Help Desk Challenges During Law Firm Upgrades
When the economy was struggling, many law firms hunkered down and postponed major software purchases and upgrades. Now, firms are making up for lost time and investing in their technology environments. While this process will ultimately help attorneys and staff work smarter and faster, law firms often underestimate how much tech support their end users will need.
When confronted with new software and tools, attorneys and staff often reach for the phone when they have questions. If help desks get swamped with requests, those calls aren't answered quickly. When the help desk can't answer questions, end users see their productivity plummet while their frustration levels increase. End users often have questions for months after a new upgrade or transition, so the help desk may not be able to catch up for a long time.
The problem is serious, but with the right planning law firms (and those of us in the end user support business) can gear up and manage the increased call volume. This will help attorneys and staff embrace and take immediate advantage of the new technology.
Experienced IT managers generally know what to anticipate when they evaluate and install new systems and applications. They can develop sophisticated timelines when they select software and plan projects. They know to get stakeholder buy in, and can typically anticipate many of the technical issues that will arise. But help desks frequently don't factor in the spike in end user support requests that occur when attorneys and staff are actually confronted with the new tools and software.
When help desk management does think about it, they may decide that their current help desk can handle a temporary influx of calls. Many rationalize the situation by figuring the tech support team will have a few long days or weeks, but that will quickly pass. Only occasionally do some law firms properly anticipate an increase in tech support needs and add some help. Unfortunately, those of us in the help desk business also sometimes suffer from this lack of foresight. Even at Keno Kozie, where we work very hard to stay ahead of the curve in regards to our support team structure and client needs, we've been hit very hard this summer by a series of upgrades that caught us by surprise. Once the support volume starts to grow, it's hard to catch up and ensure adequate performance.
In fact, with a major software change or upgrade, firms should anticipate at least a 25-30 percent increase or more in support requests. Depending on the software and how many end users start using it, firms may even see a doubling in the number of help desk calls their attorneys and staff make. And these calls don't die down after a week or two. The increased volume generally remains sustained for up to six months.
Law firms can minimize the problems by planning ahead, boosting help desk support and offering robust training. Most firms wait until the last minute to think about help desk support training, if they think about it at all. The planning should begin as soon as the firm decides to launch a major software rollout. It takes months to properly prepare help desk analysts to support a firm--this effort should begin in the early stages of upgrade planning.
Law firms can take steps to minimize this impact. Thoroughly testing the new environment, conducting an extensive pilot, allowing adequate time for revisions and changes that result from the pilot, and providing the end users with thorough and effective training and floor support will help to ensure a successful project and minimize the cost and impact on the support team.
When you begin planning for help desk support from the start, you will have enough time to manage the impact on the support processes, staffing, response time for help desk requests and costs involved. That will ensure that attorneys and staff can use the new software right away. If they can't, they may get frustrated, blame the IT department and refuse to use the new program.
Barry Keno is the president of Keno Kozie Associates (www.kenokozie.com), a leading national IT integration and support consultancy that has provided integration and help desk services to law firms for more than 20 years. Mr. Keno specializes in working with senior members of law firm management on the provision of support service and the application of technology within the law firm environment to ensure the most effective IT environment for the firm's billing professionals. He received a B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Wisconsin.