Realising value from change
Jenny Hotchin offers six practical steps for managing change within a firm
Change management is difficult for any organisation – but it can be particularly difficult for law firms, where a certain mindset of “we’ve always done things this way” tends to roost alongside a deep-seated aversion to change.
By keeping the following tips in mind, however, firms can ensure any change management project that involves introducing a new piece of technology to lawyers doesn’t get derailed and delivers the value that spurred the change in the first place.
What’s your problem?
The first tip around change management doesn’t involve change at all – it involves backing up for a moment to really understand what the problem is. You’re proposing a change to business as usual, but why? What problems are you trying to solve?
The ‘problem’ could be anything from a risk that needs to be addressed, to an opportunity waiting to be seized. For instance, maybe the firm has identified it is losing opportunities because its pricing isn't competitive enough. Or, maybe it has seen clients increasingly interested in understanding contracts in a more granular fashion, and accordingly, want to offer a new service.
Whatever the problem may be, it’s imperative to make sure it’s something the firm actually cares about. Why? Because if it isn’t, you will most likely have problems getting budget and resources to solve that problem.
Practically speaking, this means it’s essential to understand the wider business objectives of the firm and how this proposed change addressing the problem fits into that backdrop. There needs to be alignment between the firm’s business objectives and solving the problem.
Write it down
As a next step, firms should write down the business outcomes they want to achieve and share it with all the necessary stakeholders within the firm. That way, all the interested parties within the firm – the change team, the IT team, the budget holders, the procurement team, the end users and various other stakeholders – are on the same page as to what you're trying to achieve and why.
This step may sound rudimentary, but many change management projects within law firms go awry because nobody wrote down the goals and shared them around. So, take the time to spell out the plan in writing: “These are the three or four business objectives we're trying to achieve by doing this change and this is how they align with the wider firm objectives for this year. Is everyone in agreement?”
Put the vendor to the test
Once the problem has been clearly identified and you’ve written down the business outcomes you’re shooting for, it’s time to buy the piece of technology that can help enable the change you seek.
Fortunately, the business outcomes you’ve written down and shared internally can continue to be a useful resource when meeting with technology vendors. Present that business outcomes document to the vendor when meeting with them.
The vendor should be able to respond and demonstrate very clearly how their technology can help you achieve those business outcomes. If the vendor can't do that, it means either their technology is not going to help with your business outcomes – in which case, you shouldn’t buy it – or the vendor doesn't truly understand what you're trying to achieve. This means they won’t be the most effective partner in helping you successfully come out the other side of a difficult change management process.
Consider the vendor’s response to the business outcomes document as a reliable litmus test of their ability to capably assist you on your change journey and achieving your desired business outcomes.
No silver bullets
Having bought some technology, the next recommendation for successful change management is understanding silver bullets do not exist, especially in legal technology. There is no such thing as a single piece of technology that's going to solve all of your problems on its own.
That’s because any meaningful change involves people, process and technology. You can't put in place technology without taking into consideration the people using it. And if you're not going to change the processes the people undertake, they’re not going to use the technology.
At the end of the day, you can't have one of those elements without the other two, so don't look for a ‘technological silver bullet’ that does everything – because you won’t find it. Understand change is going to have many different elements to it.
Make it measurable
Setting measurable targets to track whether or not the changes you are making are moving towards your desired business outcomes is crucial.
For instance, if you have a business outcome around increasing productivity, then a measurable target to track whether you are getting there may be to reduce the time to review a document by 20 per cent.
It’s important to note here you're not going to go from 0 per cent to 20 per cent in one fell swoop. The whole point in having that target is that you're going to get there over a period of time, and tracking it will enable you to see your ongoing progression.
Also, keep in mind the measurable targets associated with the desired business outcomes you're trying to achieve are going to incorporate people and process, as well as technology. On the technology side, the vendor that's providing the technology should also be able to provide you with usage metrics related to the software – for example, the number of documents that have been reviewed using the tool – that can help measure progress.
On the people and process side, one of your measurable metrics could be, say, the percentage of people who are following a new review process that’s been put in place. How many teams are working on deals that should use that new process for due diligence contract review, and how many deals actually used that process? These are important areas to track, despite having nothing to do with technology.
Tracking these different aspects also provides visibility into the change process as a whole – allowing you to quickly identify any stumbling blocks. Is it the technology that’s the problem – or is the technology aspect doing just fine and the problem actually lies with the people or the process aspect? Having metrics for people, process, and technology mean if something's not working, you can hone in on the problem and adapt accordingly.
Keep the communication flowing
It’s not enough to track these metrics – this information needs to be communicated back to the entire team of stakeholders.
After all, somebody in that group signed a cheque at some point for a budget for this particular change programme, and they might be thinking “I forked out a lot of money for this project. Where am I seeing the value?”
Communicating metrics back to them on a regular basis will answer that question. You can say: “The business outcome we wanted to achieve, that we all agreed on in writing, was to reduce risk. One of the measurable targets around that was to increase the number of data points known within commercial contracts by 20 per cent. We’ve currently gone from 10 per cent to 15 per cent and are heading in the right direction.”
Don’t fear change
No two ways about it, change is challenging. However, when law firms really zero in on a problem, understand the business value of solving that problem, and track their progress towards the desired business outcomes, they’re well on their way to avoiding any potential pitfalls and ensuring their change management is a fruitful undertaking rather than a frustrating one.
Jenny Hotchin is Legal Practice Lead at iManage imanage.com