Business systems post-implementation – how to keep your shiny new system shiny and new

Brand new tech can quicky become a white elephant if nobody is tasked with looking after it, writes 3Kites' Melanie Farquharson

It can take a considerable amount of resource and energy to select and implement a new system in your business, whether that be a new finance/practice management system, a new intranet, a new CRM system or a new document management system.

At the end of the project, once the system has been launched, users have been trained and any initial bugs and wrinkles have been ironed out, it may seem that it is time to move on to the next project.  The project sponsor may feel they have done their duty and no longer wish to take responsibility. However, very often business systems need to be managed and kept up to date if they are to deliver lasting value.

Although the software supplier may provide ‘support’ which should help in ensuring that the software is kept up-to-date and any errors addressed, they won’t help keep the system in line with the way the organisation is developing.

Avoiding white elephants

Sadly, there are too many tales of systems which become white elephants because nobody has been tasked with looking after them. Trust in systems is quickly eroded if users start to spot stale content or broken links and can lose patience and cease to use them, nullifying your investment. Recent examples we have seen include:

  • Your enterprise search system may have been brilliant at launch, but if it has stopped indexing new content it will become less and less useful (and potentially more and more dangerous).  ‘Smarter’ systems which purport to learn as users perform more searches need to be monitored to check that the relevancy weightings and way the system is learning are still producing good reliable results.
  • Your new intranet may have been implemented on the basis of a business case which articulated the fact that the old intranet was unreliable and had too much out of date content on it, but if nobody is ensuring that content is refreshed, the same situation will recur, and surprisingly quickly.
  • Shortly after implementing a practice management system and when departments have had the reality of working on the system further efficiencies or opportunities can start to be identified (potentially as soon as 3-6 months after implementation).  Whether that be to refine financial processes, tweak workflows or look to implement further features. If there is no focus, collation and review of feedback, the opportunities will be lost and it can become another system with only a small percentage of its capability being utilised, with the investment made moving away from supporting the business to becoming another system a lawyer ‘has to’ use. 
  • As your business develops and further technology projects are implemented, care is needed to ensure integrations with other systems still work as upgrades and replacements occur and that meta data taxonomies remain consistent where possible to allow cross-fertilisation of management reporting data. 

Thinking ahead

We advise that the initial implementation project addresses up front how the longer-term management of the new system will be handled. It may well add to the budget, but it is prudent to allow for the necessary headcount to maintain and manage the system going forward, tackling such questions as:

  • What skills will be required to manage this system in the future?  How technical will the role be, or is it really a governance role?
  • What authority will be needed to ensure that the work is prioritised appropriately?  Does there need to be an ongoing governance body? 
  • Where should the relevant roles report to?  In the context of finance systems, there is often a tension as to whether there should be a finance systems responsibility within the Finance team, or whether it should sit within IT.  And if the former, what co-operation will be required from the broader IT team?
  • How will calls to any central IT service desk be handled and escalated to the relevant product owner or vendor support team and what are the terms of the vendor support arrangements to ensure problems can be fixed in a timely way?
  • How will new joiners to the firm be trained on the use of the new system in induction sessions and by whom?
  • Who within the firm will be tasked with attending user groups and attending other sessions where new functionality of systems are announced and bringing that information back to the business and making the relevant people/departments aware?

Without this forethought, there is a danger that the value of your investment in a new system will quickly be undermined as it becomes tarnished and falls out of use… or is used but with huge frustrations given its inefficiencies when it could be delivering real benefits if only the functionality was evolved within your firm.  

Melanie Farquharson is a director of 3Kites. This is the 13th article in the series Navigating Legaltech


About 3Kites and Kemp IT Law
3Kites is an independent consultancy, which is to say that we have no ties or arrangements with any suppliers so that we can provide our clients with unfettered advice. We have been operating since 2006 and our consultants include former law firm partners (one a managing partner), a GC, two law firm IT Directors and an owner of a practice management company. This blend of skills and experience puts us in a unique position when providing advice on IT strategy, fractional IT management, knowledge management, product selections, process review (including the legal process) and more besides. 3Kites often works closely with Kemp IT Law (KITL), a boutique law firm offering its clients advice on IT services and related areas such as GDPR. Where relevant (eg when discussing cloud computing in a future article) this column may include content from the team at KITL to provide readers with a broader perspective including any regulatory considerations.

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