I.T. Services: Cost or Investment

by | May 19, 2021

A penny saved is not always a penny earned…especially when pinching it costs you a dollar.

Running a small practice requires fiscal responsibility but cutting the wrong corners can self-inflict wounds that gradually bleed a firm dry.

It’s something I see all the time with small firms and their tech, often driven by misguided distinctions between “cost” and “investment.”

No attorney would hang out a shingle without modern computers and data connections – those are considered investments. Yet 40% of small firms undermine IT (and themselves) by self-managing their networks, believing expertise to be an avoidable cost.

They invariably regret it.

Investment vs. cost is a line often misdrawn out of naivety or misplaced frugality. I understand the impulse to skate by without help, but running your own tech ultimately hinders firm growth, costs more money, and exponentially raises risk exposure.

Give me a few minutes to help you look at the choice differently, 

Who, Not How

Information technology, like the practice of law, requires training reinforced by experience. Why entrust either to someone lacking both unless you’re looking for trouble?

Firms that manage their tech generally task one of two people: the geekiest partner or the office manager – neither of whom is qualified, and each of which holds greater responsibilities.

Saddling these leaders with secondary assignments is a bad call that bites back two-fold: leaving primary jobs neglected AND the network (and security) in questionable hands.

Instead of performing one job superbly, they’re tackling multiple positions half-assed. (pardon my French)

Still, think it’s a prudent practice?

One of my favorite thinkers, Benjamin Hardy, espouses the mantra of “Who, Not How”; choosing the best people and trusting them with their jobs, freeing everyone to maximize strengths. In a nutshell: delegation.

It’s a philosophy particularly pertinent for my lawyer friends, who typically hoard responsibility. I’ve found that lawyers with the confidence and commitment to launching their firm are often the type who resist ceding control.  But the ones who find a way to confide in good help are the ones who ultimately prove most successful.

“Who, Not How” isn’t New Age insight, but common sense we all intuitively hold true – find the best PEOPLE for each job.

It’s why we hire craftsmen instead of tool belts.  Why your paralegal wasn’t picked just because they watch Law & Order, and the reason you’re worth every extra dollar over the lawyer who just sent out a Groupon.

Clients retain you for your expertise, experience, and education, but when you need specialized help, you just do it yourself!? I’m afraid to ask who handles your dentistry!

It’s imperative to have the right “Who” handle your IT system, train your staff in its use, and monitor cybersecurity…and I promise that who isn’t you. Find a professional!

Demanding double-duty from someone who’s “pretty good with computers” only wastes your tech, wastes their natural talent, and incurs invisible costs.

Invisible Costs

If you don’t listen to sense, perhaps cents will sway you because managing your tech always costs more in the long run. 

Worse yet, the damages wrought by trying to do-IT-yourself are insidious and cascading – affecting not only your network but the strength of your firm. These invisible costs manifest primarily via inefficiency, distraction, and security:

  • Employee Inefficiency: Attorneys managing their tech sometimes brag about having (thus far) avoided catastrophe, never realizing the web of wastefulness their ad hoc approach has bred. Every Single Time we’ve aided a self-managed firm, we find a tangle of issues long-experienced but never reported. It’s not simply that amateur work gave rise to problems.  When a partner is the “IT department,” staff avoids bothering the boss with “little” things. “It’s not that big a problem, she’s so busy, I’ll just deal with it,” is a very common mindset few are privy to. Such issues may be individually tolerable but inspire workarounds, which lead to more problems…and suddenly minor inefficiencies add up to real-time; a quantifiable cost in a field ruled by billable hours. When you have an outsourced IT department on a flat-rate plan, there’s no need ever to postpone repair, which keeps your staff’s work humming.
  • Management Distraction: Every minute management is wrangling with technology is a minute they’re not doing their highest ROI-generating responsibilities. Whether that’s supposed to be practicing law, managing clients, or growing the business, such mission-critical tasks are neglected when leaders are mired in IT issues. Worse yet, because they (you?) lack expertise, it takes twice as long to do the job half as well. With all this lost time (a primo employee is essentially out sick), costs quickly outweigh “savings.” Eliminate these distractions: lawyers should practice law, office managers should manage offices, and IT experts should handle your tech.
  • Security: Even if you’ve managed to keep office computers running, I promise you’re not managing security correctly. You’re just not. It’s one thing to adequately hook up your printers and install MS Word all-around…it’s another to configure your system and optimize security in a way that keeps your data and clients safe. An IT expert does more than fix breakdowns; they find the best software, integrate your systems, prepare for contingencies, secure connections, manage access, monitor traffic, stop malware, patch software, ensure backups, encrypt against prying eyes, and constantly remain on guard against vulnerabilities. Just like skipping insurance, foregoing cybersecurity measures only saves money until the moment they’re needed — one data breach and all those savings are gone, often along with the practice itself.  

Let’s face it, “costs” aren’t measured merely by invoices tallied at month’s end (assuming your office manager/IT technician has time to calculate the bills!)…they are seen in the impact of all debts that come due, be they damages delayed or opportunities lost.

Time to Reconsider

Thanks to the trappings of the digital age, we all have some grasp of technology, but setting up your new Apple TV or sharing a photo album with family doesn’t qualify you to manage a business network.

When you really think about, trusting a critical aspect of your business to untrained amateurs based upon casual knowledge makes little sense. Imagine if an airline cut costs by asking attendants to fly planes while also remaining responsible for beverages!

The idea is ludicrous but is hardly different from an attorney or office manager handling IT simply because they’ve spent time around computers, and it similarly risks crashing and burning.

Firms eschew tech services because they’re regarded as an unnecessary cost rather than investment, a distinction I’ve never understood. If roads are an “investment” and maintenance a “cost,” do you sit back and watch your investment crumble? When a “cost” saves you money, can’t it earn the right to relocate on the other side of the ledger?

A favorite quote that allows me to re-center perspective is, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Hopefully, you’re now looking at the cost-benefit analysis of managed tech service differently, and it’s changed the expenditure from a cost to an investment in your future.

I challenge you to reassess your stance on IT supervision, realizing how entrusting the wrong “who” actually costs money, costs opportunity, and costs peace of mind with inadequate security.

When you come to your senses (and cents), drop us a line.

We provide comprehensive technology services for a flat monthly rate, meaning we’re always working for you in the background and always ready when issues arise. One call resolves your problems without distracting your team – letting you tend to clients, cases and growing your practice.

We’ll leave the law to you; you leave the tech to us.