Fresh from ILTA, I can still hear a consistent theme ringing in my ears (besides AI that is) . . . the horror stories of long implementations consuming man and woman power, requiring costly hardware investments, and ultimately causing the firm to spend more money than expected.
I heard how promised timelines were far exceeded and budgets blown through, but what I also witnessed, were firms accepting that “this is just how it is to implement software” at their firm.
This made me reflect on the core things needed from a true partner, someone more than a “vendor,” to drive a quick and effective software implementation.
- Experience & Expertise – law firms greatly differentiate themselves on the experience that their experts provide. A basic requirement your implementation partner should demonstrate is their industry-specific knowledge. A second, not-so-basic requirement is proven experience in implementation of large technology projects in enterprises as big or bigger than yours. Their experience allows their experts to executive more gracefully, with precision, and ultimately more quickly and at a lower overall cost. Look for partners who have “been there” before and come to the first meeting with an understanding of your challenges and a few thoughts to execute improvements. If your implementation partner is also the software provider, an added benefit is that their expertise influences the functionality of the solution.
- Structure & Diligence – your implementation partner should also be an expert in project management. They should have a very structured approach to implementations, be experts in recognizing the early onset of possible setbacks that might derail the project, and elegantly handle many different personalities and personal agendas. This is no easy feat and one of the most overlooked requirements to a successful implementation.
- Dedication to the Entire Project – dealing with a single partner for your entire implementation naturally drives a more “cohesive” implementation. When possible, work with a partner who provides the software and the services. This ensures that the responsibility of the success of the project is not spread amongst different vendors; each partially relying on the other to ensure satisfaction, including meeting budgets and/or timelines.
- A Champion for both IT and Business – if you have a partner who understands the challenges of both your business AND technical users, you’ve hit the jackpot. One glaring challenge for IT is that no matter the problem, the firm relies on them to fix it. IT’s response, “If there was a problem, yo I’ll solve it.” (I apologize in advance for the Vanilla Ice tune being stuck in your head.)
While their knowledge is extensive, their time is strained. Your implementation partner should provide technical experts to fill in any resource gaps so that your IT team doesn’t feel strained or burden by a single project.
Your Business users also have full-time careers so relying on them to build a system or dedicate months upon months of time to a project is not wise. Look for an implementation partner who knows their challenges and can easily translate their requirements through easy and succinct conversations.
- A Focus on Delivering Value Sooner- Seek out a partner who has strategies to provide high-value results quickly. Your partner shouldn’t be focused on selling you everything they offer, extending your implementation over multiple years, when the better approach might be to implement parts of the solution in phases. When it comes to ROI, talk to your implementation partner about their strategies for structuring a quick turnaround of high-impact improvements, even if additional phases are to follow.
We’ve just discussed five ways to avoid an implementation Black Hole; however, the key is that you need all five things above to ensure a project meets your timeline and budget.
Vetting your next software purchase isn’t just about vetting features or technical requirements. The requirements above are just as important as functionality, yet are often discounted or overlooked.
As one intelligent Director said, “It’s just as much about the vendor as it is the software.”