Three Best Practices for a Successful Software Implementation

After I joined Johnson Winter & Slattery, our team determined that we needed to replace our existing work product management system. We resolved to create a process for selecting and implementing a new work product management system that would ensure that we found the best possible system for our firm, and got our firm up and running on that new system as quickly and efficiently as possible. There is a lot that can make or break such a process, but there were three best practices—getting users deeply involved in the selection process, creating employee champions to support the implementation, and securing partner advocates for the project—that were essential in helping us find the right system and in making the implementation process as smooth and successful as possible.

Involve End-Users in the Selection Process

Our decision to move to a new work product management system was prompted by the fact that our incumbent system had ongoing functionality, usability, performance, and other issues—issues we determined we could only resolve with a new system. As we embarked on the selection process for a new system, we resolved to make sure our end users were deeply involved the process. This did not mean that did not make IT or other considerations a priority. IT considerations were an important part of our results traceability matrix, RFP, and analysis process, in which we made sure that the vendor was in good financial health, could provide strong support for virtualization, and also could deliver powerful security and information governance capabilities.

However, we also made sure we strongly considered things from an end-user perspective. For example, we conducted a firm-wide survey of all end users—lawyers, assistants, and other staff—asking what features they thought were most important for them in the new system, and integrated their responses into our results traceability matrix. In addition, after we had whittled down our initial list of vendors from 10 to three and brought these three vendors in for demos, we made sure to conduct the demos with end users. In fact, our demos were centered around the end users, with each vendor showing us how their system would manage a “day in the life” of a legal matter. Moreover, we did not limit the demo to certain end users; we had everyone from partners down to the secretaries participate in the demo. This helped further narrow down our choices, and in the end confirmed our selection of iManage as our new work product management system. They not only fully addressed our technical and financial requirements, but also best met our end users’ desire for powerful enterprise-wide search capabilities, better collaboration features, more mobility, and other features that would make them more productive. Making sure we had deep end user involvement in the selection process helped us find a system that provided us with the greatest possible productivity benefits, while providing our end users with ownership over the final selection—helping ease the entire implementation process.

Create Champions to Support the Implementation

Once we selected iManage as our new work product management system, we began the implementation phase of the process. As part of this process we created “champions” throughout the organization who were very well trained on iManage, and who could serve as experts to other end users during the implementation. While our IT team was ready and willing to answer questions about the new system, most lawyers and other end users want to consult with other end users for quick answers on changes and features of the new system.

One the keys to the success of this process is that, in addition to providing our champions with extensive training, we made sure to make them visual to all the other end users in the organisation. For example, we gave them champion badges and moved their desks to locations where other end users could quickly consult them. This made it easier for all the other end users to find them to secure answers to their questions. The champions program also created end user advocates for the new system who could demonstrate how it was better, helping end users maximize its productivity benefits. By creating knowledgeable, visible, and enthusiastic champions we had an implementation that was faster, less frustrating, and more productive than one using a “siloed” approach where only the IT department serves as the new system’s support team and advocates.

Secure Partner Advocates for the New System

Though we got a lot of questions during the implementation, negative feedback or pushback was limited. The majority of the feedback was not related to the system itself, but to the fact that the new system finally enabled the firm to fully implement its mandatory document filing requirements. The old system allowed end users to avoid mandatory filing, and now that they were required to do so some resisted. In this case, having a partner advocate was key. Our managing partner advocate sent out multiple communications related to the new filing requirement, explaining the reasoning for it and why it needed to be followed. As a result, despite some initial resistance, everyone eventually came on board. As this example shows, having strong partner advocates can help address resistance and other problems that arise during the implementation process.

By getting end users deeply involved in our new work product management system selection process, creating employee champions to support the implementation, and securing partner advocates for the project, we were able to ensure we chose the best new system for our firm while also streamlining the implementation of that system. The results of the process have been fantastic. We have 100% end user adoption, and end users are able to do their jobs a lot more efficiently, allowing them to spend more time on activities that deliver value to our clients. In addition, the IT team’s help desk calls related to work product management system issues have been reduced by 70-80%, and we are able to invest more resources in strategic IT initiatives.

When one considers the difficulties that can come with selecting and implementing a new work product management or other IT system for your law firm, it can often be easy to kick the can down the road, and stick with the current, sub-par system. However, by following the three best practices above, you can address many of the difficulties that plague new system implementation, allowing to upgrade not just your firm’s software, but the productivity of your firm’s lawyers and other staff as well.

Check Also

time blocking

12 Personal Productivity Tips for Your Year-End Push, Pt. II

The second part of a three-part series on Dennis Kennedy's and Tom Mighell's personal productivity tips and strategies.