Three technology-related habits worth breaking

Elizabeth Millard//October 5, 2015

Three technology-related habits worth breaking

Elizabeth Millard//October 5, 2015

columnist Elizabeth Millard webDuring a lifetime, most people develop less-than-ideal habits that can be detrimental to wellness and maybe even financial health. But when it’s an enterprise or law firm that’s putting those habits into place, it can impact every aspect of operations, from recruiting to client services.

Technology is notorious for creating bad habits — checking email at midnight, downloading malicious apps — but like any behavior pattern, it’s possible to recognize the impact and create change. Here are three habits you might see in your firm, and that you should consider replacing with healthier strategies:

1. Allowing too much access

When it comes to security, anti-virus and anti-malware protection is important, but access control is crucial. Considering the highly sensitive documents that might be zipping through a firm’s systems, inappropriate access could cause a breach or, at the very least, reduce your client list.

“There are different pathways into information, and that can cause problems,” says Dennis Dimka, managing director for Uptime Systems, an Eden Prairie-based provider of cloud services. “You need to look at how to close off those paths, so only the right people can use them to get the information they need.”

This issue can be especially problematic in smaller firms, where staff and associates fill multiple roles and need to be able to handle multiple types of information. It seems easier to grant an all-access pass to the company’s servers, but that puts a firm at risk from internal threats. Tier your systems, including data storage, and take time to establish controls.

2. Delivering annual training (or not at all)

In a busy office, it can be difficult to corral people into a conference room for a half-day training on security and technology usage. Try it, and you’re likely to see a surge in “off-site client meetings.” Yet, many firms try to bundle tech training topics together, and deliver them in a rapid-fire presentation that covers far too much information.

Skip the annual or semi-annual training days and go piecemeal instead. A better habit is to establish a timeframe for technology topics and stick to it, so that people know what to expect. For example, a standing Monday morning check-in meeting can start with a five-minute presentation on what’s been upgraded or what associates and partners need to know. Keep the messages light, digestible, and useful, with examples of how these topics will translate into action.

3. Making tech changes without communicating the benefits

This tactic happens often at enterprises and firms of every size. Staff members get an email noting that the company is switching email providers, and all email will now be ported over to a new, unfamiliar system that everyone is expected to learn. Or a policy that allowed attorneys to use their own mobile devices is now changing to one in which IT will be supplying and supporting specific, firm-owned devices.

While those changes are completely valid, any organization that doesn’t include the “why” related to a shift is likely to see friction — or worse, resistance to the change. Jennifer Beaudette, senior manager of IT Business Analysis at Fish & Richardson, says that any new technology requires not only an upfront time investment to learn, but also recognition that people get comfortable with what’s working. Unless they’re already the type who love adopting the latest-and-greatest tech tools, they’ll need to be won over for a technology shift to be successful.

The most important aspect of any transition, Beaudette says, is to provide a clear benefit to users, with an emphasis on how the change will improve what they do. She notes, “If it has a direct and positive impact on them, they’ll be more open to investing time and energy into using it.”

Questionable habits crop up in tech all the time — reusing passwords, inappropriate texting, using free online storage for work documents — but recognizing these security risks and productivity killers can go a long way toward ditching the bad and making way for the good.

Elizabeth Millard has been writing about technology for nearly 20 years. Her work has appeared in ABA Journal, Law Office Computing, Business 2.0, eWeek, and TechNewsWorld.