Implementing a Legal Spend Management Solution, Part Two: Planning Your Implementation

Once you’ve generated internal buy-in for a legal spend management solution, you can switch gears and begin planning implementation. Rolling out a new solution doesn’t have to be complicated. A basic implementation can happen in three overlapping phases.

Phase One: Put Your Cards on the Table

 If you followed the previous article of this series, you should already have a clear set of goals for what you want your solution to accomplish and an idea of who your stakeholders/decision-makers are. Get your team together and meet with the solution implementation team and their project manager to lay your cards on the table and set expectations. The implementation team should have a clear understanding of your company’s goals, whether you’re looking for financial savings, insight into spend, improved relations with outside counsel, or all of the above.

Next, you’ll want to make sure to understand the rollout process at a high level. The implementation team should provide information on the processes that will be implemented and the steps necessary to roll the solution out. They will come to the table with a list of questions for you that will dictate how they manage the implementation of the solution. Be sure to address these questions as early on in the process as possible, and to turn to your decision-makers when necessary to get those questions answered quickly.

You should also come to the table with questions of your own, and your team should take the time to understand what the rollout process will look like. How are law firms onboarded? How will the implementation team manage communication to law firms? What resources will they use to engage in these communications, and what resources do they need from you?

All of this information can be communicated in an introductory call. The more time both parties take to understand each other’s roles at the onset, the easier it will be down the line to stay on track. You should expect to have regular conversations between teams—even if they are brief—to review the rollout process as it unfolds and address roadblocks as they come up.

Phase Two: Gather Information and Resources

You will exchange plenty of information with your implementation team as the rollout gets going. For example, you will be asked to provide a current list of outside counsel contacts. You may also be asked to provide a full list of cases. Providing this information will speed up implementation, allow your firms to start billing sooner, and will likely produce more accurate reporting on the back end.

In this phase, you should will also take the opportunity to update your billing guidelines to better serve your interests. Updating these will enable your spend management solution to actually help you reduce your legal spend. The early stages of implementation are the ideal time to discuss guidelines and the impact they will have on your rollout.

It’s important for each team to hold the other accountable to realistic deadlines, and to communicate those deadlines regularly. It’s not enough to simply say “delivery x, y, or z by Thursday.” Make sure that you are clear on what you are asking for or what is being asked of you, and why that thing is important. Understanding the significance of an information set and how it fits into your implementation process is important for better understanding what resources will be available to you after the rollout.

Depending on the scope and scale of your implementation, the rollout date will become clearer as you exchange and organize information. Sticking to that rollout date depends on how well you stick to your deadlines. The quicker you bring that information to the table, the quicker you can come up with a firm rollout date. In most cases it’s better to come to the table with some data rather than none.

Phase Three: Deadlines, Approvals, and Roll Out

Once everyone has familiarized themselves with the implementation process and all relevant data has been exchanged, you can set a rollout date. It’s important to monitor the deadlines you set in the second phase, and make sure that you are aware of the outstanding approvals that may be holding up the process. A rollout date will be tentative as long as there are outstanding items that need to be discussed, reviewed, or approved. If the implementation team is depending on a crucial piece of missing data, or if the billing guidelines are pending approval, then rollout may be delayed.

A successful implementation will depend on clear vision, good communication, and mutual accountability. Be sure to engage and ask questions. Your implementation team’s experience will be an invaluable tool for you, so take advantage of it!

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