A Roadmap for Technology Adoption in Legal

August 02, 2019

Contributor: Jackie Wiles

Legal departments interest in technology is on the rise, but successful implementation requires a problem-centric approach.

Technology is a key part of legal’s shift to a more scalable and agile operating model. Up until now, most legal departments have been slow to invest in technology. Among the 61 companies surveyed in the Gartner 2018 Legal Technology and Analytics Benchmarking Report, technology accounts for only about 2% of legal department budget.

Legal departments use or plan to use technology to automate department workflows and increase efficiencies. They also expect technology to help them be more effective business partners in the digital age, when they must protect the business while enabling its growth and transformation. 

The problem isn’t acquiring the needed technology. It’s ensuring the technology is appropriately matched to solve the most pressing pain point(s).

“While technology promises to ease and automate cumbersome workflows, leaders must do the hard, deliberate work to unearth the problems they need to solve so that technology can be configured and implemented successfully within a particular department’s context,” says Zack Hutto, Director, Advisory, Gartner.

To succeed, leaders need to use a holistic, end-to-end process for technology investment that begins with a deliberate scoping of needs that translates into decisions in the implementation phase.

Scope, then select

The first step is to identify the goals for legal and select a type of technology accordingly. Before sourcing technical requirements, you need to ask users what they want. If you incorporate a range of perspectives and experiences, you’ll better understand the needs and tailor the functionalities of the selected technology.

“Unearthing unspoken needs is a crucial step in the process because the lengthy wishlist of features drawn up by most teams — without identifying the underlying problems those features will solve — does little to inform the tough tradeoffs that must be made in any technology initiative," says Hutto.

"Furthermore, employees often cannot articulate their key pain points because they’ve grown accustomed to them or created their own set of workarounds — which may include several additional steps — to complete tasks. Only through observation will some of this come to light.” 

“ It’s incumbent upon in-house legal and compliance leaders to pressure test how a vendor’s solution will come to bear on specific use cases and/or problems identified”

At this point, you also begin to lay the groundwork for obtaining buy-in from future users. It’s a good idea to find internal champions from within Legal who can coordinate with internal clients and vendors and ease the way for the change(s) to come.

Then it’s time to determine how well vendors can resolve the problems you’ve identified during your earlier observation and scoping efforts. Vendors tend to offer remarkably similar feature sets; however, the way in which those features could solve your specific needs will vary (in terms of both the level of configuration and level of complexity required).

As a result, while two solutions may appear similar on paper, it’s incumbent upon in-house legal and compliance leaders to pressure test how a vendor’s solution will come to bear on specific use cases and/or problems identified in your initial scoping. How to Get Returns From Legal Technology Investments

Implement with the focus on adoption

The implementation stage comes next. To succeed, the aim of implementation should always be adoption. The initial implementation stages focus on piloting the chosen technology, communicating requirements and managing integration issues. 

To fuel adoption, you’ll need to take some deliberate actions as soon as you announce the new technology. You can then identify and address resistance or indifference to change. Proactively brainstorm and discuss individuals’ reluctance to adopt a new system and develop a plan for moving beyond initial stalls in adoption.

“ Differentiate between the user groups, and check in with them periodically”

Once you start to train users on the technology’s functionality, you can reassure them to overcome barriers to adoption, and tailor project communications to each user group. Users in different groups will have different workflows, so their behaviors and preferences may vary. Make sure to differentiate between the user groups, and check in with them periodically to identify new or unforeseen problems.

Be sure to also troubleshoot whatever problems arise and make the feedback cycle a virtuous one, or your technology investment will be squandered.

Learn more: Boost productivity through smart technology investments

This article has been updated from the original, published on July 24, 2018, to reflect new events, conditions or research. 

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