Who are your internal systems designed to serve?

Systems come in all shapes and sizes.

On a micro level, they might encompass:

  • ID;
  • File opening;
  • Client/office transfer;
  • Standard retainer letters;
  • Standard letters more generally;
  • Templates for tenders;
  • Answering the telephone; and
  • Responding to emails.

Sometimes these are driven purely from a compliance perspective but, mostly, the firm sets up a system which is highly prescriptive in its ambit without enough thought to its usefulness or added value [it is just as important on the i-n-s-i-d-e].

On a macro level, systems are apt to cover:

  • Who does what within your firm – this may not always be written;
  • The style of copy across the firm;
  • Who has the authority over what type of issue and [£] spend;
  • How to conduct and host an event;
  • How databases or CRM systems are used;
  • Deferring to HR on practically everything ~ you are in the people business after all!

Now systems in and of them self are wonderful if they allow everyone to achieve their full potential but rarely is that the case.

What appears to happen is that everyone is so distracted, annoyed or overwhelmed by the system(s) that they end up losing site of the real purpose of what they are doing (“What does the form say?”).

How many times have you found yourself filling out yet another piece of paper or going through a sterile or moribund process when you know damn well that:

(a) it won’t matter a fig to the outcome; or

(b) you are going through the motions to satisfy someone else.

In the brave new (legal) world with further brands coming on stream, you can bet your next pay check/draw that more and more of them will try to out-gun their opponent by having in place another complex layer of bureaucracy to give the impression that they the slickest of the slick. Or they run the tightest ship out there.

And I bet you will see the emergence of even more [XYZ] Standards of one type or another (please can we all refrain from relying too much on the word Quality ~ I just think that it begins to sound a bit hollow after a while).

But, in the race for glory, I wonder how many firms will have someone assigned to the case to critically examine whether this new or remodelled systems is:

(a) serving a or any useful purpose?

(b) has been considered from a ends justify the means perspective?

(c) considered critically from a client service perspective?

(d) considered if there is a cost/benefit in not only having the system but maintaining it?

My view is that every single system and for that matter process, save those that are absolutely necessary to fulfil a regulatory function, should be stress-tested to make sure that they are necessary and fit for purpose.

Nothing should remain sacred. Just because it has been used for 10 years or more shouldn’t mean it is off limits.

In a time of massive change for the profession now is a good time to question these things and ask the tough questions. Sure the new Handbook is going to throw up lots of challenges for firms as they increasingly self-regulate but please don’t use that as an excuse to create even more paperwork.

As I ReTweeted today, do what Tom Peters advocates ~ Appoint a C.H.R.O. [Chief Hurdle Removal Officer]. I am sure that role would be broad enough to cut through some of the guff that we all have to deal with.

Being too systems dependant is perhaps a contributing factor to why some firms find it so hard to change or better still innovate their business model. Also, if you are stuck with your systems then try to make sure you have the lowest qualified people dealing with each aspect. Don’t put your best people to work form filling when they could be out there in the market making it happen.

~ JS ~

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