The Viewpoint: Digital transformation has become an existential imperative
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The Viewpoint: Digital transformation has become an existential imperative

This feature discusses the various aspects that a law practice should factor in, in its exercise of enabling digital transformation.

Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, changing how they operate. It’s also a cultural change that requires organizations to rethink old operating models, to experiment more, take failure in their stride, and become more agile in their ability to respond. At this point, it’s not about organizations choosing to transform; it’s more about deciding how to transform for its success.

While digital transformation is imperative, there are many stories that we hear of transformation gone wrong, or budgets spent on adoption of new technology only to be found too cumbersome that you revert back to status quo, having gotten nowhere. This understandably then results in hesitation to get started with adopting digital.

This feature discusses the various aspects that a law practice should factor in, in its exercise of enabling digital transformation.

Steps of digital transformation
Steps of digital transformation

1. Define what digital means to your organisation

Digital means different things to different people. To one person, it may mean going paperless; another might think of data analytics and artificial intelligence; another might picture agile teams; and yet another might think of radical house cleaning of redundant or conflicting systems.

Defining what it means to your operations will ensure that the conversations are steered accordingly.

2. Have clear goals - Don't do it for the sake of it!

Don’t be under the pump just because everyone around seems to be getting on to the digital bandwagon. Do an internal assessment, identify the gaps and pain points, and how these can be mitigated using technology or solutions that use technology. Defining what you are hoping to achieve with your digital transformation initiative will:

- Bring about clarity across the organisation

- Help to educate and inform all the stakeholders

- Make the evaluation of the exercise objective at each stage

- Will assist in course correction if required

Example of clear and ambiguous objectives:

Clear Objective – Create a centralised repository of all closed cases which is accessible to authorised users.

Ambiguous Objective - Need to have a paperless office

Clear Objective – Need to get automatic alerts for all hearing dates of cases across courts in India. Relieve the two resources manually tracking cases for other tasks.

Ambiguous Objective – Getting alerts for case hearing.

3. Start small – Do a proof of concept

Start with a few processes of the organization’s operations and move on from there, instead of shaking up the entire operations. Identify the low hanging fruits, early-stage projects that can give you some observable outcomes in simplifying operations and increasing efficiency. Use these results to then build momentum.

The positive results achieved can become a catalyst to lead the change for bigger solutions, and overcome the initial resistance. Also, any setbacks can be course corrected before the process is mapped on a larger project.

For Example:

Start with moving one matter on the cloud instead of moving all the matters, or move only the closed and archived matters to the cloud platform. Let the teams experience the conveniences of using a single unified platform, such as accessing documents anytime from anywhere; finding the right document in minutes when needed; see the audit trail of editing of any document etc. Once the team experiences the advantages, they will be open to implement the change on a bigger canvas.

4. Get a buy in from the team

Successful digital transformations require a cross-functional, and an all-hands-on-deck approach. A non-negotiable ‘all-in’ commitment of the entire organization is a precursor to embarking upon technology deployment.

There needs to be a consensus at the outset in terms of the "why." Without the why, people typically retreat and keep their heads down. They focus on themselves and their deliverables, which creates internal silos. And ‘silos’ are the enemy of an agile, collaborative organization.

Clearly convey the objective, rationale and goals of the transformation strategy to the team. A clearly defined objective helps highlight the advantages the change or new introduction will bring about, and how in return it will assist each member. It’s critical to ensure that everyone is on the same page at the beginning, and understands the organizational challenges as well as those facing their respective teams/departments.

5. Cultural change to be led from the top

Adoption of technology is akin to a cultural change, one which needs to be led from the top.

An environment needs to be created by the partners and seniors, where the teams are encouraged to adopt technology in their routine tasks, slowly building the momentum for adopting innovative digital solutions that will make operational workflows efficient.

To change the organisational DNA into a Digital First’ mind-set, a continuous improvement mindset, a sense of always upgrading, building better processes and systems, improving commercial relationships, increasing market share, and developing leadership needs to be inculcated. This is an ongoing process with no cut-off date.

6. Getting the right people to do it

We often hear, “our processes are unique, we will do it, or build it ourselves” and, “It’s digital transformation, how hard can it be?”

Simply put, many organizations decide to embark on a major transformation alone. However, with new technologies, faster pace and execution are becoming the norm and thus specialized help can be a game changer.

Identify the right technology partners and consider them an integral part of your execution strategy.

7. Leadership buy-in

Organizational models and cultures in today’s time no longer necessarily rely on top-down systems and thus we are seeing organizations operate from the bottom up. Thus, if the top management is not leading the digital transformation initiative, do not assume that management will be convinced of the benefits.

To ensure that all are on the same page, over-communicate and articulate not just what you are trying to achieve, but the problem you are solving. All stakeholders need to be on board with the transformation strategy and business goals.

8. Last but not the least, be realistic

Since technology is fast paced, there is a tendency to set terribly ambitious deadlines and desire over-inflated outcomes. Also, heed needs to be given to recognizing employees’ fear of being replaced with tech tools.

Here’s a quick checklist on what is required to be included in your High-Level Digital Strategy:

1. Clearly defined objective, goals and why’s.

2. An outline of all the digital strategy phases, with a realistic timeline for implementation.

3. Examples of organizations' current projects or competitor projects, which demonstrate the benefits of transformation.

4. Data analytics that demonstrate cost savings, profits, customer retention, and other benefits.

5. Researched forecast on how the plan will change business operations.

6. A system to track how the digital transformation strategy has resulted for your business.

7. Requisite technical infrastructure for handling the digital transformation initiative successfully.

A strong technology foundation acts as the backbone of any digital transformation initiative.

In order to embed the digital DNA within the team, it is essential that your organization has a strong technological foundation that can deploy and implement digital initiatives with ease and comfort.

All relevant infrastructure requirements should be foreseen to ensure seamless integration of technology across functions integral to justify the investment made into technological tools.

Digital transformation will look different for every organization, thus define what digital means to your practice. Sometimes, it may mean walking away from long-standing business processes in favour of relatively new practices that are still evolving.

Once you have identified your goal and taken the idea to adopt digital transformation in your organisation’s stride, it is imperative to remember that while this feels like a technical change, leadership and culture are at the heart of the concept of digital transformation. A change that is led from the top and imbibed with an attitude to learn the technology is crucial in making this a success.

It is understandable that the shift to new legal technology can be overwhelming at first. However, with trained and experienced professionals leading the way, using tools that enable collaboration, communication, and task management, the change to legal technology can be smooth and convenient.

It is Imperative to note here that quantifying success is crucial to continued investment, and key performance indicators have to be thus set out. Once goals are achieved, checkboxes are ticked the process would be more conducive going forth.

Priyanka is the COO at Manupatra Information Solutions / myKase

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