Understanding the Technology Landscape – Tips for Successful Enablement
Stephen Brown, IT consultant at Lights-On Consulting shares his thoughts on how firms can effectively evaluate new technology – and how vendors could help.
It’s not uncommon to hear from senior management teams that have procured a solution or new software but are struggling to get it to deliver value. It may seem an obvious point, but a software vendor has a professional sales team, whose job it is to sell their technology. Law firms meanwhile are rarely procurement specialists and it can be easy to end up with software that doesn’t quite meet your needs or deliver the expected value.
So how can you identify software that meets your needs and will deliver value?
Before embarking on a technology procurement project, it’s essential to have a period of discovery and education. Think about your requirements, pain points, ambitions and limitations. Broadly identify your requirements, then go out to market speculatively to talk to suppliers and find out what is available.
Consider what changes you will need to make to your processes, infrastructure and culture to allow the technology to achieve maximum impact. It is rare that new software will be ‘plug and play’, there will generally be an important piece of work to understand what changes need to be made to the business in order to achieve value.
Once you have defined your requirements and tested the market, the next step is to regroup and create a functional and non-functional specification. Put this specification in black and white so you can clearly assess if the proposed software can deliver what you need.
This specification can provide a line of sight from sales through to delivery, so that when a vendor says, ‘yes our software does X’, you can make it contractual. Negotiations must happen before the contract is signed as post-contract negotiation can be difficult.
Get advice on what questions to ask
One area we always recommend testing is the vendor’s approach to upgrades, how these are handled and the cost element. If it’s a toolkit or DIY approach to upgrades, make sure you have the capability in-house to deal with this.
Be wary of allowing a vendor to define your requirements, they will naturally make your needs fit their software. Your vendor can however help you with the value add and successful integration of your new software.
Whilst legal IT vendors do not have the resources of Microsoft when it comes to building online training resources, we believe there is a real opportunity for them to work closely with firms to help them get the best out of their software. Training sessions and maintenance resources delivered at a peppercorn or at-cost rate would reduce the attrition rate and drive real value to add.
Stephen Brown, Lights-On Consulting Limited