Overcoming change and embracing new technology

Is it possible to turn reluctant end-users into technology superstars?

November 5, 2020
Clare Brown

There are many reasons why library managers should be avid readers of legal IT surveys. They are useful in giving an overview of the market, a focus on current thinking and attitudes, offer an insight into trends, and provide advanced warning on potential future developments. 

Therefore it was with pleasure and interest that I attended the recent webinar, "Legal Tech: Turn Your Reluctant Users into Power Users". The host, Brian Jones, discussed various findings from the recent ILTA 2020 Technology Survey and then outlined some practical approaches to get reluctant end-users to adopt and embrace the change. 

All change! The ILTA 2020 Technology Survey

One of the questions in the recent ILTA 2020 technology survey concerned the "Issues and Annoyances" that people in IT experienced. They reported that "acceptance of change" was the top issue they faced, although it was only up a single point compared with last year. Security risks remain in the top 3, but this is to be expected.

Some Top Issues and Annoyances 

  • 38% - acceptance of change
  • 31% - change: managing expectations of users and management
  • 27% - security risks (especially when dealing with remote working)
  • 27% - keeping up with tech
  • 19% - getting people to participate in training

With everyone working from home, this year has seen online training and training online take centre stage, so it was unsurprising that the survey highlighted IT support and training. When I have been speaking with information people, they mention issues around user access and database training. IT departments are facing even bigger challenges. 

The survey asked about these big challenges. For example, how are IT departments coping with supporting large numbers of users suddenly working-from-home? Respondents mentioned troubleshooting non-firm equipment and systems and providing remote access training and support. "Equipping home offices" was also high up the list of challenges. 

Tech, research, surveys! What is everyone talking about? >>

Everything revealed in this survey merely confirms that IT concerns haven’t changed very much in the past few years, merely that everything is now remote and urgent. At the BIALL conference in 2018, two firms’ library services from Gowling WLG and Withers LLP shared their experiences as they prepared staff for a shift to agile working. 

Even then they concluded that people require exceptional IT training, well equipped home offices and a certain level of self-sufficiency. I would imagine that both of those firms entered this period of enforced working from home positively, knowing they could offer uninterrupted services - for the most part. 

Challenges that IT teams have faced in 2020

In my opinion they are similar to the challenges that library and information teams need to overcome. IT and information services are critical to the ongoing success of the business but there is evidence that employees are resistant to technology. As firms move to reassure employees, they need to address:

  • A change in mindset and attitude
  • Identify what matters
  • Migrate as much as possible to the cloud
  • And most importantly, focus on people

Keep in mind, however, during this uncertain time people are overwhelmed - even if they are tech-savvy and open to change. This HBR article states that actual adoption of new and emerging technologies across most organisations continues to be less than optimal, and that the fallout from the pandemic has turned a concern into a crisis.  

A requisite for creating a culture of technology adoption lies in making the infrastructure around it — including IT networks and systems, software, processes, and practices — supportive and user friendly. 

Without both investment and a thoughtful execution plan for new technologies, it is difficult to convince employees of the benefits of adopting new technologies.  (Why do your employees resist new tech?, August 2020)

New call-to-action

Technology adoption is a people business

The quote above makes two important points. Firstly, user friendliness and support is essential. And secondly, people must see the benefits of tech adoption for themselves. We take our personal devices for granted because they are constant companions and we have become accustomed to their benefits For the most part, the most successful apps are those which are most intuitive and easy to use.

Developers have learned to make the difficult technology around personal technology 'disappear'. Smartphones, Fitbits, sat navs, Fire Sticks are so seamless and interconnected that we jump in, see their immediate benefit and enjoy using them. If work tech was this straightforward and invisible, tech adoption would have a 100% success rate!

When library and IT teams are appealing to reluctant workplace end-users we must focus on their needs, as well as those of the businesses. To change everyone’s mindset and attitude we need to know what matters, and come with a tried and tested workflow to keep us on track. 

A recent blogpost from my favourite tech-minded lawyer focused on collaboration and the breaking down of silos, which in my view, is an essential part of tech adoption. His concern regarded the unique management style of many law firms. As he said,

Law firms and lawyers have some peculiarities that cause many partners to not enthusiastically adopt the collaboration to break down silos. That prevents firms from using data effectively. To overcome this, law firm leaders must have a core driving vision that will enable partners to trust leadership more than be self-focused. 

Leadership has to show commitment to getting and servicing clients and eliminate all other agendas. The ones hidden and sometimes not so hidden. To succeed, especially in the future as data becomes more important, like [Steve] Job’s Apple, every decision a law firm makes should be made using the mission of getting and serving clients as the lodestar.

As I go on to describe Brian’s tech adoption model, it becomes clear that leadership is essential in getting all end-users to achieve tech superstar status. 

A practical approach to find out what matters

Brian outlined a practical approach to a successful tech adoption. At the heart of this is communication and collaboration:

  • Gather Intel: Gathering intelligence by listening to leadership, influencers, finance, HR, business development, and knowledge and information teams
  • Target the problem: Target the problem by writing a single statement saying precisely what the problem is, and the suggested solution (likely a combination of tech and processes)
  • Develop measurables: Develop measurable indicators of problem resolution
  • Present solution: Present the technical and process solution together, and make success contingent on upon its adoption
  • Gather more intelligence! What does leadership, and all the influencers within the firm say about the adoption

download Vable's business case

This workflow is applicable to the implementation of any kind of solution and it reminds me of the work I did on creating Vable’s business case template. The template provides a blueprint for the three central points he mentions; the problem, the measurables, and the solution. However in my view the “gather intel” at the beginning and end remain the most important - and challenging sections.

  • Gather Intel: A Director of Information and Knowledge expresses concern about the firm’s existing manual current awareness provision; lack of flexibility, no future proofing, and possible missed opportunities 
  • Target the problem: Understand current awareness requirements for both the firm and clients, and outline Vable’s content aggregation platform
  • Develop measurables: How much time would be saved; is there increased use of expensive subscription databases; how many alerts are being delivered and opened; how many articles have been shared; how many clients are using your current awareness
  • Present solution: Present Vable, set up a trial amongst key users, promote the benefits to the firm, training and support, maintain confidence and buy-in at all levels and from all departments
  • Gather more intelligence! Focus on the people and get feedback on how it is for them personally. In terms of business needs, what does leadership, and all the influencers within the firm say about the adoption of a current awareness solution? Is it helping the firm’s brand, reputation, responsiveness to clients’ needs

New call-to-action

I would conclude that with the right level of support and implementation strategy, it is not just possible to create an organisation of self-sufficient power users, but it’s essential for the future of the business. However, firms’ management must also be prepared to invest in the right technology, encourage and support, and lead by example. 

How has tech adoption changed in your firm in 2020? Has COVID-19 sped up the process of adoption in your firm?