Planning for “Happy Ever After”
Like any good affair, a successful technology deployment requires extensive planning. There are a number of important considerations, but based on experience gained from working together with hundreds of firms on successful marketing and business development technology implementations, here are some of the most effective planning areas we frequently advise Clients to focus on:
Training – Firms that are successful with technology put an emphasis on training. For many systems, training is best conducted one-on-one with attorneys, using information that is both real and relevant. Training should not be a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, customized training should be provided to different groups based on their needs. To accommodate varied learning styles, supporting materials should be provided in a variety of formats such as videos, presentations and quick reference guides. Additionally, while training during the initial rollout is important, it is also essential to focus on the future and plan for new hire training, as well as refreshers to reinforce key concepts. While this may not sound like the quickest or easiest way to train, the investment will pay dividends.
Communication –The key to any relationship is communication. Attorneys must be convinced that technology will benefit the firm and, more importantly, them individually. Taking the time to craft a formal communication plan can be valuable. Start with an announcement from firm leadership extolling the system benefits. Set realistic expectations, not only about potential system value, but also regarding user requirements. Be sure to provide documentation to answer any questions that may arise. Finally, develop, document and distribute any processes and procedures needed to support the implementation. Remember that sharing is caring, so always solicit and share feedback and communicate success. Some firms even create internal branding campaigns and give away “presents” to encourage enthusiasm for new technology.
Integration – A good marriage also requires integration. Bringing together information from a variety of systems can often exponentially improve the value of technology. For instance, tying together the firm’s customer relationship management (CRM) and time and billing systems can help identify key clients and cross-selling opportunities. Bringing in expense reimbursement information can help create business development activities and enhance coordination. Enterprise Relationship Management (ERM) data can assist in identifying the strongest connections. A portal connection can provide a ‘threshold’ to various information sources in a single location. However, while these types of integrations can provide benefits, it’s important to think through any potential costs as well. You don’t want a system slowdown or crash to put a premature end to your attorneys’ romance with the new technology.
Data Quality – Be prepared to deal with your data because nothing gets dated faster. Without care and attention, up to 30 percent of the information in your systems can degrade each year. Attorneys can quickly become jaded and may feel that if the data is bad, by association, the system is bad. This means that building trust in technology also requires a perpetual commitment to data quality. Initial loads of data must be deduplicated during the rollout since attorneys often know many of the same contacts. A standards guide should be created for consistent contact entry. Finally, because perpetual data quality is essential to technology adoption, internal or outsourced data stewards should be dedicated until… always and forever.
Accountability – Without some level of accountability for system utilization, some users may stray. In the past, a few firms tried tying system usage to compensation or expense reimbursement, with mixed results. Instead, consider creating contests to encourage healthy competition while getting users to try out new tools. Remember, flattery will get you everywhere, so publicly recognizing accomplishments will also help to get others on board.
Resources – All good relationships require attention. Frequently, firms don’t take into account all of the costs associated with a technology deployment. To succeed, a firm must vow to dedicate the necessary resources including time, money and people. It often takes the coordinated efforts of a full party of stakeholders to pull off a successful technology implementation, so be sure to invite everyone who may need to be involved, such as:
- Firm leadership to convey the importance of the implementation
- Key attorneys whose support will be essential to encouraging participation
- Marketing / Business Development to help develop the strategy, drive the process and assist with coordination and communication
- I.T. to assist with implementation and necessary integrations
- Trainers to create curricula and educate users
- Assistants whose participation can be critical since they often do much of the “heavy lifting”
- Internal or outsourced data stewards to make sure data is clean, correct and complete
- Accounting, finance, H.R. and helpdesk if their data or assistance will be beneficial
For more than a decade, the CLIENTSFirst team of almost 100 consultants and experienced professionals has been helping law firms and other organizations successfully select and implement business development technology to maximize value, adoption and return on investment. If you need help achieving CRM Success, please contact us at 404-249-9914 or Info@ClientsFirstConsulting.com.