The recent coronavirus surge – fueled in large part by the Delta variant – has given pause to many companies who had loudly stated that they would be bringing their workforces back into the office. Now, they are pushing back those deadlines to return by a couple of months or suspending their plans altogether.
This is to say nothing of the fact that quite a few professionals have decided that they actually prefer working remotely, thank you very much, and are not exactly clamouring to resume their daily commute or otherwise give up the flexibility of working from home. They have not been shy about making their preferences known to employers and intimating that they expect to be able to work remotely at the very least on a part-time basis moving forward.
The net result? Remote collaborative work, as part of a hybrid workforce model, is definitely here to stay. Some analysts predict that managing remote workers and the technologies that enable remote work arrangements will be key business drivers not just for another quarter or two, but all the way through to 2024. However, to optimise productivity across a remote and hybrid environment and to enhance firm-wide business efficiency, legal organisations now need to ensure that their workforce embraces new technologies in a way that tangibly delivers commercial benefit.
Given that technology adoption among employees isn’t a given – in fact, resistance to new tools and technologies in favour of “the familiar” is a fairly common phenomenon in law firms and corporate legal departments – how can these organisations change attitudes, behaviours, and work habits of legal professionals so that they ditch legacy solutions and adopt new technologies and ways of working?
For Best Results, Focus On Business Impact
The change management effort needs to be multifaceted. Standard change management tactics like e-Learning, live training, and ongoing communications are critical. Executives have a role to play as well, but their involvement needs to go beyond passive executive sponsorship – read as: funding a project, and then sending out an email or two telling people that they should embrace this new technology – towards management imperative. But how best to get them to make this fundamental shift and see the new technology as an imperative?
The key is to connect the dots between the technology and how it can improve the business in measurable ways. Put another way, management needs to see that technology can assist with performance areas that they themselves are measured on – whether that’s lowering costs, saving time, improving performance, decreasing risk, or some other business metric. Suddenly, with performance as the focus, management has a vested interest in the technology, which in turn will drive adoption.
Adding Remote Work Capabilities While Improving Business Outcomes
For example, suppose the rainmakers within a law firm are using Excel spreadsheets to keep track of which companies they’re actively targeting as potential clients. A cloud-based CRM system offers several powerful advantages, not the least of which is that it keeps everyone on the same page about who’s reaching out to whom, especially when people aren’t able to pop their head into someone’s office to ask, “Are you meeting with the exec at Company X this week?”.
However, it’s entirely possible that those rainmakers like their existing spreadsheet system just fine and don’t feel particularly compelled to adopt a new CRM system. Their motto might be “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s up to management to make the case that the new technology allows business development cycles to be completed more efficiently and in less time, thus improving revenue generation for the entire firm.
Alternatively, consider a document and email management system (DMS) that serves as a single centralised repository for all the organisation’s work products. This type of technology was important before the pandemic-related shift towards remote working began, but it’s even more essential when you have knowledge workers and teams highly distributed and no longer coming into one main office. The ability to quickly find just the right document or email rather than having to scour multiple repositories is certainly convenient and reduces a great amount of frustration for lawyers, but how does it benefit the business? It saves time. Every minute that lawyers aren’t spending fruitlessly searching for the document they need is time that can be spent doing higher-value activities. Over a year, the time saving can add up to millions of dollars in productivity gains.This is the benefit that should grab managers’ attention and encourage them to drive adoption among users, ensuring that all critical files are stored in the DMS rather than on their local hard drive or some other improvised solution.
Likewise, encouraging employees to utilise a product that allows them to easily and securely share an important file – a slide deck, an important video clip, an audio recording of a conversation, a document – with clients and third parties becomes easier for managers to do when they connect it to the business impact. What if the ability to implement that functionality directly within legal professionals’ workflow – rather than requiring users to jump out and switch to a third-party application – could save thousands of dollars every year versus the current workflow? Immediately, the users are less inclined to use their traditional workarounds.
In other words, successful adoption of new technology isn’t about managers touting the various “bells and whistles” of the various products, impressive as they might be. It’s about them understanding the real world, measurable benefits it can deliver and the ways it can positively impact the organisation. With this understanding, management can play a key role in driving remote workforce technology adoption.
Resistance is Not An Option
In a world where remote work promises to be a fixture for some time, firms can’t afford resistance to the adoption of the very technologies that promise to optimise the functioning of the hybrid workplace. The more that legal organisations can ensure that management sees the clear business impact of adopting new technologies, the more successful they will be in driving adoption among their professionals and reaping the associated performance benefits.
About the author: Brian Jones is Senior Director of Customer Adoption at iManage, the company dedicated to Making Knowledge Work, where he leads a team of professionals focused on the art and science of driving customer success.