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LegalOctober 25, 2021

How to build a corporate legal technology roadmap

This article was originally published in Legaltech News.

With legal technology advancing at a rapid pace, the true hurdle for corporate legal departments (CLDs) is navigating the vast landscape of what tools and systems to use—and how to implement them. There are solutions to help attorneys work more efficiently and choose outside counsel more wisely. And there are technologies to manage invoicing, matters, and more, not to mention artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics.

But how do you know what technologies will give you the biggest return on investment? How do you know which ones will help your CLD become a modern organization that’s in alignment with your company’s business strategies?

A technology roadmap can provide the answers. Think of it like a GPS, guiding you to your destination. That destination will be different for every organization. Perhaps it’s to improve efficiencies in the bill review process or make better decisions about which outside counsel to use for a particular matter. Whatever your ultimate destination, a map is essential to your being able to reach it in the most effective way possible.

Let’s look at eight key components of a good legal technology roadmap.

1. Establish goals that map to your company’s overall objectives

Prior to creating your legal technology roadmap, it’s important to establish specific goals that align with your organization’s overall objectives. For example, your business might be striving to cut costs and reduce inefficiencies across the board or raise productivity levels among the entire legal operations team. It could be looking to your organization to deliver more actionable insights that can ultimately lead to better investments and decision-making for your company. How can your team support these large-scale business objectives?

2. Plan for the short- and long-term

It helps to consider short- and long-term goals for your CLD and map those goals to your organization’s larger plans. For the shorter time horizon, consider which resources require immediate prioritization: where you’d like to see progress over the next few months to a year. Look for low-hanging fruit: areas of inefficiency that can be quickly improved, like inefficient bill review processes. Longer-term goals, on the other hand, could be ones that are more complex or challenging. Those may have a timeline of anywhere from three to five years. Long-term goals could include investing in innovative technologies, like artificial intelligence or predictive analytics that will help your CLD make smarter business decisions around matter management, budgeting, and other areas.

3. Carefully assess current tools and processes

Next, take full inventory of what’s already in place. By assessing the tools that are already being used and deciding whether they’re being used to their full potential, you can discover your technological strengths while simultaneously spotting weak points. Be sure to consider current systems that are seeing more use due to workplace trends, like the influx of cloud-based applications that occurred because of remote working.

4. Create an advisory board

As you turn your attention towards new technologies, seek the guidance of an advisory board that can provide you with an unbiased perspective. Focus on selecting members from every facet of the company so each department and their interests are represented. Once you have a small, trustworthy group, use them to better understand what the company is trying to achieve. Then, align your technology investments with those goals.

5. Gather user feedback

Once your advisory board is in place, invite a range of employees to provide input into the decision-making process regarding your current solutions and any shortcomings among those solutions. This allows employees to be a part of the discussion from the start, which will inevitably help their adoption of newer tools down the line. Doing this early is essential; once decisions are made, changes will inevitably start coming in the form of new workflows, processes, and tools. It’s important to stay connected to employees and hear their questions and concerns regarding the transition into newer solutions.

6. Analyze your functional maturity level

An honest look at your company’s legal technology maturity level will help you avoid mishaps during the decision-making process. Benchmarking is an incredibly productive way of comparing your organization to your peers and current industry standards. It can also help identify areas for improvement. The ACC Legal Operations Maturity model is ideal for benchmarking maturity levels in certain key functional areas, while the ACC Legal Operations Maturity Benchmarking Report is helpful in gaining a broader perspective on overall legal operations maturity.

7. Choose and deploy your solutions

Prioritize your company’s legal technology needs and begin mapping out your technology investments. Focus on “quick wins” at first—solutions that offer the most positive potential outcome while posing a minimal impact on current technologies and processes in place. Then, augment your roadmap with solutions that may take longer to implement but are no less important to your objectives.

8. Analyze performance metrics

Finally, analyze your decisions and see if their deployment was successful. If there are still areas in which to improve, more advanced solutions might be worth pursuing and your vendor might be able to help guide you to better options. Technological advancements happen incredibly fast, and their effect on legal solutions and workflows has been undeniable and rapid. In taking the time to periodically check in on your solutions and analyze their efficacy, you give yourself a better chance at staying current with technological trends to improve productivity and continue to align your CLD’s work with your company’s goals.

Just remember: A legal technology roadmap is only the start of your legal technology journey. Legal technology continues to evolve very rapidly. As it does, you’ll want to continuously assess your CLD’s technology investments to ensure they’re still paying off. If not, it’s time to revisit your plan and continue improving.

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