everyday conversation – it is great when you hear IT terminology being confidently quoted back at you!
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Cathy Kirby: Out of Practice After three decades in practice, Cathy Kirby has joined Baskerville Drummond as a consultant, to share a lifetime of learning and hard-won experience across the law firm technology and business strategy space. In this series of articles,...