Professional services firms can get real business benefits if they take some basic steps to trimming their day-to-day IT overheads.
As the finance director of a professional services firm, it’s easy to feel that you’re caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to cutting IT running costs. As overheads go, they are probably a major expense – so they ought to be a prime candidate for trimming. But greater regulation, particularly in the legal sector, means that you’re also increasingly reliant on your IT infrastructure and services to support you in the constant quest for compliance.
The benefits of proactive cost cutting
In fact, reducing IT costs need not be a painful, reactive process. If you work closely with a reputable IT service provider to identify the main pressure points in your operational spend on technology, you’re more likely to discover that it’s actually a great opportunity to streamline the way your business buys and supports IT – and in some unexpectedly obvious ways, too.
1. Outsource your IT support
There’s one very good reason why only 7% of SMBs have in-house IT support: the cost. Add to that the portfolio of tasks that any IT specialist is likely to be responsible for across a legal or accountancy firm, and it’s likely that they would be more effectively deployed on business-critical jobs that contribute to the business’s productivity and profitability, than fire-fighting day-to-day IT problems.
2. Outsource your IT infrastructure
Everywhere you look, the advice is to consolidate your IT systems and network using new technologies. But why should you spend time and money getting better acquainted with terminology like ‘virtualisation’ and ‘scalability’ when the right managed service provider could do it all for you, leaving you with the business benefits of lower costs and greater efficiency?
3. Make your existing IT work harder
IT companies are always trying to get you to upgrade and spend more – but are you really squeezing all the juice out of your legacy systems, applications and hardware? US automation expert Tim Coco says legal firms can get more out of their existing IT investment simply by making systems accessible to remote and mobile partners.
4. Choose the right IT partner
SLAs are everything in this relationship. Get it wrong and the time spent waiting for an engineer to visit or the help desk to raise a support task could have rapidly escalating cost implications for your own service delivery – let alone compliance. One survey found that 48% of SMBs wait 2-3 days for a computer repair and 67% felt that technology issues hampered their business.
5. Look at your printing costs
According to PCWorld, ink printer costs almost £3,000 per gallon. The huge volume of documents generated by legal service companies is legendary, and compliance requirements can make the paperless office seem like an unreachable dream. If you must print, Xerox has some simple tips for reducing printing costs, which include using the draft print function to save toner and using print management software to spot wasted pages and gaps in documents.
6. Take to the cloud
In other words, look at the benefits of moving to the hosted model for your applications and storage: reduced licence fees, 24/7 availability and support, and the ability to scale systems up and down according to fluctuations in demand and the number of people who need to access them. As a white paper from Rippe & Kingston suggests, compliance issues with cloud-based services for legal firms – mainly based on security concerns – are rapidly being ironed out.
7. Renegotiate your broadband service contracts
Make sure you are getting the best quality and range of communications services in the right bundle, for the right price. This is one of Gartner’s ten steps designed to help enterprises cut IT costs by 25%.
8. Carry out an audit of all your IT-related contracts
Make sure you are not paying for services, applications and licences that are not used by or essential for the business. Those redundant PCs in the basement probably don’t need a maintenance agreement anymore!
9.Cut energy consumption.
From programmable thermostats to video meetings, there are a myriad ways to use technology to cut energy consumption and reduce costs. On the IT front, something as simple as replacing tower desktop PCs with less power-hungry laptops could make a significant dent in your electricity bill. And don’t leave anything that isn’t necessary for remote access out of hours – including WiFi routers – on standby overnight.
10. Engage colleagues and employees
Promote the benefits of more responsible IT management and use across the business. It’s easy to forget the simple power of communication.