In Technology Audit, Tips & Tricks
IT Right

Office 365. This is how a small firm can do IT right. Since Office is likely involved in every workflow, improving the firm’s use of Office is one of the best places to start. Office 365 has even more functionality and mobility than the standard Office Suite (Word, Outlook, Excel, and PowerPoint). So, if you don’t have Office 365 at your firm, get it.

Working with What You Have

The best thing a firm can do is to pay consultants to do a hard review of all the firm’s processes and workflows and make corresponding investments in systems and training.

If you’re operating on a budget, however, you can drive significant results by simply better utilizing the tools you have. Many firms have the traditional Office Suite which they purchased with their computer. This is not Office 365.

Office 365 comes with significantly more tools and solutions, all built in. If you have standard Office and are looking to supercharge results at your small firm, a conversion to Office 365 will certainly give you what you’re looking for.

For firms already on Office 365, getting better financial performance can be as simple as learning the tools you now own and figuring out how to use them effectively. Here are a few examples:

Conferencing…Nah, Try Collaborating

I’ll cut right to the chase here. It’s likely that your firm is paying for a phone solution. This solution might come with a conference option. Either way, Skype for Business allows for conference calls, screen sharing, and chatting. These options are both secure and mobile. Skype could even replace your current phone system. This could cut costs and continue to create one integrated platform for the firm to use. In addition, a better understanding of Teams could provide more collaborative spaces.

We’re Going Paperless…We Just Don’t Know When?

How long have you been working at your paperless goals and how much progress have you made? This is something nearly every firm is “doing”, yet I still see mountains of paper in offices, filing cabinets, and offsite locations. The real trick to going paperless is not just a scanner, but a workflow review. If firms were better at using the features of Office, then they could share documents through SharePoint, collaborate through Teams, and take notes in OneNote. Users could even create workflows for automated review notifications for when a document requires review.  Imagine if you were doing these items right now, how much paper would you eliminate?

One can see how an investment in Office 365 could correct workflow process naturally because Office is a part of the firm’s everyday workflow. This is why I suggest starting with an investment in Office 365.

Word of Caution!

Since investing in Office does not require additional software purchase (depending on the version you have it may require an upgrade), the firm can focus spending on training and implementation. Start with training on the basics, but when/if you make it to Teams, SharePoint and Skype for Business, make sure you have clear use case defined. These tools have a lot of overlap and that overlap can be confusing.

What Does It Really Mean to Invest in Office 365?

Typically, Office is bought, installed and used. End of story. Using Office this way is a cost, not an investment. To invest in Office, the firm must know how to use it. By using it, I’m referring to training that shows firm members how to do more than simply type documents. Training should be reoccurring to continue building on skills. The more efficient people are at these tools, the quicker they can produce. How much time have you wasted manually looking for formatting mistakes or margins that were an 8th of an inch off?

Word is not a typewriter. If you are using it as one, then Word and Office are costs, not investments. Word can number pages, add headings, run merges, stylize documents, structure formatting, and more. To invest in Office everyone in the office should learn how to do these things. By doing so, Office becomes an investment because of your staff, attorneys, and partners are becoming more efficient.

Investing in O365 is more than just training, although training is a big part. Look into deploying Teams and Groups for collaboration. Create shared calendars for resources like conference rooms, or policies for adding new contacts like required fields. Setup Flow to create an onboarding workflow or use SharePoint to create a document portal or company intranet.

10lbs of Software in a 5lb bag

I want to belabor this point. An investment in Office 365 is more than training.

By using both Teams and Groups, to represent your different practice areas and departments, you can provide spaces for people to collaborate, share notes and work together even remotely. This can create a feed of conversations to share relevant information about the Office (John just made partner), updates about a law (Code 1.2.3 was revised to include children), or notify firm members that a form was updated on their website. This communication improves teamwork and collaboration by allowing the office to function more collaboratively and efficiently.

Another good example is Skype for Business screen sharing and co-authoring. Firm members will no longer need to go to each other’s office to review documents. They can do this in real time through co-authoring, or by sharing screens and files using Skype for Business.

I’m a Word Master

Well, then, that is great! But is everyone in your office, including the partners? Are you also an Outlook Master? Do you know the difference between Teams and Groups in the Office 365 suite?  My point here is that the Office 365 suite is more than just Word and Word Web App. It’s Teams, Groups, Yammer, Skype, Calendar, Contacts, Newsfeed, SharePoint, OneDrive Planner, and more. Are you able to leverage these items fully?

The SharePoint Factor

Ask around about SharePoint and you’ll find it’s everything and nothing. SharePoint can be just about anything if you know a SharePoint developer. Here are examples of things SharePoint can do as it relates to law firms. Many of these depend on your subscription to Office 365, but most can be accomplished with E3 licenses.

  • Document Portal
  • Document Management
  • Case Management
  • Newsfeed
  • Contact Management
  • Reporting Dashboard

Invest in Your Firm

An investment in Office 365 will make the firm more efficient and may correct workflow issues while making life a lot easier and reducing hardware costs.

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