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End-user dilemma

How to make legal tech work for everyone.


If you're reading this article, there's a good chance you already understand the need for technology in today's legal departments. You might even know that the goal of digital transformation initiatives has evolved from optimizing work processes to reinventing them. Modern legal tech solutions have the potential to affect the organization beyond the legal department and are a defining part of enterprise technology stack. The efforts required to successfully pull off these initiatives are so challenging because they disrupt the work lives of both legal and non-legal employees.

It's why so many legal tech initiatives end in failure: Few succeed at putting users before technology.

As legal departments aim for next-generation capabilities, they need to grasp some fundamental truths. First, legal professionals will not be the only end-users of the technology. Second, they must establish a link between digital investments and business outcomes. Third, achieving buy-in and adoption from their teams is doomed to fail if different departments can't agree on a common roadmap and strategy. Otherwise, challenges will compound over time.

More often than not, companies get these basics wrong. As a result, transformation initiatives cost more than projected, and often fail to meet their promise.

Focusing on the end-user requires assembling leaders of departments that will be actively impacted along with the legal side of the company to develop a common understanding of the right technology and the overall roadmap. But assembling people is still the easy part. How do you get them to understand each other and collaborate effectively around anything as complex as digital transformation?

Be driven by business outcomes

The obvious first step is to identify business outcomes that you want to achieve with digital transformation at an organizational level. Identify how legal can help achieve those outcomes and then find the tech that enables it.

Say you want a better system to monitor and avoid hefty penalties when your company defaults on its contractual obligations. The solution is having better visibility into your many obligations scattered across thousands of contracts. This is a problem that technology can help solve. But there's a challenge: Getting diverse teams onto a single platform that they understand and that operates with the technologies like CRMs they currently use.

Understanding this will ensure you don't jump at the latest "what" (technology) before thinking through the "why" (outcome).

Look through common lenses

When leaders of different departments don't understand each other, transformations can become all about technology. To avoid that will require the company to rethink digital transformation by taking the long view.

So don't begin digital transformation conversations with technology. Instead, start by establishing common lenses designed to achieve business outcomes.

To build the right foundation for digital transformation, you can start evaluating tech through four common lenses and add more according to your business outcomes:

  • Insights: How do the insights provided by this technology support efforts to achieve business outcomes?
  • Integration: Will the technology integrate with current and future tech from across the organization?
  • Workflow: Can the technology align with the organization's governance operating model and workflow?
  • Experience: Does the technology meet the needs of legal users and end-users alike? (More on this in the next point)

Taken together, these and other lenses will be the fundamentals of your digital transformation. Get your teams to understand and adopt the same terminology to reduce confusion significantly.

The right mindset

A critical step to get that ROI is driving a digital transformation mindset among the end-users, which often requires a definitive change in culture. It's the most challenging, and most rewarding, part of the initiatives. Legal departments can take the lead here by driving transformation-centric conversation among leaders, making it a part of the KPIs and helping other teams realize the immediate benefits.

However, it's important to ensure that these conversations remain focused on users. Well-designed experience surveys can help shift the conversation from, "How much resources did we save with digital transformation?" to "What experiences are employees enjoying with new tech? Are they getting the desired value from our digital transformation initiatives?"

Get end-users involved at the right time

End-users almost always have unique insights on functionality that legal teams have not thought. Their involvement in the process of choosing the right technology is critical. 

It's not as easy as it sounds, especially in large companies, but it's necessary. Make sure non-legal stakeholders get involved at the right time without overwhelming them with legalese. Put them in a position to say whether the solution is of value to them or not.

Don’t forget training

Finally, companies often find themselves hostage to technology if they don’t pay attention to whether end-users have the right skills and are empowered to leverage value from the technology. It’s a trap that companies need to avoid by giving employees the necessary training to enable them to use the new tools effectively.