“Think.” “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” “Garbage in, garbage out.” “Work smarter, not harder.”
These common phrases should remind us to apply common sense to our technology decisions. You need to be thinking about your clients, firm and the technology you use to serve those clients. Hardware, software, data, procedures and people all work together to transform data into information. With the major shifts in hardware, operating systems, productivity software, and applications occurring now, this is a great time to plot your future. The future is likely to include more Cloud applications and technologies.
Think Strategically, Implement Tactically
In prior columns, we have asked you to consider your strategic business plan and to develop your tactical plan to accomplish the strategic goals. Likewise we have asked you to build a technology strategic plan that aligns with your strategic business plan and then choose IT tactics that accomplish your IT strategic goals. This year we have observed an unusually large number of irrational decisions made about IT based on vendor promises, unrealistic expectations from many directions, false claims and numerous other factors. Don’t fall into this trap. Think about how you want your firm to operate, and make plans to convert from the way you are today, your “as is,” to your future vision of the firm, your “to be”. Once your “to be” vision is in place, decide what tools can help you get there. Often, the applications you use help you change the way your firm acts and thinks.
Your applications can make you more effective and efficient. Applications continue to evolve to support your firm and clients. The effectiveness of the software tools you need to run your practice and support your clients should be evaluated at least once a year. If an application no longer fits your strategy, elimination of the application or a replacement should be considered, selected and implemented. Today’s applications are commonly in one of four forms: 1) Client/server, 2) Desktop, 3) SaaS, or 4) an “app” – a small, single purpose application that typically runs on a tablet or smartphone. All four of these styles of applications can have their place in your strategy. Once you have chosen good fits for your needs in applications, hardware and infrastructure, learning to use your applications well can pay big dividends. Note that SaaS and apps are automatically Cloud solutions. The way you implement traditional Client/server or desktop applications can make them part of your private cloud.
Think Globally, Implement Locally OR in the Cloud
Client Server and desktop applications still dominate the market. They are robust, mature and stable. You can install these applications on-premise, or these applications can be installed in a data center. Your IT team or hosted provider can enable these traditional applications with remote access creating your own “private cloud.” Software as a Service (SaaS) or browser based applications can be run at the end-user level, installed and/or controlled by your IT team or integrated by your hosting provider. If all the tools you have selected for your firm are SaaS, you will have eliminated the need for local storage and file servers. An app will typically solve a specific problem and solve it very well. Example of apps might include Concur Expense reporting, Thomson Reuters Time and Expense Entry or CCH Practice Intelligence. The apps that you select will each have their specific capabilities to solve a particular problem. Each app will have requirements of your other applications and infrastructure.