In the most recent installment of our ongoing blog series, "In Practice", we speak to Connie Brenton of NetApp about how legal departments can create technology roadmaps
As corporate legal departments ramp up their technology investments to streamline processes and adapt to rapidly increasing business demands, some department leaders are seeing the value in setting the course themselves, becoming more strategic about planning for new technology and considering the role that people and work processes play in any new tech implementation.
In this installment of In Practice, Rose Ors, CEO of ClientSmart, spoke with Connie Brenton, VP of Law, Technology & Operations at NetApp, about how developing a legal technology roadmap maximizes the return on technology investment. Brenton talks about the work that must precede the development of a roadmap, including creating a legal department strategy rooted in deploying the right people, the right processes, and the right technology, for the benefit of the enterprise.
Rose Ors: What is a legal technology roadmap and why is it critical to develop one?
Connie Brenton: A technology roadmap outlines the steps required to successfully roll out technologies that help optimize a legal department’s efficiency and effectiveness. Having a roadmap is critical because it makes the business case for each tech investment. It is also the project management tool that outlines what, when, and how technology will be rolled out.
Rose Ors: What work has to be done before developing the roadmap?
Connie Brenton: The legal department must first have a strategy that establishes its purpose and priorities. Next, the department needs to track the department’s types of work, who does the work, and the processes used to perform the work, taking a deep dive into the what, the who, and the how.
Rose Ors: Why is mapping out how work currently gets done important?
Connie Brenton: The process map allows you to identify the inefficiencies and the root causes of those inefficiencies — this mapping prioritizes what must be fixed. Once those priorities are established, you can develop a technology roadmap that spotlights what tech investments to make, sets a timeline for implementation, and develops a budget.
For more on how your team can develop a technology roadmap, see our In Practice Sidebar here.
You always need to prioritize what you will improve to ensure that limited resources are properly allocated and that the resources will be adequate to properly complete the tasks.
Rose Ors: What are the pitfalls of not doing the upfront analysis you’ve just described?
Connie Brenton: Today, there is no single technology platform. What exists are individual technologies — components, really — offered by different legal tech vendors. These components require assembly into an integrated system that works with existing legal and enterprise-wide technologies.
The process is akin to assembling a high-end stereo system. You select the highest-quality components from different vendors, determine their compatibility, and integrate them. If you do not thoroughly identify all the necessary interconnections, you risk choosing a configuration that does not meet all of your needs.
Rose Ors: How do you prioritize what technologies to roll out?
Connie Brenton: Each roadmap is unique to each department. What sets the priorities is the department’s strategy. Only then can you decide the importance of improving how a particular type of work gets done. For example, if you have identified a significant bottleneck in getting contracts signed, you may prioritize rolling out an electronic signature technology.
Another key question is resource allocation. What company resources are required to integrate new technology with the current enterprise-wide or legal department system? If you want to buy a technology that will require a lot of the company’s IT resources, you have to get them on board at the very outset and recognize you may need to defer or delay other tech rollouts that require IT’s resources. The resource allocation issue is why technology roadmaps are usually three-to-five-year strategies.
Rose Ors: How do you know what technologies are available?
Connie Brenton: Technology innovation in the legal industry is happening at record speed. There is no single source that will be able to answer all your questions. You need to actively network the legal operations community and benefit from their collective experience.
In asking for recommendations, remember that both the technology and the team behind the technology, specifically the developers, matter. The developers are vital in offering ongoing support, both in training and improving the technology over time. Think of them as partners.
Anytime you roll out a technology tool, it is a given that not everything will work as intended and you need to tweak things. I assemble implementation teams composed of people from NetApp and third-party providers because their diverse experiences help them identify different problems at different times — and typically sooner than a group with a narrower range of experience. The faster you can identify a problem, the faster you can fix it.
Rose Ors: Any final piece of advice?
Connie Brenton: To keep top of mind that the actual technology tool you choose is the least important part of the roadmap process. There is a tendency to think that investing in technology will be a magic wand that will solve the problem you are trying to fix.
You have to do the hard work of developing a tech roadmap, have the discipline to adhere to it, and the commitment to overcome the change management hurdles you will encounter.