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Five tips on embracing technology changes at work

By Danielle DavisRoe and Jeffrey Schoenberger, Affinity Consulting

Wanting to embrace new technology at work, but not sure how to start implementing changes? As many in the legal profession know, it’s not always easy to adapt to new technology and programs. Software implementations quickly fall flat if users do not adopt the new application. Improving user adoption starts in the planning phase. Whether you’re thinking about implementing a new practice management system, switching PDF editors, or changing document repositories and workflows, keep these five tips in mind: 

1. Listen to your users 

Start by listening to your users. Find out what their pain points are before implementing anything new. What’s working? What’s not working? When you know what’s challenging them, you can ensure that any upcoming changes ease their frustrations.   

For example, when Affinity leads a new software rollout, we start off with a user survey. The user survey helps us understand where users are frustrated and where they have an appetite for change. We use that knowledge to put together a training plan that benefits users immediately. If you want to do this on your own, Survey Monkey is the granddaddy of web survey tools. You can also look to tools like Microsoft Forms (included in many Microsoft Office 365 packages) and Google Forms (free and included with Google Workspace packages).  

2. Communicate 

Start with what you learned from listening to your users to frame your communication with them. Center your messaging around what’s important to your users and how the change will improve their job. Your new practice management system might improve things for your firm’s partners, but that should not be the focus of your communication with the rest of the team.  

One of the best ways to know what’s happening with you users during the transition is to see what resources or help articles they are accessing, or where work seems to bog down. 

If Affinity leads a rollout, our online learning platform offers course managers (i.e., firm administrators) the ability to track users’ progress through assigned courses. That’s a significant benefit to firm administrators, but not something the users engaging with Affinity Insight’s training content care about. We tailor our communications with users to focus on what they care about - how good training will help them get their job done faster and easier.  

For a firm doing its own change-over, think of ways that you could gather information on users’ sticking points: 

  • Create a centralized email help address (for example, “name of new software”@myfirm.com”):  This provides a place for users to report problems or questions, and shows management where to focus employee training. 
  • Create an intranet help page: Although creating an intranet sounds overwhelming, your “intranet page” can be as simple as a Microsoft Word document in a centralized location. In the document, place web links to helpful articles or training content, such as a video demonstrating the new software in your firm’s system. 

Absent some coding, you will not be able to tell who accesses which help resource however many times, but the email address (or alias) and help documents work symbiotically. You seed the help document with what you believe will be core questions and then adjust it based on email questions. 

3. Assign a pilot group 

When implementing new software, do not underestimate the power of a pilot group. A pilot group receives early access to the new software, tests it, and makes recommendations for changes. Not only can a pilot group help facilitate a smooth transition but they can also be your biggest cheerleaders. Get them excited for the change, and their excitement will spread like wildfire.  

Be sure to give the pilot group extra time to play around with the new programs. Do not expect them to get through their normal workload and give your new software the attention it deserves. The most successful pilots are ones that have the time each day to test things out.  

4. Train your employees 

There’s an adage we use around Affinity: if you are not going to train your users, you should not implement new software. We say it because it’s true. Implementing even the most user-friendly software in the world will flop if you do not give your users adequate training. While training at the time of implementation is vital, providing refresher training weeks and months later will help people improve their skills and learn how to take advantage of more advanced features.  

Record training videos and make them available for people to watch when questions come up down the road. Provide written instructions for those who would rather read than watch videos and provide as much training (both live and on-demand) as possible. Many software vendors also offer recorded videos and live webinars for users, and these can be a critical tool in helping your team succeed. 

5. Lead by example 

Lead by example and make sure team managers are onboard before rolling out any new software. If your leaders are not on board, either get them on board or head back to the drawing board.  

If your leaders do not adopt the new software, it has a waterfall effect. When they do not use your new software, it sends the message to your team that they do not need to use it or that there is no benefit to using it. It also makes it harder for your users to use the software. Suppose leaders are not storing or updating data in your practice management system or document management system. That forces your users to work outside of the system and makes the new system unreliable.  

Making sure users have the tools they need to learn new programs and software is one of the most challenging parts of any software implementation, but by utilizing these five tips early in the planning process, even the most complex changes can succeed. 

Missouri Bar members look to open, build, manage, protect, or wind down a law practice have access to scores of white papers, checklists, charts, and articles through the Practice Management Center. Missouri Bar members can also schedule a free consultation through the Ask an Expert page or by emailing MoBarLPM@affinityconsulting.com.