To kick off the new year, I thought I’d reflect back on the last one and share what’s on my mind. I hope you find the material insightful and slightly amusing.
2020 Was a Year of Learning
No kidding! We discovered things we never dreamed we’d have to learn. Things like: you can never have too much toilet paper. You can actually get tired of watching too much Netflix. We learned just how many types of hand sanitizers are on the market. Some are sticky, some smell not-so-great, but they are all needed and have made us all somewhat OCD. We can all now explain the ins and outs of the electoral college in great detail. Oh, and we learned about Instacart. Oh Instacart.
The IT Community, in Particular, Had Some Important Takeaways
At the beginning of COVID-19, GDSI, like so many other companies, switched from participating in primarily in-person meetings (anywhere in the world) to conducting every meeting virtually. We learned how to position the camera just-so to hide the mess behind us and the sweatpants we’re wearing to appear professional in Zoom meetings. Like you, we experienced many virtual meetings with a view of the top of people’s heads, the sides of their faces, and perhaps a few times, up their noses. IT people, who, we joke, aren’t particularly known for their ability to make eye contact in person, were among the worst at making eye contact with their computer cameras. Moving into 2021, I’m proud to report the majority of our Zoom meetings now take place with people who’ve mastered the art of having their whole head AND clothed upper bodies both in frame and looking directly at each other. As a result, our meetings have hit peak productivity.
We learned it’s perfectly okay to take Zoom meetings from any location. Places that we would have been fired for having meetings just a year ago are now totally acceptable. One woman, who I refer to as “The Closet Zoomer,” takes all of her Zoom meetings from her bedroom closet. She’s got kids and dogs and it’s the only place in her home where she can get enough quiet. We’ll be in a really professional meeting and she’ll be lying down with a pillow under her neck. In the background, all you see are shoe boxes. In 2019, this would have been totally inappropriate. In 2021, no one even blinks. Here’s something of which I’m guilty. I live in South Florida. My wife and I now work exclusively from home, and our daughter has been attending school virtually. My West Coast clients want a 3:00 p.m. PST WebX. But since we’ve all been home, our family dinner time is 6:00 p.m. EST. A conundrum. 3:00 p.m. PST/6:00 p.m. EST is the only time my clients can meet. So we’ll be eating spaghetti for dinner and I’ll be on the WebX. This approach is something I never would’ve been caught dead doing before March 2020. Today, it is socially acceptable and rather commonplace for my clients to get to meet my family (and vice-versa).
The Most Important Thing We Learned in the IT Community in 2020 Was How To Focus
I’ll admit, we in IT joke about how if you’re in IT, you’re a bit strange to begin with. Am I right? Our brains work in a different, rather unique way. Not really mainstream, I’d go so far to say. Because the material we are working on is so complex, we need silence to be able to concentrate. I don’t care what your IT function is, it’s all about the quiet.
Then came March 2020. We’re all working from home. Enter families, kids, dogs, birds, construction noise. Even with top-of-the-line noise cancellation headphones, focusing on the work at hand became a challenge.
We needed to learn how to adapt—and fast.
For GDSI, the key to that focus was task management software. Task management software was how we made it through 2020. We got so busy, so inundated, we had to rely heavily on task management applications beyond what we’ve ever done before. Tasks, business and personal, were coming at us a million miles a minute. Organization and time management became challenging. So we fell in love with Asana. Asana is a task management application written by the original Google team. It’s web and cloud-based and includes a mobile app. It allows you to get organized with all sorts of projects or personal lists. There are paid tiers to select from. We’d been using the free tier for about 10 years, but nothing at the level we’re using it now.
Pre-COVID-19, Asana was being used by me and maybe one other person at GDSI. Others on our team were using a variety of task management apps and we didn’t really have insight into what each of us had on our plate.
Today, we have one common, shared platform. We can all look at our Asana list simultaneously. As I add a new task, everyone sees it. I can add tasks for others and I can see who’s waiting for my feedback before being able to progress. Everyone on the team knows if I’m holding up progress! Asana is working so well, GDSI has now moved to a paid tier. By elevating our membership, our clients can access and review project tasks. Law firms can log into Asana and see real-time updates of where we are on any given project. Genius!
Creating this sort of task management system was a lifesaver during this crazy year and something we will continue to use going forward, even once ‘normalcy’ returns.
Turns Out, It Wasn’t Only GDSI That Needed Task Management Systems
Law firms began coming to us and asking us to build custom systems because they were also incredibly busy and task management had become a problem. Until now, most firms were relying on clunky systems like Microsoft Outlook for task management and to stay organized. It would be rather irresponsible for us to simply point these firms to Asana. They needed a platform specifically designed to address the unique needs of a law firm. Something very advanced. With our experience in custom software development, we knew we could help. We begin designing custom task management apps to include law firm-specific templates that alert the user every time a Matter is created. This template customization is extremely important to Workflow. We start with a new Matter. Then we ask,
“What are the tasks that have to be created for that Matter? Who gets assigned those tasks? Who’s waiting for the next task?” It’s about simplifying the process flow. Matter and task management is something GDSI has gotten very good at—writing stand-alone task management software that helps firms of all sizes automate their whole process.
Hopefully, as we re-acclimate to a less unique, stressful, chaotic, loud—some say, “new normal”—we will remember a key lesson learned from the year that was 2020: while taking Zoom meetings from anywhere, we will position our cameras correctly, relish silence, and focus on the tasks-at-hand by leveraging task management software. Which reminds me…I need to place an order via Instacart.
PARTNER WITH EXPERIENCE
GDSI has been delivering custom software solutions to law firms, legal software companies, and professional services firms for over 25 years. We are a software design studio delivering creative solutions to the business challenges inherent in legal operations. Our frequent, relevant communications ensure clients are always informed. From research and analysis to design and implementation, our judicious approach drives sustainable results. We’re about details done right.
For more insights on custom software development, follow me on LinkedIn or email me at DGeller@GDSI.com.