Seven recommendations for how to have successful technology projects in your department

From guest author Steven Levy,slightly abridged, here are seven key “go-do’s” for successful Legal-IT projects. They’re based on but somewhat different from CIO Magazine’s tips, and they take into account a few ways in which “Legal is different.”

  1. Require an honest business case. ROI, ROI, ROI. I can’t repeat this enough. Return on Investment. Understand — and require proof of — the value of the project. Then follow through (see item 7).

  2. Define “Done” as the first thing you do. “Done” is a clear statement of the two or three things the law department must achieve for the project to be successful. That sounds like scope, but it isn’t. Scope is what+how; “Done” is what+why. It’s also good to align on roles and responsibilities early, but first, understand what success looks like. That’s the surest inoculation against scope creep — and it allows deferring the how until you understand more about the actual project.

  3. Track resource usage and spending – by both IT and the law department. Don’t forget the time and costs for user and customer participation, from design to training to adoption. It’s company money, not your department’s money; wear a corporate hat.

  4. Create a functional, viable communications strategy. How will you work with the users? How will you keep stakeholders informed — and how should they respond with concerns? How will the team resolve internal issues? Issues with the customer or users? How will you keep honest feedback going when bad stuff happens, as it inevitably will?

  5. Work on the highest-value items first. That’s not the same as highest priority. Yes, the highest priority items should (usually) be those delivering the greatest value… but too often, they aren’t. Even if value and priority are aligned, focusing on the value keeps bringing the team back to what the law department needs from IT and the project team. Priority is an IT concept; use value instead, the business-centric view.

  6. Create deployment and adoption plans. Many almost-successful projects fail because deployment was botched or the users resisted adoption. Getting users to adopt is hard even in technology-loving orgs; it’s much harder in the relatively technophobic legal world.

  7. Monitor what happens after implementation. It’s not (just) about sanity in the data center; it’s about ensuring that the legal department is using the solution and deriving the expected value.

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