You’ve built a solid business case and the benefits of digitalising your legal processes are clear, both in efficiency gains and even cost savings (if you’re implementing a legal spend management solution). Not only will the business benefit, but the day-to-day legal operations and processes are simplified so your team is more productive and spends less time on admin. The new legal software is a “no-brainer”. Despite this, you have user adoption and acceptance challenges. Many members of your team are still using the old processes. Why, when the benefits are so obvious, and how can you encourage your colleagues to use the new system?
Many change management blogs, including ones we have written in the past, concentrate on the build-up to implementation and how to get buy-in from stakeholders and users at all levels and around the business. These include ensuring that the project team is diverse, that the business need is documented before looking at the legal tech solutions, that requirements are reflective of those that will be using it, that scope doesn’t deviate too much from the initial business need, and that team members get to demo potential systems. All of this is important and contributes to a successful roll-out. But regardless of how your pre-implementation project went you can’t turn back the clock, so advice focussing on the project planning is of little use if you’ve already started roll-out. This article focuses on the natural human behaviours that prevent user acceptance and adoption, along with advice and tactics to overcome the challenges so the software you have invested in achieves its expected benefits.
WHY USER ADOPTION CHALLENGES ARE SO COMMON
Firstly, you are not alone so take some solace in that. Nor is user adoption a challenge specific to legal; ask around the business and you will find other departments that feel your pain. Forming new habits is the key to success in using a new tool. Individuals will already have their habitual, efficient routines and moving to a new process is disruptive. In order to form a new habit, the new software needs to be used often enough that using it requires as little mental energy as the current process. However, getting to the point of it being routine requires effort and there will be a temporary reduction in productivity along with frustrations. It’s this hurdle that causes most of the issues. On paper the new software delivers unquestionable efficiency benefits, but these will only be realised once it becomes the new normal. The key to successful user adoption is in making the learning of the new process as easy as possible, but also for the new system to deliver benefits and rewards that drive the individual to want to repeat the process. At the same time, you need to manage the negative impact if some features of the system don’t quite work as intended, and the confirmation bias at work in negative echo-chambers. Bear all this in mind when using tactics to address user acceptance challenges.
Training and Support
Even the most intuitive software will require a degree of training to use the tool in the most effective manner. For example, there are often multiple paths to achieve desired actions and team members may not be aware of certain shortcuts. Across the user base you will have those that find learning new software very easy and some that find it very difficult, regardless of its usability. Most training should come from the vendor itself during on-boarding, either in-person or online, but training and support needs to be provided on an on-going basis as usage ramps up or new employees join the company. Train-the-trainer programmes ensure an internal champion can easily scale training throughout the business. Internal champions have a broad understanding not only of the software but of the role the system plays in the business structure and processes. This knowledge means they play an important role beyond training, supporting the team by managing stakeholders and troubleshooting. Taking an e-billing implementation as an example, they could be responsible for liaising between accounting and law firms, and managing difficult conversations in the case of unpaid invoices (in-house counsel can feel overwhelmed if they don’t fully understand the system while law firms grow impatient waiting for unpaid bills).
In-application support documents, videos, or interactive, guided walkthroughs can help address ‘how-to’ questions, and for those trickier use cases, 24/7 support via the application or through phone or e-mail. Make sure external users of the system, for example law firms using your e-billing system, are adequately trained and supported by the vendor to support external user adoption and avoid them directing technical queries to your team. Training addresses the ‘making the tool as easy to use as possible’ part of the user adoption challenge but as mentioned above, it’s not the only factor at play and relying solely on training may not improve usage.
What’s in it for them?
People need to be motivated to repeatedly use the new system to the point where it becomes routine. One way to ensure repetition is to motivate the individual to want to repeat the process because they personally benefit. What this is will depend on the user. For a C-level executive, it might be how easily they can generate their weekly report whereas for a junior lawyer, they might save time because manual steps in their daily processes are now automated. The full spectrum of benefits from legal spend reduction right down to day-to-day efficiency gains should be communicated clearly. These benefits will not be seen immediately – in fact, due to the learning curve there may be a perception of it actually taking longer – so set expectations. Use different methods of communicating; 1-2-1s, town-halls, internal newsletters etc, as individuals prefer to receive information in different ways. Share company progress towards these goals regularly and it helps to show employees how their system usage and data input is contributing to transformation, perhaps through reports on their dashboard. Regardless of what your benefits are, how you communicate them, and how you measure progress towards them, the message needs to be coming from the board (top-down communication) to hammer home the strategic significance of the technology investment.
