Tips and Tricks for Navigating the Technology Vendor Landscape
The world has most certainly changed in the last few years. Legal Technology is cool (finally!!) and the market is flooded with vendors offering more and more innovative products. With this explosion of choice and quality, comes the task of navigating the market to find the right product to meet your organization’s needs. The good news is, there is a lot vendors can do to make this task easier.
Arguably one of the biggest changes seen in the legal profession recently is in attitudes to technology and the support it can provide. Once seen as a necessary evil to satisfy management and record-keeping, technology is more and more seen as an enabler and a tool to increase efficiency. For in house teams in particular, in times gone by it was not unusual for a couple of key points of contact to liaise with the IT team and perhaps a year or more later the resulting system would be ‘revealed’ to the wider legal team. However, today’s legal professional is much more interested in being part of the journey. They are aware of technologies on the market, attending conferences like Legal Geek and CLOC, talking to their peers about vendors and actively want to be involved in the process of choosing legal technology.
So, what does this mean for vendors? Greater choice of technology can make the decision harder for organizations. Vendors that were previously demonstrating products to small numbers of project team members now need to think creatively about how to convince the wider in-house legal team that theirs is the right product to meet their needs. Providing a sandbox environment in which end users can validate their use cases and see the tech in action is a great way to do this. Vendors that are confident in their product should embrace the chance for a wider segment of the legal team to try it. If the product really does not meet a team’s use cases, then the vendor has avoided a dissatisfied customer.
With the increase of agile ways of working in corporate organizations, more people want to quickly see a basic version of the product and iterate to build the product out according to their needs. Looking for ways their product can be delivered in smaller chunks to release value faster is another method by which vendors can help in-house legal teams aid user adoption. Having a clear idea of how different components or functionalities can be used to meet particular use cases and what can be delivered independently means vendors can illustrate how the product can fit the processes and priorities of in-house legal teams.
Many in-house legal teams work for organizations that are operating in environments of increased regulatory oversight, making security and compliance key topics. Whilst security is important to all companies, in-house legal teams will have strict security policies to satisfy. Therefore, vendors should be prepared to work closely with security, data and architecture teams and provide comprehensive documentation explaining how their product satisfies security policies. Demonstrating an understanding of what it takes to implement a product in a large organization will give vendors a good standing.
Seamless integration between products is a must for all legal teams. With the volume of products available on the market, legal teams can effectively create a technology suite to match their needs, using loosely coupled architecture. This is perhaps even more vital for in-house legal teams who may need to integrate, not just with other legal technologies, but also with technologies from the wider organization they support. For example, many in-house legal teams receive numerous varied requests for assistance from the business they support, communicate with outside counsel, report on spend and budgets into finance and provide crucial data downstream to other functions. Having knowledge of other products on the market which complement their product, or products that clients regularly integrate with, can make the conversation far easier for in-house legal teams looking to build a legal suite.
When marketing products to in-house legal teams, vendors should spend time thinking through what the trigger points might be for someone in the team to engage with their product and the potential touchpoints to other systems and functions throughout the lifecycle the product supports. User Personas are a great way to frame what a user’s needs, preferences and priorities are and will help vendors demonstrate understanding and insight into an in-house legal team’s needs. The key is to leverage the building blocks of the product to meet a wide range of needs, and vendors who can demonstrate this sort of flexibility will help potential clients visualise how the product fits into their architecture and process. Furthermore, vendors can ensure their products are available in the cloud and have out-of-the-box Application Program Interfaces (APIs) available to aid integration, as well as provide transparent information upfront about API capabilities.
Products that do not disrupt the flow of users working within Microsoft Office or similar have better and/or faster user adoption. Much of a lawyer’s daily work centres around communication and drafting, so taking the tools to the lawyers in those environments is a time saver and leverages what a lawyer already likes using. Having slick Office 365 plug-ins is important for vendors to invest time in so that their products become truly embedded into the working life of the in-house legal team they support.
What is clear is that there is a much bigger role for vendors when engaging with a prospective client than there used to be. Vendors should think about the roles this requires within their organizations to ensure resources are available to partner with in-house legal teams effectively, both whilst they make their selection and throughout the implementation project. Vendor teams can further leverage their product and client support by working with dedicated strategic implementation partners, such as Duff & Phelps.
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