Since COVID began at the beginning of last year there came all the hype and snake oil salesmen coining new phrases such as “new normal” and “pivot”. I did not like them (the phrases) when they were first used and I’m positively sick of them now.
Transforming your business should be something you do all the time, not after the fact when a pandemic hits, or when a competitor outclasses you. That’s reactive. Good businesses, successful businesses, are proactive.
While the digital age only really began in my adulthood, I consider myself a digital native having been at the forefront of delivering new technology to clients my entire career. Much of that career was influenced by the amazing clients I worked with, being involved in their strategic “think tanks”, and being called upon to align their technology uptake with their business strategy.
Witnessing how a business with a living strategy that is implemented, fine tuned, revised in the face of unexpected events, and crafted to create competitive advantage and attract great talent to the organization is testimony to my determination that all businesses, large or small must have a strategy for long term survival, and that strategy will include the adoption of technology, or face becoming increasingly uncompetitive and redundant.
Digital natives are an important inclusion in the organization’s “think tank” to understand how technology can transform business processes, customer experience and create competitive advantage. Einstein was right – you cannot solve problems with the same thinking that created them. Use internal resources to get fresh perspectives, and consult with external experts to broaden the depth of thinking.
But be warned, digital transformation is not a destination or a goal, it has to be considered within each organization and has to culturally fit the organization in order for it to be successful, and to continually be assessed as new technology emerges.
Technology is rapidly accelerating, bringing about new and different ways of doing things. Digital transformation is about the adoption of these technologies into organizations to bring about
- process optimization,
- improve customer, employee and other stakeholder attraction, retention and experience, and
- improve products and services.
Digital transformation does not mean that technology is adopted for its own sake, nor that such transformation is a destination. Rather, digital transformation is the adoption of relevant technology in accordance with the strategic objectives at the time, over the lifetime of an organization.
A business strategy that calls for change to remain competitive and increase business can only be implemented in organizations where there is strong leadership. Leadership that buys into, supports and drives the changes that their strategy demands.
My introduction, now nearly a decade ago, to working with the legal profession was a shock at how slow the take-up of technology was across the spectrum of accounting processes through all line of business systems was in the profession.
Even worse was the technology that was employed was old and very influenced by “old school” thinking.
Perhaps COVID has been the catalyst to wake up law firms to the implementation of new and modern technology, and that in my book is one good thing we can take from this horrible pandemic.
But it shouldn’t stop there.
Law firms, big or small are full of real digital natives – people who have grown up with technology and who understand how it can transform performance and service delivery. These are the people that the “old guard” should give some rein to when it comes to technology and digital transformation. So often young entrants into the legal profession come into law firms with all their youthful energy and are shut down with the “this is how it’s done in a law firm” culture, where age old practices are perpetuated.
The big wake up for these firms is that they will no longer be able to attract or retain good young talent, and they will slowly, agonisingly, become redundant and die. The pandemic gave every law firm on the planet a taste of what this might be like and while some knee jerked and have got themselves into a worse mess by adopting the wrong technology, others have managed to steer towards a more considered approach contracting in advisors and facilitators and developing strategies that will see them grow and flourish.
It is the leaders of latter firms that are strong leaders and can drive the cultural change required to transform. The leaders of the former firms are the ones that will condemn themselves and those that do remain in their organizations to a difficult future, far more fraught with headaches and anxiety than those who bravely collaborate to build firms that will stand the test of time.
About the Author
Jenny Assheton-Smith is a BCom graduate in business information systems. Jenny has 30 years’ experience in using technology to re-engineer business processes and has worked with some of South Africa’s most well-known medium to large organisations involved in construction, services, healthcare, engineering, shipping and most recently, legal practice.
Jenny has regularly delivered guest lectures to final year BCom, BBusSc and Computer Science undergraduates and honours students on the practicalities of designing, implementing and supporting end-to-end business productivity solutions.
Having been an executive manager of large technology firms and an entrepreneur herself, Jenny has also mentored and developed several executive teams, entrepreneurs, young business analysts and software engineers.
Jenny has extensive experience working internationally with partners and clients to effectively select, implement and manage solutions and technology that have added enormous value (and profit to the bottom line) and deliver excellent return on investment.This experience, and through her quest to find a modern, simple, effective, yet robust solution to manage a busy legal practice, drove her to co-found Drive Revenue, which has developed an end-to-end cloud application for legal practices worldwide.