Getting Digital Right

 In Gill's Blog

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It was brought home to me recently how difficult it can be to deliver the digital experience your customers want and expect. We made an error, and some people were let down. Obviously, we apologized, re-thought the issue, and hopefully have put in place a means by which the same mistake will not happen again. However, people were inconvenienced. Digital transformation is hard.

Probate practitioners have spent the best part of two years being let down by the digital transformation of the probate service. It is gradually coming good and hopefully, in the near future the turnaround time will be improved and there will be more staff with the right level of training to prevent unnecessary errors. Will we look back in a few years and wonder how on earth we obtained a Grant other than online?

This year, practitioners will be grappling with the requirements of the Trust Registration Service as HMRC continue with the digitalization of the reporting of trusts, both taxable and non-taxable.

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These are examples of major digital transformations, and they are simply the sign of things to come across the board, aren’t they? Customers of all kinds (including clients) have come to expect simplicity and convenience from the organizations they do business with. After all, you and your clients carry a computer in your pocket or briefcase called a ‘smart phone’. We expect instant answers. To be able to have a seamless buying journey.

As a consumer yourself you live in this digital world. Yet how often do you reflect where your organization is within it? A new law firm starting out can from the beginning embrace the digital world, building a client community around their products and services from a digital platform. It is much harder to catch up as an established firm from a very different starting position.

Digitalization makes it a lot easier to gather data from all parts of a process – from a marketing initiative to attract clients, to making a sale, to inducting new clients into a process and seeing it through to conclusion. However, it comes at a cost that is often off-putting. Is this a reason to seek outside investment in your firm? To merge with another firm to enhance resources for investment in the future?

In 2016 Microsoft published a report entitled “Digital Transformation: The Age of Innocence, Inertia or Innovation”. To produce it they interviewed over 1,000 business leaders from UK companies and concluded:

  • Disruption is real – nearly half of all business leaders (44%) think their existing business models will cease to exist within the next five years
  • It’s happening quickly – half of all organization think their industry will be disrupted within the next two years
  • Taking action is the only option – yet almost half (46%) of business decision-makers think their senior leadership are unwilling to disrupt their existing businesses in order to grow and compete more in the future
  • The business drivers are significant, yet respondents don’t necessarily understand the full value digital transformation can deliver to their organizations. The top three drivers were said to be: (1) an improved customer experience (2) Optimised operations and (3) Survival as a business.

I wonder how the respondents would reply to Microsoft’s questions now after we have experienced two years of pandemic turmoil. Many of you will have been forced to undertake significant reviews of how you do business, but did you have the funds to make digital part of the solution?

Other areas of business have been forced to go digital, such as the financial sector. Sharon Hartung in her book “Digital Executor: Unravelling the New Path for Estate Planning” highlights the challenges facing us in incorporating digital asset management into estate administration. The problems which digital assets present must be tackled.

Practitioners in private client practice have had to flex to accommodate the government’s digital changes. How long does your firm’s current business model have left to run? Do you know enough about evolving technology to properly advise clients? To makeover your own business?


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