Securing support for a technology project from company directors and the C-suite is often the most important requirement for the project’s success. Legal technology implementation, after all, can be a long-term and expensive investment that tests the patience and resolve of many in-house managers.
Yet making the business case for technology does not come easy for those in legal who have, until recently, not had to fight for funding.
At the Association of Corporate Counsel’s (ACC) Legal Operations Conference, during the “Building the Business Case for Your ROT: Return on Technology,” session, speakers offered some sage advice: It’s never too late to learn how to best advocate for in-house projects.
Below are three ways legal managers can prepare and succeed in garnering support for their in-house legal technology:
- Sell Technology’s Business Value—But Understand the Risk
When considering how to launch a legal tech project in-house, it is often easy to forget one of the most essential perquisites: fighting for the project’s business value.
“You have to sell the project internally on some level, and whether you are doing the work or not, someone has to build the business case for the venture,” said Steven O’Donnell, director of product marketing and sales enablement at Mitratech.
To this end, he advised those in legal to take consider how implementation will fit into the company’s overall goals and investments. “Even though you may be thinking about what’s been going inside the legal department or compliance team, the organization is comparing [legal’s projects] to other projects other departments have.”
This company-level perspective also helps those in legal understand if new technology is really needed in the department, or if they can repurpose established solutions used by other in-house teams. O’Donnell noted that legal managers should “look first to see if [you have] tools already to get through [a desired] process. Just find out if another department has a tool that can do this same thing.”
If new technology is needed, legal managers should then be prepared to be held responsible for all the predicted benefits—and unexpected failures and costs—its implementation may bring.
“The presentation of an internal business case involves some business risk,” O’Donnell cautioned, explaining that any monetary savings or benefits the new technology can elicit “probably won’t [happen] on day one.”
- Frame Value in Efficiency Terms
There are a few ways to frame the business value of technology, but one of the most effective is by relating it to efficiency benefits. “This is about saving your staff time, and this is about speed to process,” O’Donnell explained. “Maybe it takes weeks to get a contract through and get it reviewed, but if you can speed up that time, there’s a value to the company.”
Framing value in terms of time and speed also makes it easier to measure the effect of certain technologies that don’t have straightforward quantifiable benefits, such as matter management.
As an example, O’Donnell asked the audience to consider a company that handles 20,000 matters a year, and “the time spent to create a new matter, create a new file, and assign someone to it, takes about an hour.” If a new matter management platform brings that time down to 15 minutes, that’s “90,000 minutes a year that could be saved,” he said.
And time saved is also capital saved, as companies can do the same amount of work with a smaller workforce.
Brian Burlew, vice president, operations for law, compliance, business ethics and external affairs, at Prudential Financial, noted that when his team implemented an e-billing and enterprise legal management solution, they were able to “really streamline our input and output process for invoices [so that] we were able to alleviate the need to have [an external third-party] team support us at all.”
The streamlined process saved time, and therefore did away with the need for around one-and-a-half full-time employees, he added.
- When Possible, Describe Value in Qualitative, Anecdotal Ways
While numerical measurements are key to any value assessment, they are far from the only way one can measure a technology’s usefulness and success.
For many legal technologies, the value proposition is typically having a “lawyer’s time or paralegal’s time freed up to do higher quality work,” Burlew said. “And that calculus is a little bit more nebulous and more anecdotal [than time and cost measurements].” He added, “If it’s not up to a numbers thing, it’s having a good story” that makes the difference.
An example, Burlew noted that he can make the case that his department’s e-billing system, and the electronic invoices they allow, improved invoice review by those in his department. “If you compare the markdowns on an electric invoice versus one of those scanned invoices, you’ll see that [almost all] of the time those scanned invoices are not looked at as closely or marked down.”
Using their e-billing system, the in-house attorneys were therefore more attentive and hands-on in reviewing spend—an important, but not easily measured, benefit.
08 June, 2017