| Natalie Fedie

From Vision to Value: How Pilot Programs Accelerate Measurable Business Results

Rising client expectations, alternative fee arrangements, and security compliance standards are a few of the challenges facing the legal industry today. To overcome these challenges, law firms are turning to technology solutions to transform their business processes and better secure their client’s data. However, many of these technology initiatives fail, not because of how they are deployed, but rather due to an unclear vision, poor adoption, lack of alignment with higher business objectives, or absence of stakeholder engagement.


A successful change management initiative must align with a firm’s culture, people, structure and priorities, along with being the right solution to solve the firm’s main business challenges. A pilot program is a great strategy to prove the viability and mitigate the risk of a technology investment. It also allows you to identify any deficiencies before substantial resources are committed.


By definition, a pilot program is a small-scale implementation, one that not only enables organizations to get a better idea of the costs and benefits of a project before committing, but provides a framework for incorporating change throughout the organization.


As with all project activities, success is founded on the clarity of objectives and outcomes, clear communication with teams and aligned expectation with stakeholders.


Here are a few recommendations to consider when thinking about launching a pilot:


Set a clear vision

Establish the objectives of the pilot program up front to ensure you are tracking the right success criteria and have a way to measure your accomplishments. Ask what success will look like and how the outcomes help solve the larger business challenges. Measurable outcomes can be as simple as saving time, eliminating non-billable administrative activities or increasing client satisfaction.


Determine the right timing and scope

Once you’ve determined the vision for the pilot program, you need to decide on the length of time it will take to achieve your objectives. Consider testing specific functionality that will provide the greatest value rather than every available feature. You might decide to run your program for 14 days, 30 days, or longer. Identify the appropriate time to accomplish your goals and focus only on the goals you are trying to achieve. It’s important to use the technology as it will normally be used in a day-to-day setting, but also allow time to understand the level of effort needed to learn new processes. The testing phase will enable you to make more informed decisions and develop a specialized onboarding plan specifically designed for your organization.


Keep the number of participants small and actively involved

When you’re piloting new technology, you want to have a big enough group to get sufficient feedback, but small enough so that you can keep the group engaged in the process. An interested team of people (usually between 10-20 people) within an organization or a specific practice area can be a good place to start. Convincing them how the software will make their lives easier should be top priority so you can build a team of advocates. The pilot group will be essential if you decide to expand the use of the technology at your organization as they will become champions and a resource that can assist with onboarding new users.


Measure and share your success

It is important to track and measure pilot performance from the very beginning. Identify key metrics that will help show progress toward business objectives. Share the results with the team and stakeholders. The data you collect will also be important in helping you make informed decisions about how to implement the solution to a broader group. Adoption analytics can boost your organization’s chances for success in driving digital transformation. Analytics replace hunches and guesswork with insights and quantifiable data about stakeholder issues and concerns. In doing so, you can identify implementation challenges early, allowing larger-scale adoption to run more smoothly.


Although the thought of implementing a pilot program seems like it could delay the recognized value of a technology initiative, according to Scott Clasen, the director of marketing at TimeSolv Corporation, in his article The Profitable Benefits of Legal Project Management, proper planning could have a direct impact on increasing profitability.  Pilot programs help you better plan, manage and utilize resources. It is worth the effort and in the end your technology initiatives have a greater chance of succeeding and sustaining long-term benefits for your organization.