The proof is in the pudding, and for IT directors there isn’t just one ‘metaphorical’ pudding that has to hit the mark, there are variations of it – ROI for the firm, user experience for employees, optimal use of budget for clients, ease of collaboration for partners and so on.
Technology implementation in law firms has gained a poor reputation, frequently associated with budget/schedule over-runs, resistance to adoption, poor perception of value and such. News of change is received with dread, if not sheer apathy; and for stakeholders it spells unnecessary disruption, making it an unrelentingly thankless task for IT teams.
However, technology deployment doesn’t have to be an affliction. We at Wright Hassall recently implemented Visualfiles as our case management system, successfully! Here are my top tips:
- A muddy outcome delivers a murky deliverable
Often, technology implementations are run in isolation of the desired outcomes with no real definition of what it is that the end users are going to benefit from as a result of the change that is being delivered. Accurately determining the deliverables and their value is the first step in any implementation challenge.
- Standardise business processes, but don’t over-gild the lily
Underlying the chosen outcome is business process. In many law firms, there is a multi-sector focus with respective teams dealing with different areas of law; and all practice groups operate in their own unique way. Never assume that the processes involved in any practice group are entirely portable across the firm. At the same time, guard against practice nuancing within teams.
Take a simple property sale process as an example. This will differ for a residential plot, a commercial property and a residential purchase. You’ll need to share common elements of business process across all of these workflows to cater for practice group requirements. At the same time, you’ll need to make sure you only deliver one version of the process to each area. Aim to automate the key areas of “grunt work”, but avoid automating everything as the law of diminishing returns will apply. Make 80% of the task easy; the remainder will take care of itself. Otherwise, you end up over-gilding the lily!
- No, fee earners aren’t the only stakeholders
It’s true that fee earners are the revenue generators, but that doesn’t mean that their exclusive permission is required to institute businesses processes. Support staff are equally important, so it’s imperative that they are engaged in equal measure. This ensures that both the front and back-office processing requirements are correspondingly met and joined up.
- There’s no such thing as ‘death by communication’
Typically, there’s very little internal communication around implementations. Two reasons are most prominent. First is lazy project selection – perhaps there’s no real reason for deploying a new system, except that other firms are doing it and so it must be the right thing to do! The other is fear of failure, as muddy outcomes deliver a murky deliverable. If there’s no real understanding of why a change is being driven, it’s never going to succeed.
If you’ve been authorised to deliver a technology project, the fact is that the business case is written, the money is assigned and the partners are committed. You have the mandate, so go for it! Communicate and ‘sell’ the change at every opportunity. Critically, communicate the message in the same tone to every stakeholder group, be it partners, fee earners, support staff or any other.
- For crying out loud, make it fun!
IT organisations make the cardinal mistake of approaching such initiatives as drab technology projects. Make it fun. At Wright Hassall, we went viral with internal marketing and gamified our implementation. Our tag line was ‘That was easy’. We had posters everywhere – even on the inside of toilet cubicle doors. There was no escape! We ran a competition – anyone who named eight songs with the word ‘easy’ in it, won a prize. Through this campaign, we created an impression that the implementation was indeed ‘easy’ and that the project was going to deliver an outcome that everyone valued.
Such an approach serves as a distraction as well creates a brand association, which as consumers we are all attuned to. Remember to ensure that the campaign theme you choose is trans-generational – i.e. it needs to stick across a number of generations in the workforce.
- Quantify your success
Delivering the project on-budget and on-time is the old-school metric. Tangibly demonstrate your achievement based on the value the project was to deliver. If the goal of the project was to increase productivity by 10%, provide the figures to substantiate it. If the outcome isn’t achieved, provide hard facts and explain why.