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Scale up, scale down: why flexibility is key

All of our workplaces are in a state of flux right now. None of us knows what new rules and regulations each week will bring. Long-term business strategies have been shelved in favour of short-term plans. And, even then, what’s the phrase? ‘The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’. Throw in a pandemic and those plans don’t just go awry, they go straight out the window.

The good news is, we’re really seeing the UK legal industry adapting and adjusting accordingly. Many of us, including myself, have discovered a whole new level of flexibility in these times of uncertainty. And that flexibility is absolutely key to remaining focused on the bigger picture: still being in business when the world turns the right way up again.

We’ve already embraced working from home and we may well see new legislation in this area over coming months with employment law shifting to protect homeworkers in new ways (a whole other topic that we’ll revisit in another article!). We’re adept at juggling our days to fit in with home schooling, caring for vulnerable loved ones and maybe working in the office one day a week. We’re more flexible now than we ever have been, but there’s always room for improvement, right?

Further enhancing this flexibility and applying it to other areas of working life has the potential to deliver significant productivity gains and save costs, something we’re all striving for. Taking a look at your firm’s fixed costs, IT costs in particular, is one area in which there is real potential to improve financial flexibility.

You may, or may not, have a good idea of how much your IT costs on an annual basis. You probably, however, have no idea how to make it more flexible to result in benefits for you, your colleagues and your firm. Compare October last year to October this year. How big is your team? Have you had to make redundancies? Or are you actively recruiting? Either way, chances are your workforce looks a little different to what it did 12 months ago. I’d hazard a guess, however, that your IT infrastructure expenditure is exactly the same or has actually increased thanks to the implementation of crucial ‘stop gaps’ following lockdown.

IT always appears pretty static, an immoveable but wholly necessary feast. That no longer has to be the case. Did you know that you could have reduced the cost of individual Microsoft licenses for any staff that were furloughed over the last few months? Conversely, if you purchase all your licenses outright then you would not have been able to adjust them and create a cost saving. Just one small example of adding in flexibility that you could take advantage of immediately (or when your annual license fee expires!).

How about IT delivery and function such as servers, telephone system, mobiles, software applications, hosting, connectivity and internet connection? If you could create improved flexibility in the cost of each of these areas to ebb and flow as required it would save both time and money resulting in an even more efficient, digitally agile workplace. Impossible? Absolutely not.

Flexible IT is possible. Only paying for what you need at any given time is the way forward, it always has been but it’s only now it’s at the forefront of our thinking. The opportunity to scale up or scale down according to every individual firm’s needs is one way of supporting the legal industry through this current phase of uncertainty.

After running a full analysis, we found that the five-year ROI on investment for the equal number of staff of a fixed cost IT infrastructure compared with a more flexible model i.e. only paying for the IT you need at any given time, is the same. The universal perception is that it will be more expensive. Not so. Throw into the equation that your business needs and staffing may have changed. A quick calculation of amortisation of IT spread across a fixed model with 200 users reduced to, as a result of pandemic-related redundancies for example, 150 users, ably proves the point. With a flexible model, a call to say: “hey, we’re now down to 150 users, please scale our requirements to suit” would be all it would take to achieve a significant cost saving that could instead be used to provide new hardware for an improved homeworking experience.

IT has to be more elastic. That way, we can establish a more hybrid way of working through innovation in how we actually work (anywhere, anytime), how we purchase IT, and innovation in improved security and visibility – ensuring people are doing what they’re supposed to be doing!

A ‘cost per user’ based-IT model, one that can be scaled up or down to quickly adapt to these ever-changing times is something that is easily within your firm’s reach. All of this is great, of course, but you’re probably wondering how to get started. Well, all of the ideas outlined above are very easy to action simply by meeting with your IT company and exploring more flexible ways of working. Give them a call and see how flexible you can be!

Look out for future articles on this topic and others including homeworking regulation, remote monitoring and how to never miss a billable hour ever again. Or, if there’s a particular area you’re interested in hearing more about, please get in touch.

Jonathan Ashley, founder and director of etiCloud

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