Gamification uses game-like elements to generate positive emotions and therefore user experiences. It’s widely used by brands (some examples are loyalty cards, online training courses, or fitness apps) as such tactics harness our natural instincts of competition and curiosity, rewarding behaviour and therefore motivating us to repeat it.. Because of the positive experience, suddenly the individual is in control rather than being forced to use the software and this also contributes to habit forming. The most modern tools in the market have borrowed elements of gamification to improve the user experience. For example, in-app interactive walkthroughs allow you to choose your journey through the software, your speed of progress, and show you how far from the end you are. Some software tools give you badges based on your time spent logged in and as you progress from beginner to expert. It might sound patronising, but it’s human psychology and it works, which is one of the reasons why modern software has a better user experience and therefore adoption rate. You can use competition to incentivise your team to use the new software by creating leader boards and prizes – for example, the number of new matters created in the system per month. The tool itself will hold this data, encouraging them to become familiar with reporting and dashboards to keep track of the scores. You should also encourage your legal software vendor to hold ‘user experience/UX’ days with groups of users and work with them to incorporate elements of gaming and competition into the session, as this will improve speed of education as well as making the sessions more enjoyable!
Peer champions and phased roll-outs
Within your organisation you will have people that are positive and determined to see the project succeed, and people that will cling to every negative experience. Both types of people will share their experiences to their colleagues. You want to make the positive people “champions”. They may be responsible for training, being a port of call for issues, a liaison between stakeholders, and being trusted by their colleagues for addressing these issues with the project leads. Ideally, you will have included stakeholder representatives throughout the project to ensure software workflows accurately reflect real life, as the more accurate the workflows are the easier adoption is. However, there may still be issues despite your best efforts so if it’s not too late, phase your roll-out so these issues are ironed out early on and impact as few people as possible. Your champions should definitely be included in these roll-out groups, but you want to keep complainers in a later roll-out where possible! If a sceptical person is getting a bad experience, this will confirm their fears. Likewise, the champion who is seeing benefits will have their positivity confirmed. Controlling the positive and negative experiences, and therefore peer-to-peer communication, will give you better user acceptance rates.
Listen to feedback
Schedule regular feedback sessions with your legal software provider to update them on what is working, not working, feature requests etc. These should continue for as long as you use the product. A good vendor will take the initiative on this process (at BusyLamp we also send out surveys to get feedback on user experience, bottlenecks, helpdesk support, feature functionality, etc) but to get the maximum benefit you need to listen and document internal feedback to report back to the legal tech vendor. In collecting negative feedback, there must be a balance. Make sure you have early-adopter power-users who are detailed, fair and critical in their feedback while weeding out those prone to complain for complaining’s sake. But nevertheless document ALL complaints (perhaps by using the champion), see if they can be fixed internally and escalate to the software provider if this is not possible. Close the loop by letting users know how you addressed their issue and what the resolution is. It’s important to know the shortcomings of the system and how it’s failing to meet requirements – if these are genuine and can’t be resolved then it’s a valid cause of frustration for the team.
Learn from other departments
While digitalisation is new for many legal departments, your colleagues in other departments may be quite advanced in their technology journey. However, while the legal technology itself may be unique to the business, the user adoption challenges will likely not be. Ask around the business (a good starting point is HR), to benefit from existing change management tools and strategies. Ask them what they have tried and what worked and failed. The IT department in particular may have been involved in multiple roll-outs of new software. Learn from your colleagues across the business.
Make it personal
Who are the people behind “the system”, both internally and working for the software provider? Show employees that rather than just being a piece of technology, there are real people behind the system who can advise and support them. If necessary, organise video meetings to get to know each other, or implement user days with your tech vendor. While the in-app help documents and support functions are useful and should be encouraged, getting to know and building a relationship with the people managing the tool will aid adoption by improving perception. Plus, it’s harder to push back and reject other humans than it is a faceless piece of tech!
Make it mandatory
Being forced to use a system means to not be in control, to not be motivated for any perceived reason, and causes friction. However, the fact you have invested in legal technology means usage is mandatory, and our experience is that user adoption is improved when there is a clear message from the start that usage is not optional. Used in conjunction with the techniques above, you can create a positive, motivating environment instead of a forceful, heavy-handed approach to mandatory adoption.