In our February 2022 article “Legal Technology: Trends and Predictions by Gartner”, we highlighted the positive sides of technological innovations and the impact they would have on the productivity of legal teams. According to Gartner, Inc., “Legal technology budgets will increase threefold through 2025 as general counsel face unprecedented pressure both in terms of managing legal workload and driving efficiency in their departments.”
Zack Hutto, the Lead Advisor for Corporate Legal and Compliance Tech at Gartner, said: “Legal departments will increase spending on technology to reduce the dependency on outside counsel, address COVID-19, and satisfy a long-overdue need to modernize, digitize and automate legal work”.
Within the legal industry, where lawyers and legal professionals often fall prey to routine and monotonous work streams, Workflow Automation has become a necessity. Legal enterprises must therefore opt for automation as it improves the workflow.
Most times, organisations have concerns about whether the team will be able to adapt to the technology. However, the problem lies in the selection of the right tool or software. Often, enterprises are dependent on third-party recommendations or peer (other enterprises’) usage. We must remember that the “One size fits all” methodology is obsolete and every enterprise has unique problems to solve. Problems vary with IT infrastructure, security protocols, acceptability, and adaptability, among others. The one question that needs to be answered is – How to avoid failures?
In this article, we wish to create awareness and prepare you for the known-unknowns and unknown-unknowns i.e, avoid risk and failures.
Five-Step Selection Strategy
Your choice of technology tool will define the efficiency, productivity and ultimately the profitability of the enterprise. For any business-critical decision, the first step is to know where to start. Hence, we set forth five comprehensive steps that will help you in the decision-making process.
Step 1 - Objectivity:
One must start by defining the problem and what one wants to achieve with the technology.
According to the 2019 Future Ready Lawyer Survey by Wolters Kluwer, “The top challenges for corporate legal departments today include reducing and controlling outside legal costs; improving case and contract management; and automating routine tasks and leveraging technology in work processes.”
Step 2 – Usability:
After we have defined the objective, we need to evaluate the usage. We must also answer Who, When and How will use the technology. By involving all stakeholders (operations, finance, practice leaders, etc.), we get a fair idea of the problems faced at different levels.
Forward-looking enterprises start by analysing the current workflow, efficiency and staff workload.
Step 3 – Functionality:
Everyone talks about the selection process or how one can down-select the vendors. However, one must have clarity of thought before calling in vendors for a presentation. Vendors can add some functionalities but leaving everything to the vendor’s discretion is not wise.
Listing down or identifying the functionality requirements can narrow down the technology providers by over 50%. Functionality might sound too technical but here we are talking about the basics like creating a job description before hiring a suitable candidate:
- Features (must-have, good-to-have, optional)
- Implementation/deployment timelines
- Project management (schedule, monitor, budget, and reminder)
- Reports and dashboards
- Number of users, administrators
- Integration and compatibility with other tools and technologies
- Ease of use
- On-premise or cloud-based solution
- Document management
- User training
- Post-deployment support
Always remember that packaged solutions available in the market are generic and might require a bit of customization to solve your problem. Do check with the software vendor about the ability and cost of customization.
Step 4: Selection
This is the most crucial step. Don’t just trust the procurement team’s guts, but build a selection committee and meet the vendors in person. Check for case studies and reviews from other clients that deployed the vendor’s products or solutions.
If time permits go for an RFP process along with an in-person presentation.
Build vs. Buy strategy
At times, vendors agree to customize the packaged tool to address enterprise problems but the cost might be too high. It is therefore advisable to at least consult a developer after the functionality requirements are identified.
Step 5: Negotiation
An important consideration is to get the best value at a reasonable price. With this objective in mind, we forget the teams that must be involved:
- Legal operations that will work on the tool.
- IT department that will manage the tool.
- Finance team that allocates the money and looks for reports that justify the return on investment.
- Project management department that oversees workflows and projects.
Getting a nod from everyone before signing the service agreement with the vendor will save post-implementation internal negotiation.
Things to remember
- Involve all stakeholders - preparing a list of all stakeholders and involving them or their inputs in the selection process – that’s half the battle won.
- The Rule of Odds: Marshal Foch, a French general and military theorist who served as the Supreme Allied Commander during the First World War said, “Decisions are always made in committees with an odd number of people, and three people is already too many”. Having an even number of selectors creates havoc and a situation where you end up more confused than you started.
- Keep a close eye on upcoming legal technologies or developments. This will help you in making a quick, efficient and logical decision.