26 November 2018

How professionals stay relevant as technology changes

Not so long ago, generations of young professionals arrived in workplaces that felt dated as soon as they stepped through the door.

Across the world, fresh lawyers were handed dictaphones at their prestigious new law firms, being told that these were - apparently - critical to their future success in legal practice.

Emails and documents were printed and filed in hardcopy manila folders. Legal secretaries transformed musings into neatly typed and formatted letters at the beginning of the following day. Signing contracts, employment forms, and tax filings needed a printer, paper and a ballpoint pen.

The Blackberry had just begun to infiltrate the office, but was still viewed with suspicion. An experiment, perhaps, rather than an expectation.

Needless to say, newer generations quickly stuffed dictaphones in their bottom drawer. Most of us had been typing since we could walk, and we could certainly move our fingers faster than our lips.

Fast forward a decade or so, and the environment looks entirely different. Graduates in non-technical fields are being told to learn Python, R, or some other flavour for data-esque analysis. We create and send invoices on our phones while sitting on the train. More and more professionals conduct an entire business over the internet, serving clients they've never even met in real life.

Clients, in particular, are getting ruthless when it comes to demanding efficiency. Fixed-fee quotes, shorter turn-arounds, and minimal downtime - they want it all, and with a 15% discount on top of that.

Of course, satisfying clients isn't about adopting shiny new tools and applications. Quality service, price transparency and responsiveness are, and will always be paramount. But new technology helps you meet all of these. Cost and time estimates are easier when all your projects have been tracked in Trello or Asana. It's easier to be responsive when you can generate and sign things on your tablet on the way back from your first meeting.

Week to week, none of these are going to make or break a business. But year to year, they might. You don't want to leave your clients in a position where your competitors are offering the same service as you, at half the price and twice as fast.

That's why setting aside time to explore and experiment with technology is important. That doesn't mean spending more time on your new apps than with your clients. But it does mean you'll be the one riding the crest of the next generation.