KNOW YOUR PROBLEM

Damien Behan|Director of IT, Brodies

Innovation….. no wait, come back! If you’d already switched off, you were perhaps thinking ‘ … not another article about the need for law firms to think outside the box, disrupt the law and all that jazz’. I don’t blame you. As a fan of the Gartner hype cycle, it seems that with ‘innovation’ we have passed the “peak of inflated expectations” on that graph, and perhaps rolled over into the trough of disillusionment. Why? Because genuine innovation, in the sense of doing things differently, is – you know – difficult. That’s on account of all that doing things differently it requires. It involves change, and not of the go-out-and-buy-some software kind. Rather, it requires the get-colleagues-to-work-differently kind, which is much more challenging.

Focusing on the problem to be solved is the obvious first step that can get overlooked in the excitement about what’s possible. But there is also a learning curve for those with an idea for a new way of delivering a service to clients – around just how much work goes into developing a solution, and finding a lot of that work is on the legal, not just the technology, side.

While software can help to enable some change, that is only part of the answer. As any of us who’ve been in IT for some time will know, technology without people and process is destined to languish on the dusty shelf

Since embarking on a programme to improve how we work at Brodies we have been careful to stick to the mantra that it’s not all about technology. While software can help to enable some change, that is only part of the answer.
As any of us who’ve been in IT for some time will know, technology without people and process is destined to languish on the dusty shelf, hence the industry term ‘shelfware’. As an example, we have recently won a couple of innovation awards for our Workbox product, an online service that provides clients with up-to date, practical HR advice, templates and tools. Undoubtedly that was a good idea, but the gestation period was longer than anticipated, and the amount of time required to maintain the high quality of content in the system is significant. It’s genuinely a new way for clients to access material without needing to start the clock running, and gives them a flat fee for
access to high-quality content, whenever they need it. But developing a new way of selling legal services to clients also means developing a new way of delivering those services, which requires resource. Usually that means people as well as technology, and of course new processes to manage the service.
The boring truth about innovation is that it’s hard work, takes time, and starts with really understanding what problem you’re trying to solve. Rather than being blinded by shiny technology. Real innovation lies in changing how people work. That is the biggest challenge we face, whether designing a new service for clients or improving how we work internally.

This article can be found in Briefing’s July/August edition: Don’t leave us this way

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KNOW YOUR PROBLEM


Damien Behan
Director of IT, Brodies
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Richard Brent
Editor-in-chief