What is your problem? Maybe the question should be what “are” your problems?

At the 2017 Association of Corporation Counsel (ACC) annual meeting, a session focused on helping smaller legal departments look at what, where, when and how to deploy existing technologies to address their pain points. A survey of the attendees prior to the annual meeting noted that the majority of legal departments had less than five lawyers, 55 percent responded they had less than $25,000 to spend on technology and that 83 percent currently do not have a technology plan.

The session guided the group to prioritize their department’s problems, research and evaluate the technology/tools available and then develop a technology plan. The panel suggested a three-year technology plan, noting some people use a five-year plan, but as technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, they cautioned spreading the plan out over too long of a period.

As you build out your technology plan, the panel encouraged everyone to move away from providing a “features” list to the CEO/COO/CFO as these leaders are likely thinking about money and bringing them a list of what will cost the company more money may not get you what you need. Instead, think of the problems the legal department needs to address and prioritize the impact these have to the business. Allocate a dollar figure to highlight what you could save on expenses or add in revenues to show the value of the investment.

When it comes time for implementation of new tools or technology, the panel cautioned customization as it presents many challenges and increased costs, both in time and money, and not only during the initial implementation, but downstream as additional changes happen in the future. Plan for continuing investment, maintenance and upgrades, as well as selecting a tool that is light on adoption to increase it being used to benefit the company.

The key takeaways the panel concluded with were:

  • Quantify your business case by showing how it will impact the business by either increasing revenue, decreasing expenses or both.
  • Don’t let the fact that you don’t have a budget stop you from getting technology. Find internal partners that will benefit from your new resources to get funding.
  • Treat your technology plan as a living document and ask the following questions: “What are the measurements for evaluation?”, “What does success look like?”, “What problems are you solving?”, and “What internal customers are you serving and will benefit?”
  • Be realistic in what technology you need and what the department will use.