In the next few years, almost every law firm will be in line for either an upgrade or conversion of their practice management system. Well-known acquisition and sun setting announcements and new entrants into the marketplace have made the need to migrate to new technology a priority. This realization has struck fear and dread in the hearts and minds of many law firm operators – with good reason. System upgrades and conversions can be time-consuming and fraught with potential customizations as well capital output. But there are ways to minimize the pain and maximize the rewards of a conversion.
Whether your firm is considering 3E, Aderant Expert, Juris, SAP, or any other system, now is the time to think of a system upgrade as an opportunity for improvement. The temptation is to try to find a system that will allow you to do the things the same as you have always done them, thinking that will cause the least disruption to your people and processes. For example, I was in a meeting where a firm was moving from Aderant to 3E and their first instinct was to find a way for their new system to perform exactly as the old system. The same can be true for clients going from Enterprise to Aderant or any system for that matter. I just spoke with a CFO who longed for the days of Javelan. Approaching a transition with this mindset is shortsighted and will most likely cause you more difficulty over time.
In the last 3 weeks I’ve had no less than 10 conversations with firm leaders who all echoed a similar sentiment, “Wow, I really wish we took the time to map out how we could use this change to improve operations and deliverables.” Some of those comments were focused on strategy, some on mapping out timelines or avoiding hidden costs, others really embraced the fact that they had a chance to address major flaws with their current processes and they didn’t. Instead of taking the time to get the most out of their technology project, they spent the time just trying to hold the status quo.
Change is difficult and for those of that have been through conversions; we know that it can be quite time-consuming as well. Upgrades tend to be more streamlined, but despite new functionality, the focus is often to make sure that the firm can operate as it always has.
Every firm needs to alter this way of thinking and map out a plan use the new technology as a tool for improvement. Spending time planning for transformation saves you time and money in the long run. What are some of the variables to consider?
Think of all the information, processes, and procedures that flow through your financial management system. Whether it is client intake, rate management, task and phase coding, reporting, practice management structures, billing, collection guidelines, compensation (in some cases,) or general firm structure – it all flows through the financial management system. Consider how to improve upon these practices by conferring with peers, researching published information, or consulting with a trusted technology advisor. Review all of the potential improvements, threats, and tangential factors. This step alone will help your eventual migration roadmap.
Here is a diagram that outlines an ideal conversion/upgrade process:
How can your firm can ever get to system selection without going through strategy and self-diagnosis? How do you know what system fits your firm best if you haven’t figured out what your firm should be doing?
The fear and dread, although natural, must stop and be replaced by common sense and proactive thinking. These next few years are an opportunity to use the migration of technology as a tool to improve operations. Take the time for self-diagnosis and preparation. Not only will you be in a better place after the migration, but you will most likely have saved a ton of money and set yourself on a path for future success.
To learn how Wilson Allen can help your transition to new technology, visit www.wilsonlegalsol.com.
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