Why don’t more users adopt the software their firms have acquired? And why are firms afraid to mandate its use?
You evaluated the software, built the business case, and signed the license agreement. But now that you’re through implementation, only the most eager users are taking advantage of the new system.
The user adoption challenge isn’t unique to law firms. In this post, we offer lessons learned from other industries that can help gain broader user acceptance and maximize return on investment.
Time for a Change
If you started your implementation with a few enthusiastic pioneers, congratulations, you’re partway there. But what about the rest of the staff? Change can be daunting. People will continue to work the way they always have because it’s comfortable. Some may even be afraid they don’t have the technical background to work with a new system.
Eight Simple Steps
Much has been written about change management. One of the classics is Harvard professor John Kotter’s Leading Change. In it, he prescribes an eight-step process for guiding an organization through a successful change. We’ve summarized it for you here:
1. Establish a Sense of Urgency. If your staff doesn’t see the need to change, they won’t. Help them understand why the competitive environment for legal services compels your firm to continually find ways to improve productivity and simplify processes.
2. Create a Guiding Coalition. Build a core team to guide the change process. It should include staff with the appropriate expertise and credibility so their communications will be taken seriously by others in the firm. These will be your product champions.
3. Form a Strategic Vision. Form a vision of a “future state” where work is better, easier, and more fulfilling because of the new software. Users will buy in when they see how the change will personally benefit them.
4. Communicate the Change Vision. Keep your vision statement simple and communicate it often. The vision will only sink in after it’s heard many times. Use multiple channels – group meetings, internal newsletters, and 1-on-1s. And set expectations. The advantages of the change may not materialize until users come up to speed.
5. Remove Barriers. Even the most intuitive software will require some measure of training. Your vendor should provide this initially, but also look to your internal product champions to provide peer-to-peer support. Gather feedback from your users and communicate any negative issues to your vendor.
6.Generate Short-Term Wins. Your users will be motivated to use your new software when they see early wins. Document the results of your early adopters and communicate the benefits to the rest of your staff. Your vendor will likely be more than happy to write this case study for you. Ask.
7. Consolidate Gains. Share your firm’s progress toward your vision regularly. Ensure that it’s coming from the top down to demonstrate the managing partner’s commitment to change.
8. Anchor the Change. Continue to reinforce the benefits of the new software during its first year of use. Communicate the connection between the new process and the firm’s success until it becomes strong enough to replace old habits.
No one wants to be forced to use a new system. But you brought your new software in for a reason. You saw the benefits it could provide to the firm and individual staff members. So why short-change yourself now that the software is installed? Make it clear that you expect your staff to use the new system and follow the steps above to create a motivating environment and you’ll soon be reaping the benefits across the firm.
About Michael Sauber
Michael Sauber leads the marketing program for Korbitec, producer of Automated Civil Litigation Software (ACL). He has worked with document production technologies and professional services for over 30 years and is a frequent blogger on these topics.