“I’ve found a problem with the new system!”, the Partner said to me in a matter of fact but not entirely disappointed way before explaining the issue he had found with our new time recording system. As we went through the detail of his discovery; he informed me he’d already sent an email to his team informing them of the glitch. By then it was too late, the damage had been done.

If this situation sounds familiar to anyone who has ever implemented new technology in a business you’re not alone. During my time as an IT Director at a law firm, we knew these situations had to be carefully managed. Whilst “glitches” in new technology are to be expected – there is careful work that should be done before, during and after a technology implementation to minimise the ripple effect these can have. We should also be aware that often what one firm describes as “glitches” are the system working as designed, its just different to the firm’s previous system or business processes.

Adoption of technology is so much more than training, projects comms and problem management. It needs to get to the heart of what it means for the people in an organisation that will be using the new technology, day in and day out. In this article, I’ll explain what I think technology adoption means and the ways we can address it.

A strategy around technology adoption will generally be influenced by the following factors:

  • Is the technology a direct replacement for an existing system? In other words, will the old technology be “switched off” as soon as the new technology goes live? (aka “BigBang”)
  • Is the new technology another tool that will sit alongside existing tools but strategically, it is planned that it should eventually replace those existing tools? (aka “Evolutionary”)
  • Is the new technology being introduced in isolation to facilitate operations around a new service line or business function? (aka “Revolutionary”)

How you answer the questions above will determine the kind of adoption strategy to deploy. Across each of these situations, some common themes should be considered.

Use Cases: Carefully consider the use cases that will apply to the technology and whether business processes that surround the technology will need to be changed or new ones created. You may want to consider involving those directly impacted by any change in process to be involved in the creation of new processes.

Establishing the “why”: When new technology is implemented because strategically it is the “right thing to do”, we often see the new technology implemented alongside existing applications that do a similar thing. It’s important to keep in mind that the end-user will need a compelling reason to cease the use of existing technology and won’t necessarily be interested in the strategic reasons to make a shift.

In law firms, lawyers are under pressure to deliver to clients and moving to new technologies presents a risk for them if it means a period of learning that could impact their ability to deliver a service.

Being very clear about the reasons why it is beneficial to use the new technology sooner than later can help minimise problems when later down the line.

Sharing Knowledge: Project teams charged with delivering new technology will usually acquire a wealth of learning and insight during the delivery process.

After the project has been delivered, it is not unusual for the project team to quickly move on to their next project or go back to the day job they were doing before the project commenced.

We would recommend project team members are seconded for a while after implementation on the adoption strategy and work closely with operational teams on bedding in the technology. The resource required to win “hearts and minds” can be significant and thought must be put into the planning of this phase.

Testing: A rigorous User Acceptance Testing plan is key to successful technology implementation.

Where necessary, involve individuals from across the business who are able and committed to devoting the time required for testing.

Create a detailed testing script that has been assembled in collaboration with those that will be using the functionality once a system goes live. It’s also important to manage expectations during the testing stages. A lack of communication can sometimes result in disillusionment if systems perform very poorly during testing.

Ensure that functional testing has been completed in advance of User Acceptance Testing so that any problems discovered should be minor at that stage.

If you are considering the implementation of new technology or are already on the journey, do think carefully about these dynamics. Technology change can take longer than you think but bringing everyone on the journey can smooth the ride. 

Written by…

Nigel Stott