Office 365, Program Framework, Project Management Practice, Project Online, SharePoint

Change Management and the legal industry

| | Leave a comment

Nobody likes change, especially in the workplace. New working hours can be stressful to those they affect, a new office can be a cold and unwelcoming environment until its occupants warm to it, a new IT system or productivity tool can also throw employees off their usual routine. In short, people are naturally wired to enjoy consistency. It’s safe, reassuring, and expected. Coming in one morning to find any deviation from the norm can thus be unsettling and unnerving. And employers know that unsettled employees are not happy employees, nor as productive as they can be.

IT and technology have been responsible for some of the single biggest changes in working practices since the information age really took hold in the 1950s and 60s. Digital working, the Internet, the Cloud – these things have all have huge impacts on how people work, and thus the area of change management. Do you remember when your office updated the Intranet system? Or moved to a new email server? These changes are not only technically difficult to pull off, but require users to be led on a carefully crafted journey in order for the new systems to be usefully adopted. This is made especially difficult when people’s default, often subconscious, view is “Why do I need to learn something new, I just want to get on with my job”.

So Information Technology and change management go hand in hand, and the smooth roll-out of the former relies on the quality of the latter.

One sector where both IT and change management have had a huge impact in recent years is Legal. As we saw in a previous post, the legal industry has undergone a huge period of modernisation in the last 5-10 years. This has resulted in a significant change management hurdle to overcome.

A changing world

Legal, perhaps more than any other of the big industries, has had the furthest to come in terms of modernising how it works, how staff use IT and how projects are run. Projects in the legal world, or ‘cases’ or ‘matters’ as they are more commonly known, are as complex as anything found in the Construction or Consulting sectors. Complicating factors include:

  • A huge amount of documentation, from numerous parties, often all originating as paper.
  • A number of different resources, on both sides of the case and the judiciary, mean that people and resource management is a significant challenge.
  • Tracking decisions, milestones, and meetings (in common with many large scale projects) can be complex without systems to monitor and regulate. In the legal sector this is complicated further by the nuances of the various legal systems – stipulating how materials are to be stored, for how long, and by whom.

It is not uncommon for all of the above to be managed manually by large teams of clerks and legal workers. When you consider the length of cases as well, both initially and the legal requirements to maintain records in the long term, it is clear technology can have a huge impact.

Project Portfolio Management (PPM) tools like Project Server and Project Online can help organisations better manage projects, milestones and deliverables. Project Server supports complex task management that means legal firms can take a lot of the risk out the many interdependencies when working on a legal case. Project Online puts the power of Project in the Cloud, adding the ability to access the tool from any device in any location. This can be extremely useful for teams on the move, working in high pressure situations away from the standard office.

Dedicated resource management tools, like Tempus Resource, support broader PPM tools by helping organisations to better model and understand how their resources can be used. For larger legal firms the ability to simulate changes to resource models, and assess how these changes affect productivity and revenue, can be a game changer.

Back to change management

We started this piece by stating that change management was as important (often more important) than any technology changes that support businesses in new ways of working. We have illustrated how better project management can help to modernise the legal sector. So how can change management support it? We think there are three key activities to consider:

  1. Focus on the human side of any IT project
    Every IT project, whether it be implementing Project Online or refreshing the Intranet, should have a dedicated resource focusing on users. This person is there to prepare user centric comms, write or deliver required training, and hold hands where needed. Users will be much more likely to adopt new tools if they feel their is a human face to the project.
  2. Create ownership of the new tools
    People are much more likely to adopt new tools and systems if they feel in some way responsible for them, or that they own them. No one wants to see a project fail that they are personally involved in. So any IT project should involve end users in both its inception and day to day management. This isn’t simply issuing status reports when decisions are made, but allowing the people who will use the final product to have a real say and input into its role out.
  3. Communication is key
    The failure for many IT projects, and indeed the root of good change management, is communication. Yes you need to focus on people, and get them involved in real aspects of the project as much as possible. But it isn’t often practical, say in a law firm of 1000’s, to get everyone involved to that degree. But there is no excuse not to keep these people up-to-date and informed. Especially when we consider modern communications tools and technologies, like SharePoint and Office 365, it has never been easier to keep people useful in the loop.

A challenge

There is no doubt that rolling out new systems and tools, especially to an industry as complex as the legal sector, is hard. We have extensive experience in this field, and make sure our dedicated change management consultants are at the core of every project we do. Get in touch to see how we can help ensure your project benefits from the right approach to both structural change and personal change.