5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Adopting New Technologies

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Savvy Training & Consulting has been partnering with Kraft Kennedy all year to offer monthly, 30-minute webinars on topics that are interesting and useful to our law firm friends. At the end of July, Kraft Kennedy’s CTO, Chris Owens, joined us to discuss the “5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Adopting New Technologies” and it was an information-packed session. We thought we’d share some of the highlights here! If you would like to watch the full session, click here.

The session started with a big reveal (no beating around the bush in these quick sessions!). Chris Owens named the 5 Pitfalls that doom tech projects right at the get-go when law firms are adopting new technologies:

  1. Absence of Design
  2. Mistaking Product as a Solution
  3. Product Selection
  4. Project Plan (not just budget)
  5. User Adoption

Then he unpacked each Pitfalls.

1. Absence of Design

Chris said, “I see this constantly.”

An initiative is underway and people are busy looking for a product to solve a problem, but there is no design, no plan, nothing on paper saying, “This is what I’m trying to accomplish.”

Firms need a concrete design:

  • Identify business goals: Only proceed with a new tech solution if there is a stated business goal and a desired outcome.
  • Anticipate obstacles: Make sure that you understand the entire issue and anticipate potential problems. 
  • Document design elements. Study the ways that this solution will interact with other technologies or processes in the firm. 
  • Seek advice: When you see obstacles ahead, ask for advice from others who are involved (and even from those who are not involved).
  • Develop success criteria: Be very clear on what outcomes will make this a successful project. Use both hard data and subjective results.

2. Mistaking a Product as a Solution

Chris said, “So often, people think, ‘I have a problem. I am going to buy a product to solve that problem.’ And that is the sum total of the solution.”

He continued, “I have never seen a product that solved 100% of a problem that a law firm expects it to solve.”

This is where the human element is critical when adopting new technologies. Your knowledge and experience are paramount to ensuring that this purchase turns from a mere product you buy to a solution you implement.

For example, let’s say you are purchasing a new security product. If you buy it, does that mean your job is done and the firm is secure? No! If you’re getting flooded with alerts, and you don’t use your experience to decide which ones need your attention, then that tool isn’t helpful. You need to apply your knowledge in conversations with the vendor to make sure that you’re shaping the tool into something useful.

Finally, you need to predict the impact of the tool beyond your stated goals. How will this impact the business operations of the firm? Your ability to conduct upstream problem-solving will shape the usefulness of the tool for years to come.

3. Product Selection

Once you understand the problem you’re trying to solve and you have a design, you can begin searching for the right tool(s) for the job. But wait! First, you need to understand the landscape of tools you already own. Likely, you will need a technology assessment.

“We go into a firm and evaluate their entire portfolio to help them understand what they need,” says Chris. “Very often, I have to ask, ‘Why do you own A, B and C when they all do the same thing?’ I typically hear, ‘This partner didn’t know we had A and they liked B.’ Or, “Another partner didn’t know we had A or B and they liked C. Now we have to manage all three.’”

Make sure you don’t buy product D to do the same thing as A, B and C!

Also, try to avoid the confusion of adding yet another vendor if you already have trusted partners who do what you need. 

Finally, in evaluating your goals and products as you are adopting new technologies, you should seek objectivity. What are the objective criteria you are trying to solve? Try to remove subjectivity from the process.

4. Project Plan

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Knowing the product you want does not mean the implementation will be smooth. You need to evaluate the bigger picture and assure that you have the required budget, a reasonable timeline, and the human resources to launch the product successfully. 

“That old saying, ‘You can have it fast or cheap or right.’ Well, I hope everyone chooses to have it right!” says Chris. “It’s a balancing act prioritizing the firm’s list of projects, resources, and timelines for success. You need to understand any conflicting priorities.”

It’s critical to conduct a solid planning process or you may end up with shelfware: new products that end up in storage, on a shelf, and never get used. 

5. User Adoption

Finally, it’s time for people in the firm to learn and use this new tool. Savvy’s CEO Doug Striker jumped in at this point in the presentation. He said, “Our job is to help firms understand that training should be part of conversation as early as possible.”

And then he shared a story…

“Savvy and Kraft Kennedy had a great shared client, a firm moving from a local server file structure to NetDocuments. Savvy was brought in early along with Kraft Kennedy and we ended up having an excellent and successful training project with this firm.”

Savvy’s job was to help end users understand how to use the shiny new tool (NetDocuments) that the firm had purchased.

To start, the firm conducted significant and interesting advance communications to prepare employees for the change. Then, Savvy came in to train. 

Doug says, “We did training ahead of the actual migration. Then the firm did the cut on Friday night and moved over the weekend. When people came in on Monday morning, they were immediately productive.”

Doug says another thing assured a successful rollout and implementation: Consensus from the C suite and all managers. Because there was leadership from the top, everybody showed up for the trainings, which helped to create a culture of learning and will enable everlasting engagement.

If you would like to receive the PowerPoint slides that accompanied this presentation, contact Savvy at info@SavvyTraining.com.


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