Implementing a Successful Legal Technology Project: Change Management
This three-part series of blogs form a guide to implementing a successful legal technology project.
Part 1 – Scoping the project before buying or building the technology
Part 2 – Ensuring the internal and external project stakeholders are on-board
Part 3 – Change management during and after implementation
While not a comprehensive guide, it highlights the key areas. With consideration and attention to these areas, your legal technology project will run much smoother.
Change management is a very important component of successfully implementing new software in the legal department. It is often under stated or not fully appreciated. It is sometimes seen as an “add on” to the more technical aspects of the project. Those who underestimate the importance of change management during the course of the implementation often fail to achieve the desired business outcomes.
Routine tasks will change, and with that comes an inevitable learning curve. For example, with eBilling, manual invoice checks and approvals are replaced by automated rules-based processing. Change also brings more exposure to, and interaction with, business processes and data. Humans are wired to resist change, with numerous studies showing we have a strong preference for items and processes that have been around longer even when maintaining the status quo is irrational. Changing takes conscious effort to learn something new, so communication is vital when presenting changes and benefits. Often the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ are not communicated company-wide; why has the organization decided to do this, and how will it benefit the organization and those that work there?
Unless everyone has a clear vision and understanding of the potential benefits, it can be a difficult path to walk and change management is the practice of guiding, educating, encouraging and supporting the organization through this period of transition. The change management strategy for a software project is largely based on the complexity and scope and can be broken down into six key sections.
Having active sponsorship for change at a senior executive level is vital to success. This sponsorship has to be active and visible to the project team as well as all the stakeholders. In many cases the sponsor will have set the strategic direction of the project and will drive the programme forwards. He or she will be the arbiter of any conflicts that may arise and act as an “honest broker” in issue resolution. The sponsor will also be the main source of high level project communications and be the figurehead of any key announcements to the wider user population.
As we identified in the previous blog it is important to identify the key project stakeholders and stakeholder groups affected directly or indirectly. Some of these groups or individuals may be fully on board with the programme and may require very little management in terms of expectations. If using a phased approach, start with this group and use them as a case-study to communicate their achievements as a result of the change. It’s also better that any issues happen with a keen sub-group than the whole company.
There are likely to be key stakeholders who may have other priorities or may be resistant to the change that a major project will bring about. Managing this resistance is very important if the project is to succeed and there are many tools and techniques that can be used to overcome it. This can range from the obvious such as education and communication strategies, to the more extreme measures including negotiation and bargaining. A last resort – coercion –will more than likely be counter-productive in the long term.
It is inevitable that a change of key processes and the implementation of technology will result in role and responsibility changes for some of the organization’s employees. The likely impact will depend on the level of business process and operational change being undertaken. As part of the planning phase it is vital to engage and involve team members whose day-to-day tasks will change and capture the key business processes, both current and new, including reasons for change. These are likely the same users who provided requirements for the scoping document. This will help to ensure only necessary changes are made, not change for change’s sake. Also capture their perceived negatives and positives, as you are unlikely to have considered everything and this helps with implementation and communication later on. This analysis exercise will provide valuable information to the project team and will also provide the basis for discussions on potentially sensitive job re-assignments to be undertaken as part of the implementation. With eBilling, most of the change involves freeing up legal teams of administrative burden to focus on high-value work, so these changes should be positively received.
It may seem obvious, but it’s not always the case, that identifying and measuring the benefits to be achieved is an important stage in any project implementation. There is a need to put in place the structures and processes to help ensure those benefits are realized. Sometimes these benefits may not have been identified prior to the decision to implement change but it is vital that they are captured. Benefits realization is something that will extend well beyond the implementation timescale, as most often benefits are not actually realized until well after the go-live date.
On most projects, the first communication task undertaken by the change management team is the project launch announcement. . (Even though this may appear to have come from the project sponsor it is likely that the actual drafting will be by the project team itself.) At the project launch, the team should inform the wider company about the project, its objectives, the expected benefits, key milestones and members of the project team. There are many ways that communications can be transmitted through an organization and these will often depend on the culture within the company. For example it could be that the company’s intranet is used as a repository for updates and general project news; as well as other means – newsletters, departmental meetings, workshops, e-mail and so on.
It is essential to have a communication plan, within the wider project plan, which identifies formal information related events as the project unfolds. As well as progress updates, it is important that employees are informed of new process designs and changes. The more widely potential changes are communicated, the more likely it is that people will understand, rationalise the benefits, and be open and accepting of the change. It will also help with identifying potential project early adopters, who will prove invaluable when it comes to reinforcing the changes among their peers.
Training is often left to the end of the project plan but is critical in preparing the company for change. The project team should identify important elements such as the approach to be taken to training, the styles of delivery to be deployed, the level and nature of end-user help documentation and how the team will measure the success of the training programme. The development of training courses and documentation needs to fully incorporate the business process information alongside the change messages and reasons for change. Courses and documents must match the depth of knowledge different groups of individuals need, from overviews to power-user level.
The provision of help desk services, hand-holding and intensive one-to-one assistance will be required particularly in the immediate post go-live period. Some software vendors provide this, but you may need to arrange it yourself and your law firms will need support too. This investment will not only support the go-live process but will serve as a knowledge base for the future for new joiner training programs, and possible future phases of implementation.
Related to training is the usability of the software you purchase or build. Do users need to learn a new interface, is there another log-in to remember, how easy to learn is it? Many projects fail because users cannot get to grips with the system and find it’s easier to stick with the old process.
Change in its broadest sense is a constant in organizations today and can be driven by a number of different forces, including customers, markets and technology. Yet research shows that many change initiatives fail to accomplish their intended outcomes and may even limit the potential of an organization and its people.
The consequences of not managing change effectively can be devastating and long lasting, so it’s important that all company-wide stakeholders understand the potential issues and equip themselves with techniques to support change-management initiatives.