With the arrival of spring, it’s time for some renewal and revitalisation that positions the firm for greater prosperity and competitiveness in the year ahead. With that in mind, we outline what you should be thinking about when contemplating new legal software.
1. Identify specific needs
Don’t buy new software without first knowing how it will contribute to your success. The first task is to determine specific weaknesses or gaps. Are they to do with client relationship management or client service levels? Or because of clunky workflows that impact productivity? Or are they to do with finance: e.g. cashflow or profitability? And what are your strategic goals for the year?
Then you have to evaluate what software can help you solve your problems or reach your goals. This helps ensure that the software purchased will deliver real value to the firm.
2. Conduct thorough research
Do your due diligence before making the decision to invest. Check for online reviews, consult with colleagues and industry experts, and attend conferences to learn about the latest software solutions. When you’ve narrowed the field, make sure to check the claims and references of a proposed new supplier, including their cyber security credentials, their track record in the legal sector, and what other firms say about them.
3. Ensure compatibility
Make sure any new software is compatible with the firm's existing infrastructure, including hardware and software, to avoid issues that could lead to additional costs or “bolted together” systems that compromise your effectiveness and efficiency.
It’s also important to ensure you can work fruitfully with a new supplier over the course of implementation, ongoing support and perhaps customisation. Has the vendor taken time to understand your business and its specific needs? How responsive and engaged with your issues do they feel? If the answer is “not very” – can you live with that? Or would it be better to choose a vendor who’s going to be a better long-term fit?
4. Consider scalability
Future-proof your purchase by thinking about how and if the proposed software can scale with the firm's growth and evolving needs. Also check on the ease of adding and removing users from your account. And what other factors – e.g. a vendor with a track record of innovation, regular automatic updates, and a live development roadmap – reassure you that the software will have longevity?
5. Negotiate pricing and contract terms
Bear in mind you can negotiate pricing with vendors to ensure the firm is getting the best possible deal. And to eke out more value, also negotiate contract terms to optimise them for your firm. There will always be some room for manoeuvre around terms and payment schedules; the support package and service level agreement; customisation levels and costs; training levels and costs; and so on.
6. Get buy-in from users
Consult end-users on their needs and wants, and then involve them in the selection process to ensure they’re buying in to the new software; that it delivers the functionality and features they want; and that it’s user friendly. Remember that people might need to be sold on the benefits to them. Otherwise, the danger is that new software is seen as an unwelcome imposition, adoption rates aren’t ever as high as they could be, and the firm never gets the full benefit of its investment.
7. Provide training
Ensure users get the training they need for the new system, in formats that are convenient and flexible (e.g. online, lunch and learn, train the trainer, etc.); and to a standard that ensures users are comfortable and confident with the new software from day one. If undertrained staff have a bad initial experience, it can have a negative impact on word of mouth about new software, and even have a lasting impact on rates of adoption. Also check provision for ongoing training on new developments, and for new staff.
8. Monitor usage
After implementation, it’s important to keep track of usage of the new software. This will help you establish adoption rates, identify areas where additional training is necessary or where the software, or related processes, might need to be tweaked to deliver planned benefits.
9. Evaluate ROI
It’s time to measure and evaluate the return on investment of the new software to ensure the firm is getting a positive return and that the software is delivering on the anticipated strategic goal(s). If not, chase down the cause(s) of the discrepancy.
10. Stay up to date
Once new software has been adopted, it’s no time to rest on your laurels. Firms that stay up to date with industry trends and advances can be sure they’re using the most current and efficient technology available and can be confident the firm won’t be left behind.