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Symptoms of Failed Legal Automation:
During Implementation and the Future

symptoms of failed legal automation post implementation

In our last blog, we highlighted the three underlying symptoms that inhibit and cause many legal automation projects to fail before they’ve even started. However, a successful pilot and early wins are only a starting point; there are as many symptoms preventing progress as there are delaying launch. 

Here’s what to avoid when implementing, expanding, and measuring the success of legal automation projects:

Happy-go-lucky Milestones

Although legal automation has seen strong momentum in recent years, it’s still an unfamiliar domain for many in-house legal teams and law firms – particularly because most are only accustomed to legal technology that organizes or digitalizes existing workloads rather than inspiring a cultural change.

As a result, project teams often find themselves setting milestones on a rolling basis rather than deploying and scaling to an existing framework created at the start of the process. Successful automation doesn’t happen overnight, and without a basis to build on and track progress over time, projects inevitably take longer than necessary, or become compromised altogether. This can become particularly detrimental when project teams are inundated with their business-as-usual workloads.

There is also a risk in inadvertently triggering scope creep – without that initial framework, it’s more likely the real size or requirements of a project will be very different to what was initially perceived, and morph further over their lifetime.

However, if your project does ever face scope creep, one of the best ways to remedy is by approaching with a minimum-viable-product (MVP) mindset. This means making a decision to divide a sizeable project into conquerable portions, with each portion delivering incremental value – transformations can’t happen overnight.

This might mean starting with a “version 1” of a particular app that addresses 40 to 60 per cent of what the end vision has in mind, and moving to “version 2” at a later point when v1 is well established and ingrained into the broader business.

This bite sized approach will also ensure that new requirements don’t derail the embryonic development of legal technology with your organization, but are equally acknowledged and implemented at an appropriate, later stage.

Forgetting Maintenance

As technology degrades over time and new software takes over, there’s an inherent need assign responsibility for the maintenance of those tools.

Fundamentally, maintenance is about ensuring tools provide ongoing value to the organization. Whether that happens comes down to the people and the process around the technology.

People

• Ownership: If there is a lack of people owning the success outcomes of an app, and taking responsibility for owning its curation, then naturally over time, ownership becomes ambiguous and the tool falls into disrepair.

• End user responsiveness: No technology is perfect, and over time the needs of the end users tend to grow as an organization adapts. When the friction points of a tool aren’t acknowledged nor addressed in a timely manner, constituents look for cheaper, easier alternatives to replace existing tools. This process is unique to each environment, but can be streamlined by creating an ongoing feedback loop among the parties set to impact from it. In many cases, all it takes is an automated digital form that users can turn to and share suggestions for future development.

Process

Change in underlying processes: Technology supports processes, and when processes inevitably change, the technology often can’t adapt alone, and the value it delivers greatly diminishes. Moreover, the very action of re-visiting and making incremental changes to the tool to reflect updated organizational positions, policies and standards is another reason why tools fall in disrepair; a stagnant solution loses relevance very quickly.

Over-automating

Being able to automate a process or task doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

Automation is intended to supplement the workforce, however early wins can lead to temptation to over-automate. Unfortunately, this does nothing but hurt the workers it’s meant to support. 

After lift-off, it is critical that automation is only pursued if it can drive ROI through boosting productivity, increasing accessibility, and enhancing data security. 

For example, processes or tasks which take 10 hours each and are completed a couple of times each year may seem ready for automation. But if creating the automation solution takes 50 hours, the juice is rarely worth the squeeze. There’s also little return in automating tasks that are only performed by one person; sure, it’ll make that individual’s life easier, but the business will create a cost centre with no tangible benefit to other stakeholders.

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