Tech Partner Talks: Putting the Right Teams in Place

In our earlier Tech Partner Talks, we shared questions to ask your tech vendor and why their answers matter, talked about the importance of law firm experience and why it’s important to know how many people are actually using the product, and the importance of understanding what happens when the implementation is finished. And while each of these talks is focused on helping you find the right partner, in this session we’ll look at both sides of the partnership — the one between vendor and firm. As always, you can find the full session as well as the earlier sessions in the Resources section of the ContactEase website.

Building the right internal team is just as important as selecting the right outside partner. You’ve heard it dozens of times if not more — it’s about the people and the processes not jus the platform. And it’s true! Including the right people from the start will help ensure buy-in for your project and keep it moving forward.

As Director of Client Services at ContactEase, Amber Elliot leads the implementation team – this means she works with clients from the start. It means working with firms rolling out CRM for the first time as well as transitioning from other products and overcoming failed implementations. After the implementation, she often finds herself offering guidance on best practices, providing a shoulder to lean on and works with our own internal teams like training and support to ensure clients receive relevant and useful content.

So, what does a successful implementation look like to Amber? Let’s hear from our in-house expert, “For me, a successful implementation really comes down to having the right team and a clear strategy. Identifying the right project team is a critical step in a firm’s planning process and it needs to be done early on. By the time a firms has signed a contract, they should feel pretty good about the vendor they’re partnering with and have probably met the people they’ll be working with, but often find that there hasn’t been a lot of thought given to the internal project team,” she said. Elliott finds that while most firms come into the project with a good idea of who the key team members will be often they’re surprised to hear her suggest adding or even not including others.

Depending on the size of the firm and the scope of the project, a typical project team for a CRM implementation might include:

  • Marketing & Business Development
  • IT
  • Internal Project Manager
  • Data Steward
  • Trainer
  • ContactEase Project Leads

Marketing/Business Development

When considering who to include from, you’ll want to think about how your team is comprised. How big is your team? If you’re a department of one (or even two), it’s pretty obvious that the entire department will be intimately involved with a software implementation. For larger teams, it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to have everyone involved. When looking at who to include from the marketing and business development, your first instinct is probably to include your director or CMO. For some firms that will be the right decision, but that’s not always the case. Often times the director or CMO will be involved in the purchase of CRM, but they’re not always the best person for the implementation team because they have higher level priorities and don’t always have the time to focus on the project at a granular level. They will often entrust other members of their team to take an active role in the project and report back to them about what they need to know and what they need to do to keep things moving forward.

When you are selecting project team members, you want to make sure they are capable of understanding the higher concept ideas and the firm’s goals for the new technology so that they can translate those messages to others in the firm and ensure the identified goals for the project are being met.

Information Technology (IT)

Of course, no tech project is going to move forward without IT involvement. And it’s especially important for your IT team to understand the project’s technical requirements. For example, an on-premise solution may require more resources than something in the cloud.

Again, you might think that a CIO or director would be the good choice, but if their responsibilities are spread thin — working across multiple projects and priorities — you may want to rethink it. Questions to ask might include:

  • Who will be working directly with lawyers and others to implement the new technology?
  • Who will be answering technical questions?
  • Can the IT members of your team effectively translate the requirements to others in their department or in the firm?

Internal Project Manager

The internal project manager is probably the most important element of your team. It’s critical that you identify one member of your team as the internal project manager. This person will work closely with both the internal team and the vendor team and is ultimately responsible for the success of the project from beginning to end. Your internal project manager should be someone who isn’t afraid to ask questions, can make sure other members of the team are meeting deadlines, and has a clear understanding of the goals and objectives for the project.

Data Stewards

The data steward is the most common role we find hasn’t been allocated at the start of the project and it’s one of the most important. There are many ways to successfully fill the data steward responsibilities. Not all firms have full or even part time data stewards. Some prefer to dedicate a staff member for a couple of hours each week, others just do it where they can. There are also companies who provide data steward services, so outsourcing is an option. There are options for automated data cleanup as well. During the implementation, you’ll want the data steward involved because there will be key milestones for things like data clean up and finalizing your internal style guide. These are things that will affect the project even after the implementation is complete.

Vendor Project Team

On the vendor side, you should also have a dedicated team. Make sure the technology partner you’re selecting tells you how they staff their project teams.

Don’t Forget About Your Stakeholders

While they aren’t official members of your project team, it’s important to involve stakeholder representatives. These are people who can convey key messages about your project and the problems it will solve to their peers. They can also work as an extension of your project team – they don’t need to be caught up in the details. Keep them well-informed and make sure they’re capable of selling the product’s benefits across the firm. And just like your project team, your stakeholders should represent user types from across the firm.

For more information on building the right teams and to hear how firms benefit, be sure to check out the full broadcast on our Resources page!

Best Practices for a Successful CRM Implementation

The list of recommendations when it comes to best practices could easily become a list longer than anyone wants to digest. But, I think it can be boiled down to 5 key suggestions. In fact, these 5 suggestions can likely lead to the success of just about any implementation.

Support from Firm Management
The sole determining factor of success when implementing a new piece of software is adoption and the adoption rates are undoubtedly going to be higher when the firm’s management is invested in the product, excited to use it and ready to encourage the rest of the firm to follow suit.

Dedicated Project Manager
Implementing ContactEase will require a team effort between Marketing and IT, but it’s easy to fall into the too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen trap. Designate a project manager at the start of the implementation who will lead the charge and keep the rest of the team working seamlessly toward the finish line.

Clearly Defined and Realistic Timeline
Be sure you map out your timeline at the start of the implementation and set realistic goals for completing each step. It’s important to move the implementation forward in a timely way to be sure you maintain everyone’s interest, but you also don’t want to fall behind schedule. Build sufficient wiggle room into your timeline and if you complete the implementation ahead of schedule, I assure you, nobody will complain.

Internal Communications Strategy
By nature, people resist change. Even the members of the firm who are enthusiastic about implementing a CRM system will need encouragement to incorporate it into their routine. The communication strategy to introduce and promote your CRM system can make or break the success of the rollout. Be sure you are clearly communicating with all users throughout the implementation and for some time after. Keep their tasks to a minimum and be sure the instructions for each step are clear. Continue to provide them with user tips/tricks to ensure they are making the most of the software. And, most importantly, be sure to communicate the benefits. The firm made a major investment and they want to see a return. Let them know how many hours the firm is saving now that you have an efficient system in place to manage the firm’s contacts and how many new opportunities you’re leveraging now that you can see the relationships that exist among the members of the firm. Be sure they understand how the CRM system benefits them.

Offering incentives boosts participation and ups the fun factor. And the list of ideas for incentives is endless, so be creative. If your budget allows, have contests or raffles throughout the implementation to energize people and meet your overall goals. Reviewing your contacts to be sure they are ready for synchronization seems like more fun if you know you might win a gift certificate for being the first to complete the task. A pizza lunch for the first practice group to finish categorizing their contacts could go a long way. Incentives don’t require a budget. You can encourage users by sharing their successes too. Look for successes to share in the firm newsletter or at practice group meetings.