How do you eat an elephant?

It’s not uncommon for law firms to be resistant to change. Caution is understandable, particularly since change often comes dressed as a complex and expensive transformation project. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Peppermint’s new ‘right-sized’ project implementation strategy now enables law firms to adopt an incremental approach to meaningful change. And when married to the right project objectives steady change can become part of a firm’s DNA.

When a managing partner recently said to me: “We’re a law firm, we only change once every 20 years”, he was justifying his firm’s thinking around a ‘Big Bang’ practice management system implementation. “We need to do everything – everything – as part of this one project,” he said. “Because if we don’t do it that way we’ll lose momentum. We’ll lose the engagement of the business, and the change won’t happen.” His conviction was that unless the firm attempted to ‘eat the elephant’ in a single bite, real change wouldn’t happen.

Increasingly, I wonder whether that’s right. Not whether it’s right for any business to change only once every 20 years – of course, that ain’t right. But whether it’s right to go along with the notion that implementing a new enterprise business system is a single project. Because, invariably, that ain’t right either.

We’ve worked to implement Peppermint CX in more than 40 UK firms now – ranging from five to 650 users. Different firms, different sizes, different goals, different drivers. In the process we’ve identified some key imperatives, or requirements, essential for successful implementations. And we’ve changed our implementation approach accordingly. Here are the most important points:

Understand and focus on the primary goal.

What is it? To replace your legacy product? To introduce new sales management processes? To automate the execution of specific legal processes? To re-engineer pricing? To introduce account-based client development strategies? I know they all sound great and you want them all – but they do not all fit in the same project. Set the scope and timeline of the primary goal. Then assess if any of the secondary goals can be accommodated within your timeline, resources and budget without negatively impacting the primary goal. Bring them in if they do, otherwise, they should be a separate project. (And if push-comes-to-shove during project execution ensure that it is the secondary goals that are abandoned, not the primary one.)

Business leaders must stay engaged

All too often the managing partner or CEO / COO / FD engage in the definition of what the firm wants from its new enterprise system, the definition of its goals, the allocation of funds, and even the finalisation of the contract. But when it comes to project kick-off there’s the sound of well-shod feet heading back to do the real work. This is the harbinger of doom if what the firm wanted or intended from the project was any form of business change. The business leaders must stay engaged – not in the detail, but in the governance – and to ensure the project stays on track to achieving the business goals.

Will it ‘make the boat go faster’?

You can have any number and type of reports, you can have any number and complexity of processes, you can change screen layouts from here to eternity – but my advice is: direct your money and time to the things that will generate real advantage. Does it drive efficiency, better business insight, employee engagement, or customer experience? That’s where the money should go – not towards the “it’s the way we’ve always done it” activities. Those seven words are the most expensive in any project.

How you get to all those other business goals?

They can be secondary projects – either running in parallel with the primary project – or as second-phase (after the primary) projects. You see, we believe law firms can manage a programme of change – in fact, we believe that increasingly, they simply have to.

Our new ‘right-sized’ project approach reduces risk and maximises value

We’re re-engineering our project delivery to reduce risk and maximise business value. That means working with customers right at the outset to select the project model that matches clearly identified business goals. For example, is your primary goal to transition off a legacy product? Or do you want to transform your business processes? We call this a right-sized project approach – the right-sized project to meet your business goals.

Where the goal is business transformation, we’ve also taken another major step, which is to enable customers to phase the implementation of Peppermint CX. Start with CRM. Start with Matter Management. Start with Practice Management. Start with what delivers the most benefit to your business. We’ll design the project to match your business goals. We think of this new approach as being business led and technology driven – rather than vice versa.

As our Peppermint customers continue with their programme of business change, up to and then beyond their initial go-live project (read the recent case studies from Brethertons and Gosschalks) they’re discovering a much better place and a much better way of doing business, and that change is not only possible, it’s good.