Last month, I discussed how buying legal technology is a complex process — and to work through that process, aligning stakeholders and securing executive leadership support are key.
I covered how understanding the tactical, strategic, political, and personal needs of each stakeholder can help someone navigate an organization to understand how to align stakeholders and to secure executive leadership support.
This month, I’ll cover the journey from signing the contract for a solution to the successful implementation that leads to the desired benefits and positive outcomes.
You’ve just spent the past six months networking and working to understand the needs and motivations of your key stakeholders. You have met with several technology solution providers, and the organization has just agreed to the solution you want to deploy. The contract is signed, and you celebrate the milestone as it is indeed a major accomplishment! Now what comes next?
Signing The Contract Is A Great Milestone, But It Is Not The End Of The Process
First, let me speak to technology solution providers, vendors, and salespeople. Selling a solution is a milestone, but the sale is not complete until the technology is up and running and your customer is seeing results. Payment may be received from the customer, but a failed implementation hurts the customer, kills the renewal, and impacts reputations and future sales.
Before You Sign
How can you ensure a successful implementation of a technology solution you’ve just purchased? To be successful, the stakeholder alignment and sponsorship from leadership in this process will go a long way.
Before you sign the contract, a solid implementation plan should be considered. Many vendors will quote a rough multiple of the software license as an implementation cost. That’s a good start, but you should not sign without at least a high-level project plan that includes general timelines, anticipated roles, and an understanding of how you intend to handle cost overruns.
One tool that can help with a project plan is to identify who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed during the project. This is called a RACI chart and it can help with managing expectations and stakeholder alignment after the sale.
These steps are very important to the successful implementation of your new technology solution. Ideally, they should be part of your Stakeholder Alignment and Executive Leadership activities before you sign a contract.
A solid technology solution provider will understand this and help you through this process.
The Importance Of Change Management
There is one other thing to consider prior to signing, and that is Change Management. Implementing a solution and achieving the benefits that you desire is the prize, but Change Management is the difference between implementation and success with a solution.
Have you ever heard of “shelfware”? It is an older term that refers to software that was purchased but never really used. Nobody wants their project to end up as “shelfware.”
Technology is just one piece of the puzzle. A complete and successful solution includes the People, Process, Technology, and Data that are used in the solution.
Pulling It All Together
You’ve done your homework on the technology. You’ve selected the right partner(s). You have stakeholders aligned and the executive sponsorship. You have an implementation plan that includes the project roles in a RACI chart and you have a plan to mitigate risks if the project runs over on time or budget.
Making sure you’ve identified training plans, communications plans and even staffing plans as part of the Change Management process can be the difference between success and failure of your initiative. Thinking these things through as part of the project approval process before signing contracts is essential.
There may be hiring or retraining of staff required a year out. Make sure you have the commitment from HR and leadership to take the steps necessary to ensure you have a plan for the people aspect of your project. Retraining and changes to process may need to be coordinated as well. This is one of the areas where you want to be sure executive leadership leans in.
It’s also important to be aware of the risks that stakeholders may have, including the personal side. If a group starts to get cold feet because the project isn’t fulfilling the anticipated benefits, you may end up with detractors along the way that can undermine success. The more you consider these kinds of factors up front, the more likely your efforts will succeed.
Finally, more and more often, systems rely on data. Garbage in equals garbage out: so if you don’t have good data to start with, a new solution may simply automate and enable your organization to make bad decisions faster, and that’s not good. If your solution includes a heavy reliance on data, make sure the data is clean enough for the purpose at hand. If your solution relies on accurate time tracking, then make sure you have plans to ensure time is entered and accounted for accurately. If your solution relies on accurate data being extracted from contracts, make sure that the AI extraction has a human component and that you measure accuracy. You get the idea here.
Now You Are Ready To Sign
Whether you are the economic buyer putting your reputation on the line, the lead of your software evaluation team, or even the software salesperson that is being chosen as the technology solution provider for your new client — it is important to plan for success up front.
Success requires the right technology solution and solid partners. It requires executive sponsorship and alignment of stakeholders. Implementation plans need to be designed from the start with clear roles describing who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. And Change Management must be considered to ensure that people, processes, and data are aligned so that your solution delivers the results you planned upon.
Next month, I’ll walk through managing your upcoming implementation!
Ken Crutchfield is Vice President and General Manager of Legal Markets at Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S., a leading provider of information, business intelligence, regulatory and legal workflow solutions. Ken has more than three decades of experience as a leader in information and software solutions across industries. He can be reached at email@example.com.