The Fastest, Cheapest Way to Increase the Productivity of Everyone in Your Firm

When I was a SharePoint consultant at Microsoft my clients would often ask me about the best way to improve employee productivity and company efficiency. What I told them shocked them. You see, I didn’t plug the latest Microsoft product or sing the praises of the latest version of MS Office. Instead I let them into a secret that the financial sector have known for years, but the rest of the world is still catching up with. And it’s this simple: Add a second monitor to everyone’s PC.

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And by everyone, I mean everyone, because the people who can most benefit from this are often the ones in support roles. In law firms that means back office staff, legal secretaries, paralegals etc. who are busy researching, cutting and pasting and comparing drafts of documents.

Dual Monitor ROI

The Costs

In an ideal world everyone would have a dual head video card, but an external USB Video Adapter like this one works great as an alternative.

USB video adapter

Add to that a second monitor for each person and capital outlay is around £300 per head.

The Return

Studies show that depending on what you are doing, dual monitors increase productivity by between 9% and 50% with an average 20% productivity boost.

The Payback

So for someone on an average salary the capital investment would pay itself back in under a month. What other IT investment could possibly give you the same ROI?

The Facebook Places Opportunity

Facebook Places iPhoneIf you haven’t been paying attention Facebook announced Places* last week (see here for background and explanation).

Online checkin has become increasingly popular for NetGen users recently, with Foursquare leading the way. But now that Facebook has added this capability for its half a billion users, the dynamics of this market suddenly change.

Research shows that consumers trust recommendations from friends 2-3x more than other forms of online advertising. What this means is that there is an opportunity here for smart professional services firms to tap into Places for marketing purposes: Each time someone checks in at your business they are telling their friends about you. That’s free advertising for you!  So, think about how you can encourage that behaviour – perhaps you can just ask, or perhaps you could provide special offers to clients willing to do that. Then the next time someone exchanges contracts on their dream property, you’ll know that they have told all their Facebook friends about you!

(*) At the time of writing Facebook Places is a US only service, but Facebook has plans to roll it out globally as soon as possible.

Web Favourites Aug 18 2010

imageThis post is part of an occasional roundup of things that I read and found interesting. There won’t be a lot of comment from me, but hopefully you will find the links useful. Enjoy!

Interesting stuff I came across recently:

Could the Freemium model work in legal services? – I suspect most readers of this blog have already read this article. If you haven’t, I insist you go read it now. If you have read this article before, you should perhaps go back because there’s a really good discussion in the comments now.

Optimal Workloads for the Cloud – Bit of a geek post this one, but it captures beautifully in four simple graphics the kind of server demand profiles that are best suited to cloud computing. If you work in IT, this is a link worth saving.

Darwin’s Finches, 20th Century Business and APIs – An awesome slide deck drawing parallels between evolution theory, successful 20th Century business models and how you can apply those rules in a 21st Century, Web 2.0, Cloud Computing world.

Legal Opportunities #3: Go Where Your Clients Are

I have been thinking again again about what Shoosmiths were doing with their marketing effort at our local town fete, and what it had in common with the will writers marketing approach that I blogged about last week.  The key thing for me is that they both went where their clients were. And it got me wondering – how else can you do that? What opportunities are out there to make yourself more easily accessible to potential clients?

Competing with the Emerging Legal Brands

I think there is an opportunity to fend off competition from the emerging legal brands by creating a tie-up with local businesses. Let me explain…

Big corporations like to offer lots of on-site services to their employees. When I was at Microsoft there was a creche, dry cleaning service, DVD rental, IFA, doctor and masseur on site.  Inside the confines of many other corporate offices you will find a Starbucks or Costa Coffee, a hairdressers, gym, bank and much more. What’s the point of all that? For Big Corp it’s about keeping people at their desks longer. For employees it’s about convenience.

So how about onsite legal services?

Maybe next time your are negotiating terms with one of your corporate or small business clients, and they are pushing back on fees or asking for alternative billing arrangements, part of your negotiation could be about access to their employees in some way. Maybe you could offer monthly free legal advice clinics in the client’s offices, or perhaps you could offer special discounted rates to their employees. There are probably lots of other ideas you could come up with, just make sure that your offer provides value to both you and their employer in some way.

What do you think? What other opportunities are there for going to the client rather than waiting for them to come to you?

Legal Opportunities #2: Convenience

Will writer stand in shopping mall

Well, this all seems rather apt given, the recent Panorama expose on will writers…

This photo was taken in my local shopping mall a little while back… A company offering wills for £49, complete with a freephone number and a home visit to complete the paperwork. Now as it turns out, the home visit is where Panorama alleges the hard sell happens – and that low initial fee can turn into something very different if you are not wary.

But that’s not the point I want to make here. Instead I want to focus on what these companies are doing right: giving the consumer convenience.

Legal Opportunity #2: Convenience

These days consumers are used to 24-hour telephone banking, 24-hour supermarkets, and the instant gratification of MP3s purchased and downloaded in seconds. Convenience is a time-proven strategy for business success:

  • Lastminute.com created a travel business by specifically targeting cash-rich, time-poor people who had left booking their vacation to the last minute
  • Ocado has won legions of raving fans for its home delivery service segmented into handy 1 hour slots
  • And don’t forget how Amazon shook up the book world by delivering almost any title to your door in 24 hours

The Three Strands of Convenience

  • Anywhere: Deliver your services wherever the client finds it most convenient. In their home, in their office, at your office.
  • Anytime: Make your services available when it works for the client. How about offering appointments in the evening or early morning? Could you use your website to provide 24-hours a day service? What about late evening telephone consultations?
  • Anyhow: Can you deliver your service, or parts of it, over the web or via an iPhone app? Could you deliver some of your services through a partner… an account, IFA or HR consultancy for example?

So, which law firms and solicitors are out there breaking the mould and providing convenience to clients already? Let me know in the comments.

Shoosmiths AccessLegal – A brave new world of law firm marketing

Shoosmiths Access LegalMarketing.

Most law firms would admit they are not very good at it. But might that be about to change?

Here’s a stand from our local town fete this weekend. Shoosmiths were there promoting their new Access Legal brand. What was interesting that there was no selling going on. They were simply there collecting names and email addresses in exchange for a chance to play a motorbike game and win a prize… that is, they were there to build their CRM database and mailing list.

This is the sort of low cost, face to face marketing that any law firm could participate in. But how many do?

I wouldn’t have expected this approach from a national brand, but it shows they mean business in working from the ground up, at a local level, to build personal relationships, and their new operation. And I don’t expect them to be last.

How do you intend to compete against aspiring national brands?

Email is Dead… erm, well actually, no it’s not

Google Wave LogoToday the Internet mourns the passing of Google Wave. The latest in a long line of products to be hailed as the email killer.

Whatever your problem with email, get over it. Email is here to stay. Here’s why: Email today is a commoditised, free service for most users. To get people to shift from email you have to give them something 9x better. And even then don’t expect email truly to die. TV did not kill radio. In fact today there are more radio stations than there have ever been. Home video did not kill cinema. Instead, better access to content drove a renaissance in movie going.

The reality is that email is going nowhere and instead of trying to find alternatives we would all be better focussing on better ways to integrate it with new collaboration technologies.