#2 in the new Blog Series: How to Evaluate Legal Operations Solutions
Evaluating Legal Ops Solutions: Second, Ask Questions
You may remember that, in the first installment of this series, we suggested that you assemble a high-functioning team, establish priorities, and make a checklist. Having done that, you’re ready to begin the search for your Legal Ops solution.
Following are questions that will help you evaluate providers, but let’s start with one question you must ask yourself and your team – as we hinted before, it’s “the most important question you might not think to ask.”
Here it is: What will a successful legal department solution look like? How will it function and what will be the outcomes? Think it over carefully with your team, and you’ll be ready to ask ELM and other system vendors exactly how they will help make that success happen.
Begin with goals and challenges
It’s important that the provider you select understands your goals and challenges. To uncover this info, these are among the questions you might address to the candidates:
- How would your ELM system help my organization be more efficient and productive?
- What makes your software unique?
- How does your platform help us search and report on legal matters?
Ninja Tip: This area will be covered in a deeper way in the next few blogs in the series. It’s important to ask questions about what problems your vendors will help overcome and what measures will indicate a successful project outcome.
Follow the money
Ask clear questions about costs and potential extra fees:
- What is the price or price range?
- What is included?
- What are the typical add-ons?
- What would be the total cost of ownership?
Ninja Tip: Money rules the day for most projects, so get your financial questions ready.
Dive deep into specifics
Reveal everything you need to make an informed buying decision:
- Which reports are included?
- How much extra will it cost for a custom report?
- Can you import our current historical data?
- Are all matter documents accessible on any web-enabled device?
- What are the costs for custom integration with other software we use?
Ninja Tip: Each business is unique in ways that are close to the heart. Ensure you cover the areas that are most important to your business, not just general challenges. Get to the root of things that mean the most to your goals.
Ask for details on solution implementation:
- What is your implementation model or method?
- Will we need a dedicated consultant?
- Will your ELM system tax the resources of our IT group?
- How long does an implementation for our corporation size typically run?
Ninja Tip: The overall cost of your solution will include implementation, but usually as a separate cost. Avoid surprises later by asking questions up-front to ensure you and your team understand what implementation includes and costs.
Assume nothing, and probe deeply to understand their security and privacy protocols:
- How secure is your SaaS solution?
- Exactly which security measures do you use?
- Is data stored in a physical location or on virtual servers?
- Will our data have its own instance?
Ninja Tip: Getting questions answered about security allows everyone to sleep better. Peace of mind only comes when you have your concerns addressed, so make sure to include hard-hitting questions about the security of your IP.
Elicit a clear picture of how you and your outside vendors will be supported:
- How does your support work?
- Who handles the training of our team and our outside vendors?
- Can you show how your client support responds quickly and effectively?
Ninja Tip: How you will be handled after the sale is a key differentiator with most vendors. Make sure you know how they handle support, how responsive they will be, and who your point of contact will be.
What to expect
Ask probing questions about the vendor’s solution throughout the business relationship:
- Which capabilities make your ELM system unique?
- Which of your system’s features and functions outperform the competition?
- What is the most compelling reason to adopt your solution?
Ninja Tip: Ask questions that cover your expectations and those of the provider. Once you both have a firm grasp on these, your project will be less stressful and headed for success.
Go beyond the FAQs
Besides asking incisive questions, you might also try:
- Asking more open-ended, probing questions that invite dialog.
- Focusing on getting to the heart of what will meet your company-wide needs.
- Refining questions to focus on issues most important to your legal department.
Ninja Tip: Most providers have a list of FAQs. There may be more detail you need. Ask those probing questions at the onset, so you aren’t surprised later. No provider can know what’s in your head; they focus on the general ones. Make them unique to you.
The next step: Evaluate the Need
By the time you have an answer to the question, “What is the most compelling reason to adopt your solution?” you may be ready to consider a live demo. But first, we will discuss how to gauge your needs in our next post, “Evaluating the need for change.”
While every company’s checklist will vary, yours should look something like this:
- Assemble the team (Read this post)
Start a conversation with leaders in every business unit that touches yours, and, if appropriate, invite them to be part of your evaluation team.
- Ask incisive questions (You’re reading this one!)
Get to the heart of the business issue and identify a quantifiable goal.
- Evaluate the need
Consider whether the need is great enough to commit your collective resources.
- Set goals
Look at quantifiable goals for short-term (now through the next year) and longer-term (through the next 3-5 years) time periods.
- Watch for deal breakers
Discuss what, if anything, would jeopardize a decision.
- Gather evidence
Encourage members who are not part of your own unit to share challenges they face in theirs and what they’re doing to overcome them.
- Follow best practices
It’s quite possible that examples of what other teams have done will include a formal or informal list of best practices – or at least some insights for creating that list.