When I started my own firm, I was convinced that it would be simple to just sign up for different technology programs, login, and they would all just work together without any glitches. You would think that these days, with all this information stored in the "cloud" and the readily available technology options, it would be simple. And you, like me, would be wrong. But the good news is, that with enough work, you can actually get everything to work together.
I recently had lunch with an old friend, who's had a solo practice for years, and most of the time was spent talking about the technology set up and how it lets me service clients in a more constructive and effective manner.
My first challenge was deciding what hardware would be needed to keep me mobile, nimble and accessible to clients. With all of my hardware in place, it was just a matter of getting a Windows 7 desktop, a MacBook, a WindowsXP Netbook, an iPad and a Blackberry to work together - raise any eyebrows yet?
The next challenge, working with software that would be able to operate across all of these platforms so that I can grab whatever technology I need on my way out the door to meet with clients. I began with GoogleApps to host my email, get my website up and running and manage my contacts, calendar and other tasks that it loves to help with. To work with Google, I did some research and found a handy practice management software, GoClio, that integrated my calendar and contacts directly from my Google account. I have found it easy to use and intuitive, but I have had clients who have worried about setting up another account on the web to connect through their service, and I'm waiting for more reactions from clients.
This actually turned out to be even easier than I anticipated, with a nice VOIP system that allows my calls to be routed to wherever I am and forwards all of my faxes to me as .pdf files. In setting this up, I'm available to my clients at more times than just 9 - 5, in a manner that is unobtrusive to my home life (if a client calls and I'm with my family, I just hit a button, it goes to voicemail and I can retrieve the message and call them back if it's an emergency).
After a few tries, I think I've finally been able to get all of my technology to play nice together and allow me access to my practice on a variety of devices. The biggest challenge, and it was a big challenge, was getting the Blackberry, Google and iPad to work together - in my earliest attempts, every time they attempted to synchronize, they would create duplicates in my calendar and contacts and my files became unwieldy!
Going forward I'm going to continue to try new applications, especially for the iPad, to try to optimize my practice through all of the glorious technology that is now available. If I find something I like, it'll find its way onto this blog.