How to Manage an In-House Legal Technology Project that Delivers Value to the Wider Business
A key driver of many in-house legal technology implementations is borne from the need to deliver high quality and efficient legal advice to the wider business. Legal is increasingly trying to be more strategically aligned with other business units and moving away from being an operational cost centre. Delivering business value can be achieved in many ways, to name just a few;
- providing quality advice at the lowest cost (improving value for money from external legal providers)
- improving the efficiency of the legal department
- making it easier for business units to collaborate with legal on documents and contracts
- empowering the business to self-manage contracts and low-risk legal work and matters
- speeding up responsiveness
- communicating and more clearly speaking ‘business language’
- transparent reporting of legal output and costs
Technology is an obvious enabler to achieve many of these objectives. At BusyLamp, our legal operations software addresses most spend and efficiency concerns, but there are literally hundreds of software solutions that help legal departments achieve operational excellence and deliver value to the business. The challenge is in prioritising the objectives, finding the right solution, and ensuring it is implemented, used, and delivers the promised value.
No matter which challenges your in-house team decides to tackle first, and regardless of which technology solutions are implemented, diligent project planning is essential. Without it, there is an extremely high risk of investing in a solution that is poorly adopted because it doesn’t meet requirements. The below steps will help you approach your legal technology project to identify, select and implement the right technology and achieve user adoption and business results.
- Identify your key challenges, needs and requirements. In which areas can you deliver more value for the business? What are the business and departmental goals and what is preventing you from reaching them? Example pain points are a high volume of trivial (legal) work, insufficient reporting capabilities, cumbersome admin tasks, and high external legal spend. It’s important you start the project by looking internally so you can then look for solutions that address those specific challenges. If you start looking at tech software first, you risk being dazzled by impressive vendor demos and shoehorning the software to meet your needs rather than finding the best solution for your challenges.
- Define the project team. This includes those that will be leading the project day-to-day, but also stakeholders from around the business who may get involved at key milestones; this includes future users in legal, colleagues in other departments that may be impacted, and those that will be the beneficiaries of process and technology changes. Ensuring that everyone who will be impacted has a representative involved from the start will greatly improve the chances of a smooth and successful project with minimal unexpected hurdles.
- Have the project team document current people, processes and technology for the challenges you’re going to address, what is working, what isn’t, what could be improved and what the acceptable and unacceptable outcomes should be. Document what these benefits are, you will need them at the end to measure if the solution delivers as expected. Often this exercise focuses on the present-day so think ahead to 3+ years. Future requirements are often overlooked at the start, like the cost of growth, integrations, upgrades etc. but become must-haves after speaking to vendors and then confuse the RFP process. Including them early will mitigate against back-and-forth later on. Try and prioritise the requirements. This will be the framework for your initial conversations with vendors.
- Start researching solutions, schedule initial demos and get ideas of costs if you don’t already have a budget. Also, consider the cost and outcomes of building your own solution vs. buying vs. doing nothing. Draft an initial return on investment calculation for each option. Start building a solid request for proposal (RFP) to send to market. Even if you don’t do this formally, it’s important to give the external vendors the same requirements so you can easily compare responses. At this stage, you may experience vendors selling additional products or features that sound exciting and useful but weren’t part of the initial scope. Try and stick to your guns, but if you do decide an additional feature or functionality needs to become a must-have (scalability or future integrations for example), make sure you go back to the project team and ensure they agree. Does this item help you reach your initial objective of adding strategic value to the business? Re-prioritise the whole requirements list with this new item. Keep all your vendors in the loop about this change to the requirements, too.
- By now you should have a good idea of what your ideal solution should look like and have proposals from different vendors and consultants. Start planning for the impact of change management and corporate culture on your implementation plan and what you need to do to make it a success. Make sure the details of who is responsible for what parts of on-boarding and training is built into proposals.
- After RFPs have been considered you will whittle your shortlist down to a few options. You may need to have more in-depth demos at this stage and also refine your ROI estimates. Remember to keep including project team representatives as well as potential users and beneficiaries. If they like the system and have had a say in which is selected, user adoption will be much more successful.
- Select your solution and plan the implementation. This may seem like the end but in reality, it’s just the start. Finalise your implementation plan and consider onboarding users in stages so any problems are contained to small groups rather than company-wide. Measurement against success metrics and milestones is essential to keep implementation on track, identify and fix problems, and communicate wins to the business and future users. Ensure the plan details who is responsible for what action; are you doing it all in-house or is a vendor or consultant helping with training and roll-out? Thorough and adequate training is essential for implementation success. It’s at this stage that you will really feel the benefit of having included stakeholders in the whole project process – it’s also the stage where you will experience the most pain if you skimped on this step!
The truth is that a technology project never really ends. It’s important to set KPIs to measure if the solution is delivering the expected benefits, and these need to be reviewed at regular intervals. This way, if results start to slip, they can be rectified. Even if the project completely fails to reach expected goals, turn this into learnings for the next implementation. However, if the above steps are followed it is highly likely that your implementation be a success and the legal department can continue to invest in tools and technology to collaborate more closely with the wider business and deliver more strategic value.