Change is happening within our businesses. We know it has been going on for some time, but it can be difficult to pin down.
Technology is always changing but this time it is different. Professionals are getting fed up with some of the tools and processes being made available to them. Instead of complaining they are finding workarounds and starting to use unauthorised applications they download themselves. This rise of so-called ‘Shadow IT’ is a real concern for business leaders and IT staff.
Many of the clients I work with can be categorised as ‘professional services’, including law and legal service firms, trust companies and financial service providers. They are characterised by having a large number of staff that are either already professionally qualified or are working towards professional qualifications.
These workers are increasingly tech-savvy and generally expect to be self-sufficient in the workplace. They expect technology to be available on their terms. They were probably the first generation to go through university with laptops and smartphones and have come to expect instant access to everything they need.
The change that happened in our workplaces twenty years ago with the introduction of the PC, is nothing compared to what professional services firms are experiencing today. We have a generation of staff who want to be able to work from anywhere and at any time of the day. These are people that are becoming known as ‘New Professionals’.
This provides a real challenge for those in leadership positions in professional services firms. New Professionals will be familiar with downloading apps and using free software to find the solution to any particular problem. “Not a problem”, I hear many of you saying, because your corporate IT system is locked down and prevents unauthorised applications from being used. All very well, but there are generally ways around this outside the corporate network, which poses additional security and data protection risks. Alternatively, your New Professionals will just take their skills and go to a more forward thinking firm who do provide them with the tools to do their job.
So what can you do about this?
Here are some of the ways I am seeing organisations respond to this challenge.
Updating Core Systems
Many businesses who implemented practice management and document management systems in the 2000’s are now looking at refreshing their implementations to take advantage of mobile, file sharing and workflow. Upgrading or replacing existing systems is never easy, so businesses who have been getting by on basic database systems have an opportunity to leap ahead of their competitors by deploying modern, potentially cloud based, systems quickly.
Deploying Paperless Processes
The advent of the ‘paperless office’ has been heralded for decades, but most organisations seem to generate more paper rather than less. Technology like digital signatures embedded in document management and workflow systems is, my opinion, the final piece of the paperless jigsaw and these systems are available now with excellent returns on investment.
To meet the expectations of New Professionals firms need to embrace mobile, but this is not just about providing a desktop on a mobile device. To maintain productivity and work quality, professionals need native mobile apps, delivered on a device properly secured, so the organisation knows that information will not be lost if the device gets into the wrong hands. Many firms I work with are either already providing, or planning to provide mobile device management devices and native mobile apps to support their core business processes.
When mobile systems integrate with workflow enabled back office administration and record management systems, any organisation – even small businesses – have the capability to compete and provide an empowering workplace for your New Professionals.
If you want to learn more about how your business can adapt to these challenges, whilst maximising the value from your current investments in technology, then do give me a call or drop me an email so we can catch up for a chat, either in person or on Skype.