By Patty P. Tehrani
Founder of Policy Patty Toolkit (www.policypatty.com)
Selecting the best technology or software solutions to help legal staff complete various tasks is never an easy decision. Boundless options are available, and there is always the dilemma of going with a vendor or trying to build something in-house. Researching these solutions for some clients, I discovered that much of their focus ended up on the selection criteria rather than the actual vendors.
Based on my research, I prepared the attached roadmap and process overview to highlight key steps for considering, selecting, and deploying legal or compliance software (and possibly other technology with the necessary adjustments).
While no one application is right for all users, the one you choose for your organization should consider various factors against the size and complexity of your organization, such as:
- knowing what you have;
- what you need;
- how the application/software will be used and by whom;
- how much you can spend; and
- what you need to do to acquire and maintain it.
Leveraging these factors here’s an overview of key steps to consider for evaluating your next technology solution.
Define Needs – determine your needs by identifying a project lead, your stakeholders, milestones and obtaining budget and approval to move forward:
o Assign Project Lead – assign a project lead to coordinate the initiative from beginning to end and to ensure that your evaluation process works as seamlessly as possible.
o Engage Stakeholders – identify stakeholders in your organization to provide input into defining your needs and to help assess and select the software.
o Define Milestones – determine what your objectives and goals are in choosing a technology solution (which process do you want to create, address, improve, or replace).
o Obtain Approval and Budget – make sure you have approval and a budget to move forward since without these your evaluation process will be an exercise in futility.
Conduct an Assessment – review what you have to help determine what you will need:
o Prepare and Launch Project Plan – using your milestones develop and use a project plan to map out the key measures for each milestone and the timeline for completing these.
o Inventory Current Resources – identify your current resources to help define your technology needs (what you are using, why you are using it, who is using it, and how you are using it) including any issues and challenges.
o Prepare Assessment Criteria – with help from your stakeholders develop selection criteria to assess and select the software, such as:
- Legal, Compliance and Regulatory Actions
- Financial Stability
- Marketplace/Industry presence
Functions and Features
- Help features
- Menus and commands
- Speed and accuracy
- Generation and types of reports
- Ease of use
- Search capabilities
- Authentication and access controls
- Mobile Technology
- Ability to track/audit trail
- Termination Terms and Conditions
- Audit Trail
- Compliance management
- Integration with current applications/systems
- Export data functionality
- Access to and frequency of upgrades
- Business Continuity controls
o Research Vendors and Software Solutions – conduct a preliminary search of potential solutions by consulting your industry contacts or checking out legal or compliance technology websites, newsletters, blogs, and any other information (see ABA Legal Technology Resource Center).
o Identify Potential Vendors and Solutions – identify potential vendors based on your research and ask for product information.
o Conduct Demonstrations – test the software in as many ways as possible:
- download or request an online demonstration/trial version of the software; try the software on your desktop;
- try the software on your desktop;
- ask for in-person demonstrations of the software; and
- if you have staff, have the staff try the software.
Select Vendor – use results of demonstrations and follow-ups to identify and eventually select the vendor/solution you will engage for your technology needs:
o Identify Top Vendors – compile and review the final results to identify the top vendors that can best address your needs:
- use your assessment criteria/list of absolute necessities to identify the top vendors;
- meet with the top vendors and include your key stakeholders for a final Q&A session; and
- perform due diligence on the top vendors.
o Select Vendor and Software – select the software vendor in consideration of:
- input from stakeholders;
- final demo and/or Q&A results;
- due diligence results; and
- how much the software will cost from implementation through to upgrades and maintenance.
o Complete Vendor Agreement – complete the selection process via contract drafting and negotiations. If you have a defined process, follow that.
Implement it – operationalize your new software to start using it:
- work with your tech staff to integrate the new software into the relevant applications;
- before launch, test the software with a small group to make sure it works as expected;
- create or update any relevant procedures to account for the new software; and
- deliver training to relevant staff.
Maintain it – operationalize your new software to start using it:
- monitor the software to assess its use to make sure it is working;
- apply any upgrades from the vendor or those that you have identified through usage; and
- conduct periodic reviews of your training, procedures, and agreement (recommend an annual review) to determine if any changes are warranted and issue updates as needed.
Having a defined process that is methodical, collaborative and documented, will most likely result in finding an effective solution. It will also help you avoid potential pitfalls – wasted time and resources not to mention deploying technology that doesn’t work. It may seem like too much time to spend on technology with your other priorities but know that your efforts upfront will in the long term be worth it.
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Patty P. Tehrani is an experienced compliance counsel and advisor and the founder of the Policy Patty Toolkit (www.policypatty.com).
Patty has expansive knowledge and expertise on policy development as well as governance and risk management programs, processes
and controls. You can follow her on LinkedIn or contact her via firstname.lastname@example.org.