Part 2: Enterprise Legal Management Solution Purchasing: Tools to get from Project to Go-Live

In the last segment, Part 1: Enterprise Legal Management Solution Purchasing: Tools to get from Project to Go-Live, we talked about some of the processes you should undertake when purchasing a new Enterprise Legal Management solution including: defining your Project Team, establishing your Objectives and making sure to get Budget Approval (or start the process at the very least).

In this concluding segment, we’ll look at the tools available to you to identify the vendor landscape, assess which ones meet your objectives (both from a feature functionality and technology / security perspective) and how to avoid inviting in the wrong vendors, and finally discuss how to maximize the demo and selection process to get your company the best solution to fit your objectives.

Fourth, get the right set of selection tools. I’ve worked with companies with a few hundred active matters and $2M in spend to companies with hundreds of thousands of matters and ongoing billions in spend. The following tools can help you achieve a successful project conclusion.

  • Define the Vendor landscape. For identifying the vendor landscape, I recommend you do as follows. Your IT Department likely subscribes to Gartner. Get the latest ELM survey. The last one was done in 2013, and it looks like 2016 the next survey year. Gartner is the gold standard in analyzing technology, and its Magic Quadrant is understood by one of your major constituent partners – IT. Likewise, Hyperion Research is very well regarded in the Legal Industry and performs similar analyses albeit focused on the Legal Profession. There are other resources, but these two are foundational.

After identifying possible vendors, remember to use your list of objectives to further narrow the list. For example, if Document or Contract Management is a desired capability, but not an objective, don’t bring in a DMS or Contract Management vendor who has no other ELM capabilities. This seems basic, but it happens and it wastes time and money.

To repeat my earlier appeal: start with the end in mind to reach your success – a success founded on your objectives.

  • Do an RFP. This market changes all the time – tools gain new capabilities, companies break apart, are bought or merge. You want to find out the current state. The RFP allows you to score and narrow the field to what I like to call the “Cherished Few” (the vendors who really seem to get you and your Department’s objectives).

TIP #1: Talk to your vendor account executives. Get them to give you an RFP template / Questionnaire – something their company has developed to help customers make decisions. I recommend combining two or more RFP templates to build a best-of-breed RFP which lets you provide scoring on a comprehensive sweep of capabilities from company viability to user interface to feature functionality to security and everything in-between aligned with your objectives, all the while minimizing vendor bias. This method can produce an RFP at little to no labor cost (and no out-of-pocket cost).

If you are already working with a consultant, they can generally provide services relating to building an RFP around your objectives usually at a cost. Consultants are not a necessary to acquire a great ELM solution, but if you have engaged them for related projects, they can add to the expert factor in you choosing the best ELM solution.

TIP #2: Unless you or your IT Department has a proven security/risk assessment questionnaire, I recommend a standardized tool such as the SIG Lite (or full SIG depending on your required comprehensiveness), which gives you a battery of questions and assessment tools to determine overall vendor risk. The SIG, Standardized Information Gathering, is published by Shared Assessments – a company formed “by leading financial institutions, the Big 4 accounting firms, and key service providers to inject standardization, consistency, speed, efficiency and cost savings into the vendor risk assessment process.” The current SIG includes everything you need to use this for ongoing vendor risk assessment from the questions wrapped around FFIEC, OCC, ISO, NIST, COBIT and PCI to name a few. Your IT department, presented with this as an option (if they don’t use it or another tool already) will be thankful for your efficiency (they don’t have to write or update a security tool), and will be thankful that you get them.

By using established resources, you spend more time on scoring, less time on RFP construction, shortening your overall project timeline.

  • Demonstrations: Bring in your Cherished Few. The RFP will bring you to a short list, which should allow for Web or on-site demonstrations of no more than four vendors. You want to limit it to four, especially where you are chasing a broad spectrum of capabilities, to allow you to finalize down to two. Finalizing to three vendors will delay your decision and make it harder to make an objective-driven final selection.
  • Meet your Darling Duo in person and Choose a Finalist. You are down to two finalists. They meet your viability, technology/risk and capabilities tests (via the RFP), they demo’d well to you over the Web or in-person. While Web demos in the Cherished Few are okay, I absolutely recommend you meet finalists face-to-face. These are the people that you will be dealing with for a minimum of 3-5 years, and in most cases, much longer than that. Your vendor’s Account Team should be a mirror image of the company with whom you wish to do business. If the team is working hard for your business, committing to work alongside you during the deal, and giving you recommendations for success, not to mention project plan guidance, then the rest of the company (including your Implementation team, Support / Account Management, Product Management, Development, Senior Management, etc.) will likewise follow suit.

Answer the question, do I want to work with these people? When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, you want to know if you can work with the vendor and rely on their professionalism and responsiveness.

While price has been important all along – return on expense is the more important measure. Return is measured by the successful deployment and adaption of the software. Focus on these key areas (remember, you are buying for a bunch of attorneys and paralegals or claims professionals):

– Will it accomplish the Department’s objectives?
– Is it easy to use? Will my constituents use this?
– Will the users want to work with the vendor’s people?

The first question should have driven your process to date. The last two questions are critical for the future of your department’s satisfaction with your selection, and your success in meeting the overall project drivers.

Critical usability questions that drive adoption include:

  • Does the Application integrate with Outlook where my attorneys spend 80-90% of their time?
  • Does it allow me and Department staff to easily track matters/claims, and collect the meaningful information, which I want to measure?
  • Does it support collaboration? Can my attorneys easily share documents, notes, etc. with the rest of the team and assigned outside counsel as required?
  • Will it provide pre-review on my invoices so my attorneys or claims professionals don’t spend their valuable time reviewing any more than the highest level information?
  • Will it provide useful, easy to use reports? Can I and my attorneys build reports using any of the data stored in the ELM?
  • Can I configure various aspects of the application myself?
  • Can I do all this EASILY?

If the answer to these questions is yes, you have your solution.

The ELM solution buying process doesn’t have to be scary or painful. In fact, it can provide a focusing exercise for your Legal Department and Legal Operations team that ends with clear steps and promising outcomes. Ultimately, it helps the law department reach a new level of maturity. In addition to your standard procurement processes, using the guidelines and tools above allows you to buy an ELM solution that’s a total success for your entire company.

-Jeff Skott