Why law department technology projects fail

A side bar in Law Dept. Quarterly, Vol. 2, May-July 2006 at 22 (Jon Bellis), lists nine things that can undermine the success of a technology initiative: (1) “lack of commitment by the general counsel;” (2) “inadequate participation, understanding and buy-in among users;” (3) “unclear vision and goals;” (4) “technology viewed as an end in itself, insufficiently integrated with business goals and processes;” (5) “insufficient funding and resources to implement and maintain the system,” (6) “inadequate technical support from the organization, vendor and/or other outside resources;” (7) “failure to define metrics and monitor results;” (8) “poor project planning and management;” and (9) “unrealistic view of what it takes to succeed.” No quarrel with any of these.

But, before I ran across this list, I had offered my own technology wreakers (See my post of June 21, 2006 and its 7 reasons.), and I feel some consternation that the two lists barely match. Worse, as I ruminated on these new nine, even more obstacles appeared before me. It’s a wonder law departments are not still stuck with chisels and clay tablets!

a) The general counsel and top lawyers may only be committed to others using the software, but do not themselves walk the talk. “The GC doesn’t put documents on the new document management system.”

b) The software is hard to use. “It takes me forever to enter all that information into the new matter management system.”

c) Training is done all at once, poorly, and without tailoring. “Now, what was that told to me three months ago about creating e-mail filters?”

d) People leave who know the innards of the system or champion it. “Our trademark tracking software has languished since the paralegal left the department.”

e) The software vendor is no good. “I can’t get anyone at the help desk to tell me how to bulk enter data!”

f) The software is too advanced. “Document assembly sounds good, but we just need to share form documents.”

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