Monday, February 7, 2011

Eating Our Own Dogfood: Using My Own Services

Every day, I meet with founding partners to discuss their practices’ IT needs, and we often touch upon PC (or Mac) support mechanisms that will allow them to replace a lost or malfunctioning computer in a timely manner.  I cannot stress the importance of this kind of system.  In our view, timely means the next business morning.  There are expenses associated with support like this, but the math clearly shows that it is more expensive not to have it.  For an average attorney who bills 7 hours, losing one business day means thousands of dollars.  These dollars add up fast if a few days pass.  This doesn't include the reputational cost you incur when your attorney has to tell a client they can't service them because of a bad computer.  For a small firm, this can make you seem small time and cause clients to question your capabilities.
Often, I hear "We won't need this. I've had this computer for 3 years and I've never had a problem."  My favorite: "I have a Mac, and it's flawless."  It all sounds great until your computer goes bad, as mine did this week.  Oddly, this is actually the second time in a year that this has happened.  Last time my daughter poured a glass of water on my keyboard.  Goodnight, nurse.  This time, I have no idea what happened; it just quit.  Of course, it happened at the worst possible time.  Things are booming here at NexFirm and I couldn't be busier working on proposals for new clients or working harder to meet the needs of our existing clients.  As you can imagine, lots of deadlines and no computer equals enormous stress.  To make matters worse, I had photos of my kids, my music, and a bunch of other personal documents on that computer.  I felt completely crippled.
As unfortunate as it was, it gave me a chance to "eat my own dogfood," or to see how NexFirm's support and replacement service would work for me in this jam.  You might think that as the CEO of NexFirm I would get preferential service, but in practice I get on the end of the line behind our clients.  (Least favored nation status, so to speak.)  So, I waited to receive my computer, which arrived the next business morning, just as we promise to our clients.  While I waited, I used our web tools, which allowed me to access my email and documents and to stay productive working from my home computer.  When I received my new system, I hadn't lost any data, and all of my applications were just as I’d left them.  In the end, my heart attack turned out to be a tiny blip.
Without my NexFirm team, how might my experience have been different?  A quick check today showed a 7 to 10 day wait to receive a new laptop from Lenovo.  Dell was no better.  Since that would be untenable, and we couldn't find a way to get a replacement that met the specifications I needed on short notice,  I probably would have been forced to buy something inexpensive from Best Buy to get through the week while I waited for a new system.   That would have meant spending the day buying and configuring a computer, as well as trying to restore my data.  Then another day when my permanent system arrived.  The answer is lots of unproductive time, how much is hard to say.
Think carefully about the cost of not having IT support for your users, and include lost work time and the cost of temporary replacement solutions.  It's bound to be more than the cost of having a support system in place, and it will certainly save you from stress and aggravation.
David DePietto is the founder and CEO of NexFirm.  He can be reached at dd@nexfirm.com.

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