If you believe all of the hype surrounding legal tech, you might think that improved efficiency is mere days away if you can just purchase the latest, greatest piece of corporate legal technology. However, in the real world, digital transformation and successfully embedding legal operations technology into your department is much more nuanced and complex.
First, you must evaluate and select the right solution for the business and then navigate the procurement process. After that comes deployment and adoption, which can be a long journey filled with obstacles. Faced with these and other challenges, it’s no surprise that many solutions become shelfware and remain largely unused in the long run.
Change is difficult, so it’s key that your initial deployment goes smoothly to encourage champions and help skeptics see what’s possible when the team is empowered with technology. On the other hand, if deployment goes poorly, it is difficult to recover and regain faith in the solution. Long-term technology adoption requires a smooth, strategic deployment.
As the Director of Client Services for HighQ, I’ve seen my share of eager corporate legal teams. Some are making a change from existing technology that never really got off the ground and some are diving into legal tech for the first time.
No matter what stage of maturity the legal operations team is at, my advice is the same. Here are six key ways to ensure your technology deployment is a success.
1. Create a deployment plan
Take a step-by-step approach to implementation. Evaluate what processes the new technology will affect and create a strategy for incorporating your new tool into those processes. Make sure IT is involved in this planning to ensure that existing technology is integrated and working smoothly before the go-live date.
You might also assemble a steering committee, including members from legal and any other affected departments, who can serve as champions, shepherding the new technology through their teams. In a nutshell, your implementation plan should set forth responsibilities for everyone on the team, training plans, deliverables, integration details and milestones to measure your progress.
2. Define success and establish a technology adoption timeline
Part of making sure your deployment is successful is knowing exactly what that means for your team. How does your recent technology purchase empower you to achieve the ideal state for your corporate legal department? How will you track progress and identify next steps?
This is where a good relationship with your technology vendor can make a huge difference. Most cloud-technology providers understand that if implementation and adoption don’t go well, the chances of you renewing are much lower. Therefore, your client success manager should be as committed to a successful deployment as you are, and they can offer a realistic adoption timeline for your team based on their experience.
Even beyond adoption, your client success manager should periodically reach out to see how things are going and offer suggestions to help you to reach your goals and get more out of your technology investment.
3. Set expectations and lay the groundwork for success
In my position advising and supporting clients, I’ve seen a lot of reactions to new technology. Some people are excited, some are intimidated and some may just feel jaded from the empty promises of previous unsuccessful technology deployments.
Help your team cut through the legal technology hype by offering specific examples of how the platform will make their lives easier. Define the problem currently facing the team and how the technology will solve it. Offer context for why this was determined to be the most immediate need.
It’s also important to set expectations and spark user interest early. In addition to solving the stated problem, what other benefits do you believe the technology will offer? Will it improve interdepartmental relationships? Will it simplify spend management? Will it make the team more efficient? Be sure to focus on what’s in it for them.
4. Capture quick wins with a pilot group
Select a group of tech savvy people to participate in a pilot program before you roll out the technology to the entire corporate legal team. This select group should start working with the software and applying it to the issues that have been identified.
If possible, have the group start with small, simple problems that can offer quick wins. As they put the plan in action, the pilot group is responsible for identifying potential roadblocks, providing feedback to the implementation project leader and looking for additional ways to improve efficiency or expand the use of the technology.
The participants in the pilot program become champions who can leverage their experience to tackle bigger challenges and advise the rest of the department as their implementation journey begins. In my experience, having a couple of success stories to share can make all the difference when encouraging department-wide adoption.
5. Schedule regular reviews and request feedback
Deployment can’t be the end of your adoption journey. Make sure your long-term plan includes periodic reviews of the progress made as well as the processes impacted by the software.
In addition to high-level reviews, ask for candid feedback from anyone who interacts with the technology. Insight from all steps of your process is crucial to ensuring lasting adoption. Include questions about usability, effectiveness of processes, additional features that would be useful and the helpfulness of the software’s support team. Use this feedback to gauge success, identify challenges and explore opportunities for ongoing education. Once you’ve collected the information, be sure to share it with your client success manager who can offer strategies and insight to continue to improve your experience.
The review process will also help uncover technology enthusiasts who are often eager to offer suggestions and great new ideas about how to better leverage your technology.
6. Encourage exploration and experimentation
Within your organisation there are bound to be a few ambitious people who want to find new ways to take their use of technology even further. This spirit of curiosity is powerful. Harness it to find new ways to work more intelligently and efficiently.
Encourage your team to explore the capabilities of the technology and use your intranet to share the tips and tricks they discover with the entire team. Recognise and reward these champions who find ways to get even more return out of your technology investment.
BONUS: Get more value and expand technology adoption into different departments
After a successful deployment, think about how the technology might be applied to other departments. For example, could your technology go beyond legal document management and help other departments with their secure file sharing? Can your legal project management tool be adapted to project management in other areas? Is your knowledge management tool the perfect fit for sharing information throughout the entire business?
Many technologies that address legal operations initiatives can also be applied to other areas to increase the value of your investment. So share your successes with IT and department heads that may also want to address common operational challenges.
At HighQ, Elliot leads the client services team and leverages more than 15 years of legal IT experience to help clients innovate and meet their goals. He builds strong relationships with clients and colleagues to develop a deeper understanding of how technology can support businesses. Before joining HighQ, Elliot worked at a law firm as a IT programme and business relationship manager to improve efficiency, implement new technology and build internal relationships with the technology team. He is passionate about business analysis, operations and the evolution of technology.