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Start Page: Your next office upgrade: smarter staff!

July 31, 2013
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Kim BrandHow do you do more with less? Simple answer: smarter staff! Skip the next generation of hardware or software and concentrate on an upgrade strategy that always pays dividends: training.

Modern PCs are hundreds of times more powerful than those I sold 10 years ago. They are also cheaper and more reliable. Tablets and mobile phones are not just becoming more popular; PCs aren’t selling as well because the jobs they are tasked with can be easily done by the PCs you bought three years ago. The jobs most law firms do with all this technology haven’t changed much and aren’t likely to.

But we suffer from an embarrassing lack of basic PC skills, and it’s not getting any better! It is as if you bought a new car and refused to shift out of first gear. Why don’t PC users get more out of their investment in technology?

The main reason is lack of training. Few firms invest the hours needed to reform bad habits, even if their effort is ultimately rewarded with greater time saved than spent. We can preach about how the mouse is ‘evil’ ... but after trying new shortcuts, old habits kick in and most users reach for their mouse.

There are hundreds of hours of excellent training resources available online. Did you know that the second-most-used search engine on the Internet (after Google) is YouTube? Almost anything you want to learn can be found there for free. You are almost certain to find the answer to any question you have about how to use your PC, Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat or many other programs.

The mouse is evil!

The real trick to being more productive is to use the mouse less. Every time you pick up your hand, navigate the mouse to a button and click, you are wasting precious seconds. Those seconds add up. Think of how many times a day you create an email, open a document, search for a file or print. Every one of those tasks can be performed by a keyboard shortcut. The difference of five seconds, multiplied by a hundred tasks a day, amounts to nearly 40 hours a year. Your last PC upgrade may not have saved that much time; but a skills upgrade certainly can.

Microsoft has excellent free training programs for Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. It is harder to find them for older versions of Office, but they are there. Go to: Office.com, look for Support, then click the link for ‘Free video tutorials.’
startpage_box.jpg Be a shortcut ninja!

The most underutilized shortcut key is “Enter.” I watch in horror as our clients enter their password then move their hand to the mouse, take aim with the pointer, then click to get to their desktop. Arggghhh! The same could be accomplished by entering their password and pressing enter! That is a completely natural process and is 10 times faster.

The second-most underutilized shortcut keys are “Tab,” and “Shift-Tab.” When you want to move to the next field in a data entry form like a database or Web page just press tab; it will almost always take you where you want to go.

Appoint a training manager and set a budget

Many firms set IT priorities and include new PCs, printers, scanners and maybe a website upgrade. My advice is to include a budget for training and give the responsibility for spending it to a staff member. The amount you set aside will make it obvious how important you think staff development is. By giving someone the responsibility to get it done, your firm will be far more likely to resist the inevitable pressure to put it off.

Make cross training a priority. Hold frequent internal “lunch and learns” where a particular technique can be shared. Make it fun. Hold “shortcut rodeos” to drill the best shortcuts into muscle memory.

My favorite shortcut: Press the Windows key + R then enter the name of the program you want to run; ‘winword’ for Word, ‘excel’ for Excel. I save 5 seconds every time I don’t need to use the Programs menu or return to the desktop.

There are many good instructor-led training programs. We offer them, too. Get the most value by setting goals and measuring results. Whatever you pay for training, it is usually far less expensive than ignorance!•

__________

Kim Brand is a technology expert and President of Computer Experts, Inc. in Indianapolis. He is the inventor of FileSafe, the only on-premises file server priced like a cloud service. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Legal Informatics at IUPUI. Contact him at info@ComputerExpertsIndy.com or call 317-833-3000. The opinions expressed are those of the author.


 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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