As a consultant, I have implemented many software solutions. Before my career in technology I was on the other side, the one who had new technology imposed upon him. Recently my role was reversed, and I it reminded me what it’s like to be on the other side. Through this process, I gained more clarity on the problems users face implementing new technology. I’d like to identify these problems and provide some methods to combat them.
Denial, It’s Not Just a River in Egypt
A new software is not something that happens to you. It’s something that involves you. You need to participate. Whether you’re on the project team or a user, you need to accept your fate. The change is happening, and it will affect your workflow.
Understand this is happening. Then take control, and here is where the difference is. If you take control, you participate in training, request demos, ask for information, guides, shortcuts, etc. Become an expert before your consultant installs the software. Why can’t you just attend training? Well, you can. But the more involved you are, the more quickly you’ll adapt, and the more opportunity you will have to identify problems and ask questions while support is available.
If You Don’t Have Time to Do It Right, You Have Time to Do It Over
What if I don’t have time? Well, you do have time. You can spend the time now with your consultant. Or spend your time later when support may be harder to contact, and training has ended. Trust me you’ll pay either way.
If you’re part of the project team, spend your time in a few key areas.
First, spend time meeting with or without the consultant, to review decisions and think about the process. While discussing these decisions think thoroughly about them. Have you considered all the custom data for estate planning? If not, how can you make sure that you include all the information? Will every practice area be able to understand and work within the confines of the decisions? Do we need something extra to accommodate litigation, elder law, probate, or even HR and office administration? What about conflict checks?
Second, spend time sharing information with other firm members. Bring some decision to the attention of others to get their input. How does document automation affect paralegals? How does your mobile attorney enter time? Can Of Counsel access documents remotely? Do you need ethical walls? Share demos, or exciting new features with them. Create stories or short updates that show how specific features will improve the firm’s workflow or problems. If you make a hard decision, share the why behind the decision. It’s easier for people to adopt change if they understand the reasons.
Pro Tip – It helps if you have a meeting with everyone to identify existing problems first. Often people don’t realize there is a problem.
Third, understand that while consultants can do these things for you, the benefits are far more significant if the firm owns these items.
Fourth, if you’re an end user, request information from the firm or consultant. Request demos. Go to the vendor’s website, or Google, or YouTube and look for software tutorials. Learn what you can now, so you can ask questions while the consultant is present.
Finally, whether on the project team or an end user, take training seriously. Attend. Ask questions. If you don’t have any, think of some. Remember this is going to cost you a good portion of your time. But it’s better to pay that toll up front when more support is available.
Customization: Making It Your Own
The first part of this always happens. Software gets customized to your needs. But take it a step further, ask what you can customize as an induvial. This may not always apply, but the more you make it yours, the better. I’m not talking about big ticket items here. It may be something simple like changing the sort order in a DMS, so your document view is not cluttered with email. Or knowing how to apply custom data sets to your class action lawsuit.
Understand that while software is customizable, there are parts of your workflow that will no longer be needed. There are typically three primary reasons for this.
- A piece of your flow does not fit the software. I save my documents by practice area, attorney, client, matter, document type, NOT client, matter, document type (the latter is best practice).
- The software eliminated a step. No longer do you need to track versions manually; the DMS does this for you.
- Or part of your workflow is just redundant. Printing a document to edit it in pen, and then scanning that document, and updating the word document to reflect the written edits. (I have seen this done more than once.)
Start by acknowledging this, then identify what needs to change. Finally, CHANGE IT.
Making Your Project the Best Ever
These are a few of the items that have become clearer to me after recent events. But the best thing you can do is adjust your attitude so that you meet change openly. The more you resist, kick, and scream, the more problems you will have. Also, the bigger every problem will seem to be. After all, no project is perfect.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share your project experiences.