Funding Technology Projects & Services
It is an understatement to say that legal services firms operate on tight budgets. With the focus on client legal services and the need for those services grossly outstripping the supply, it is hard for organization executives to dedicate additional dollars for technology expenses over hiring or retaining another lawyer or paralegal.
The reality is organizations have been making those balancing decisions for years and for all kinds of overhead expenses. What is changing is that over the past several years there has been dramatically increased need for a expanding range of more intelligent, mobile, advocate-centric, client-available, secure and reliable technology. Expectations of clients, funders, the bar, community partners, staff, and volunteers have evolved rapidly and organizations are responding. – ADD IN there has also been an inflection point with respect to the value of the technology – availability of better wired/wireless bandwidth, Platform as a Service, Software as a Service, Integration across services, and mobile platforms that make it practical for advocates, volunteers and clients (high percentage with smartphones) to use the technology – add some citations
How to manage the funding
1st – as with most management – planning – implementation, sustainability, support, training, planning the costs of the range of technology into staff and volunteer lines – seeking funding for the same
Planning tech in the context of broader strategic/programmatic planning – ensures that you are taking on the technology that is most meaningful/impactful for the firm – these are projects/capacities that you will build/have support for whether or not new funds are raised – also increases the persuasiveness of your grant proposals either for a new legal services project or for a capacity building grant – context matters
Take the time to write RFP’s for your projects – they don’t have to be complex/fancy – but due describe why you are taking on the project, how you envision the technology working and for who, and what the outcomes are that you expect
Evaluate you technology projects – have you obtained the desired outcomes? what lessons did you learn from the project that would be relevant to other future projects? how can you best communicate the project successes and failures to your funders, your board, your staff, and your partners?
Budgeting reduces surprises – when building your annual budget – having the comprehensive and supported tech elements makes it easier to make more intelligent and less painful decisions. Track your technology assets to the extent you can and depreciate them to help budget for replacement
Where cash flow is an issue consider leasing your equipment rather buying it outright
Look for resources on the web to help build your budget, help raise money for tech.