Happy New Year! The beginning of the year is a time for your firm to resolve to make some changes and stick with them throughout this year – unlike that gym membership. Consider the following five firm resolutions for the New Year:
- Change your passwords: Recent data security compromises at stores like Target and other security breaches involving simple passwords should compel you to update your debit card PIN numbers and change your usernames and passwords from your old standbys. Many of the security breaches will try to take advantage of those folks that use the same username with the same password over and over again. Consider using email aliases for your account name so for your Amazon account, your username (and corresponding email address) would be firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep track of all of these accounts and passwords with a password saving program and not a sticky on your desk or under your keyboard (you know who I’m talking about).
- Go paperless: A paperless office can be a steep goal if you are surrounded by paper as you read this, but now is the time to start. Start scanning everything on your desk and utilize a great desktop scanner like the ScanSnap Xi500 (about $410 on Amazon) and the job will not be as hard as you think. From there, for every open and active physical case that you touch (save closed and inactive files for a later date), see what documents can be scanned and converted into an electronic case file. If you produce more paper, come up with a plan to make that paper go away (check out #3 below). By creating a paperless workflow, the paper will decrease in your electronic files will increase.
- Create and document workflows: Going hand in hand with your paperless office resolution is a way to organize your electronic files so your firm (and you) can find everything. Utilize practice management and document management systems to help you too. From snail mail to electronic mail, create and document the workflow for all of the documents coming into your firm and include where are they stored, how are they scanned, who they are distributed to and where the documents should end up. When new employees start and they are properly trained in your standard document procedures, the firm benefits by increasing efficiency of even new employees. Engage your staff in helping produce this documentation since they touch so many of these documents. By creating and documenting workflows for your firm, it will help you stick with your paperless resolution and ensure success for two resolutions at the same time.
- Update your website: If your clients do not recognize you from your website pictures, it is time to update your website. Your website is the first point of contact with potential clients. Put your best foot forward this year and make sure that your content and pictures are updated, accurate and best represent your firm. Look at your website from the clients’ point of view and engage others to look at it critically to see what can be improved and updated. Not all the work has to be done at once, but an updated look and feel to a site is essential for new clients looking at your site for the first time. Plan to include videos in your website to increase your rankings on Google. They can be produced with a video camera that you have in house or even from many cell phones. Don’t wait and think you need a video production studio to produce your videos. Get them out there!
- Update your hardware: The expiration for Windows XP is fast approaching. There is even a Windows XP Death Clock out there – www.windowsxpdeathclock.com – to help you count down the days until Windows XP will no longer be supported by Microsoft. (It is April 18, 2014.) Update your old Windows XP machines, before this date, to at least Windows 7 Professional. You can still order Windows 7 from the major hardware carriers like Dell and Lenovo. Don’t wait until April to get rid of you Windows XP machines; it will be a target for hackers the day after the support ends.
By thinking strategically and resolving to look at each of these areas within your firm, your firm will benefit throughout the year and beyond. Wishing you all the best in 2014.