Sneak Peak: How and Why to Document Your Firm Technology and Processes

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The first big question you may ask is “why” should you document your firm’s information? This is a daunting project, no doubt.  The investment of time now can provide unlimited returns in the future, and provide you with preparedness that will set you apart from other law firms when it really matters.

 Why?

 To enumerate, the first reason is disaster recovery. If anything goes wrong from a failed hard drive to a fire to a flood you need to have a business continuity plan and a disaster recovery plan. Much of the plan will consist of actions, but those actions will be dependent on information that is documented and available. Many of us fail to consider the different varieties of “disaster” that can threaten our firm’s viability.

 What?

 Hardware and Software Documentation – Know What you Own. What software applications people are using (name, manufacturer, version/edition) and whether there are any problems to report with those applications and the frequency with which each application is used (daily, weekly, occasionally). Keeping an inventory of all the hardware that is in use will also be necessary for insurance purposes, and, if you have to “rebuild” after a disaster, you will have a handle on what needs to be replaced.

How?

 Part of a technology audit/inventory will be to determine what technology (software and hardware) your firm is using.  Once that is established you will need to document software licenses, user names, installed drivers, security updates and service packs for each computer.  That may sound very difficult but there are tools that can help, such as software asset management.

Once example is Belarc Advisor (http://www.belarc.com/) which provides a computer profile summary for free for an individual computer for personal use. It is very handy to have if you need to reinstall software or work with IT support. However, to manage this information for a number of computers there are products like BelManage  (http://www.belarc.com/ctadvisor.html?B-top) , which runs about $1800 for up to 50 monitored clients and provides organizational asset management including software license optimizations, server and individual machine software discovery,  plus attached printers, IP phones and any mobile devices attached to the network.  It helps document this complex information, plus identify unlicensed, unauthorized or obsolete software. It also identifies missing security patches and service packs, and way more.  Profiles are built for Windows, Linux, Mac OS.

This type of software/SaaS is commonly called “asset management” or “software asset management”.  Of course, you can also track this information in an Excel spreadsheet. The point is to have it captured and keep it updated.

sanders_reachramovsExcerpted from “How and Why to Document Your Firm Technology and Processes” written by Jennifer M. Ramovs and Catherine Sanders Reach