Why Summer is the Best Time for Strategic Planning
In opinion / By Charles Christian / 31 July 2019
It’s the summer – a time still recognized in the legal community as the ‘Long Vacation’ when the court timetables ease and Parliament adjourns and ceases its endless production of new legislation. Even the conveyancing market goes quiet as people prefer to go on holiday rather than face moving. All in all, the perfect time for everyone to go on their summer holidays.
Now don’t get me wrong, holidays ARE important – everyone needs a break to relax, recharge the batteries and try to restore the work/life balance – and no more so than in the legal profession where too many people’s careers are ruined by stress and premature burn-out. But…
And there is always a but… the relatively quiet period of the summer is also a very good time for management, whether at a departmental or organisational level, to take advantage of the easing off of business pressures and to pursue projects, particularly tech projects, that they otherwise might not have the time or capacity to handle. So, before you get carried away with thinking about the sun, sand, sea and sangria, spare a thought for a little strategy. In fact, three areas of tech-related strategy…
System Upgrades and Updates
With fewer people in the office requiring support services, as well as being a quieter time on the business front, the summer is an ideal time for IT departments to catch-up on bug fixes and system updates. It is also a good time for rationalising or moving servers, switching to virtualisation or placing applications in the cloud. Sure, things may still go wrong but there will be fewer people calling the helpline for support or irate partners screaming down the phone about urgent deadlines they have to meet. However, DO NOT do what one US law firm did during the summer and install a new version of Microsoft Word across the firm without warning any of the users, who all received an unpleasant shock when they returned from vacation.
Blue Sky Thinking
With the foot eased off the pedal and less day-to-day work commitments and pressures, management should use this time to sit back and think… “what if?”. I’ve met many of the more entrepreneurial law firm managing partners, departmental heads and IT directors who’ve told me that summer provides them with an ideal opportunity to sit back and think about – and research –things they normally don’t have time for.
This can include introducing new or complementary services for clients - one senior partner of a motor claims firms told me he had the idea of offering clients hire cars while their vehicles were being repaired or replaced, while sitting on a yacht. It can also include internal reorganisations, such as expanding the role of IT management - who will already be exploiting some form of tech facilities management (or FM) – or even a wider management of all the firm’s facilities. After all, the task involves the same business skills and, in many instances, tech and office-wide facilities are intrinsically connected.
I mentioned the partner on his yacht and it does seem many lawyers and law firm managers are workaholics who, after the first week of sitting on a beach reading holiday novels, start getting board and begin thinking about work. Truly blue-sky thinking. And, certainly, the experience of tech vendors is that from September onwards they see an uptick in requests for presentations and new orders, as law firm managers return from vacation with lots of new ideas they would like to implement.
Reviewing Systems’ Capacity
In other words, is the firm’s tech (as well as its other facilities) in a position to support all their new business plans once everyone returns from holiday? Let’s open up a new division, offering new services. Great idea, but that means recruiting more fee-earners and support staff - where are you going to accommodate them? Are the existing offices big enough or will you need to open up a new branch? In which case you are also going to have to ensure not just the new staff but also the premises are fully integrated with the central administration systems and practice management databases.
You don’t want your great summer ideas falling foul of a winter of discontent, so don’t just think ahead, plan ahead. Now where did I put my suntan lotion…