Comment: Five stages of developing a solid business case for legal tech

By Matt Gould, head of legal transformation at ContractPodAi 

With digital technology evolving at such a rapid pace, it’s no surprise that the general feeling around change – in the highest echelons of companies – is one of scepticism and uncertainty.

But in an increasingly digitalized world, technology has been changing the legal sector – all for the better. It’s not only revolutionizing the way legal at established organizations operate day to day, it’s opening the whole industry up to new-age business models altogether.     

Today, there’s a myriad of legal technologies that allow for various strategies and approaches in legal departments. Gone are the days of resorting to a one-size-fits-all technology solution. Of course, a by-product of ‘going digital’ is the ability to transform legal functions into more value-added activities. As a matter of consequence, the market for legal services like contract management has changed in interesting and significant ways, too. Partners, on both the buy-side and sell-side, have come to expect greater efficiency, predictability, and cost effectiveness overall.

“Digital continues to be one of the hot topics for [legal and procurement] functions,” World Commerce and Contracting (World CC) says. “… Teams are looking to digital in order to improve decision-making and boost internal customer satisfaction.”

Nevertheless, there’s still a reluctance to adopt and implement digital tools within some companies – a hesitancy driven by perceived costs, concerns about data security, and a lack of technological knowledge. So, if you’re a staunch digital champion in your organization, how do you go about building a business case for legal tech? How do you sell your vision to senior leadership and get complete stakeholder buy-in?

Why make a business case?

To get management teams and boards of directors to approve a digital transformation project, it’s necessary to build a proper business case. It’s vital to demonstrate why the project is needed in the first place and the benefits the project will yield.

The creation of a business case involves critically examining legal digital opportunities or alternatives, various project stages, and financial investments. That’s to recommend the best course of action that’ll lead to added business value. Naturally, a well-prepared business case can help your project stand out against the competing priorities within the organization. And in the best-case scenario, it’s the key to getting approval and finances for your entire legal digital transformation.

Five stages of developing a solid business case

In essence, the investment proposal should provide a level of confidence and certainty that the project will be successful. With such a proposal, you’re more likely to secure support and proceed with that investment.

1. Identify the opportunity

Before engaging senior leadership and stakeholders – getting them onside with any new technology – it’s worth taking the time to figure out employees’ pain points and how legal tech can resolve them. First, find out any concerns they may have about digital deployments, and identify any training requirements. Then, thoroughly describe the work situations that will be affected by your proposal, together with the business opportunities that it will bring about. This description should include the project background – and the investment logic behind it – along with the high-level business requirements.

2. Analyze and short-list options

Research a variety of digital solutions, collecting information about each alternative. Next, identify and select three or four options, developing a short list of your own. At this stage, emphasize all of the benefits associated with each solution. After all, legal digital transformation is not just about being more efficient and saving costs. It involves increasing consistency, capturing data points and reporting them, and streamlining collaboration across different teams within the organization. It empowers business users to generate legal documentation independently, for example, and makes their very function much easier.

Whatever benefits you decide to highlight, be sure to list those that will resonate the most with organizational leaders. Ultimately, show how your company can be transformed through digital innovation, if you want to get them truly excited and completely on-board.

3. Carefully evaluate short-listed options

After explaining the opportunity that’s before your organization and short-listing options, evaluate how these alternatives will affect – or deliver on – your specific business objectives. Before selecting a solution, however, take into full account its financial and strategic value, and well as its associated risks. Don’t forget to look at the price of investment, too. Establish and demonstrate also what the expected return on investment (ROI) is; more times than not, a main challenge is convincing organizational leaders that a brand-new technology will be more cost-efficient than traditional kinds.

In addition, identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will most likely convince senior leadership and stakeholders. Identifying these at the very beginning – and promising to report on these on a regular basis – reassures them that if they give the digital transformation project the proverbial ‘green light,’ they will be brought up to speed on the results of the investment.

4. Devise implementation strategy

Create the implementation plan for your preferred digital solution. It should detail how you’ll achieve your digital transformation goals; who will be responsible for each and every milestone; and how you’ll mitigate any project risks.

Following this, choose the right technology vendor for your company’s unique needs. Granted, this is challenging in such a rapidly changing marketplace. So, to make an informed decision on behalf of your organization, evaluate the system and process you have in place already, and fully understand why they’re not working optimally. Investigate how vendors’ digital offerings would benefit the legal department, in particular, and the company, more broadly. Assess the compatibility of your existing system and process with more advanced digital tools. Then, establish how vendors’ respective offers would eliminate existing internal problems, before identifying the provider that will best assist you with adoption and implementation.

5. Confirm your recommendation

Finally, it’s time to create your business case documents. More specifically, provide the project definition and scope, along with the strategic, financial, and non-financial benefits. Explain how the project fits with the overall corporate strategy, provide the risk and financial analyses, and articulate your chosen implementation approach. Next, present the business case recommendation to the management team or board for their approval – just to state the obvious!

If legal digital transformation is to take hold in your organization, senior stakeholders must see and appreciate the value of legal tech. They cannot treat it as a mere afterthought. What’s more, senior partners must be equally vocal about their support for brand-new technology, along with the benefits it will bring to the company.

Without question, then, the most valuable technology to legal departments is built with the understanding of attorneys’ workflows and customers’ individual needs. It’s crucial that senior leadership and stakeholders become cognizant of these latest digital tools to keep up with the shifting client landscape; implement strategies tied to longer-term profitability and growth; and change legal operations for the better.

So, take the proper steps to guarantee your department’s and company’s digital success – now and in the future. Evaluate legal tech that meets your attorneys’ and clients’ criteria. Focus on demonstrating efficiency, and consistent revenue and growth internally. And ensure senior leadership and stakeholders become more “digitally aware,” themselves.

But above all else, remember the most poignant question around investing in legal technology is no longer “can the company really afford to?” It’s “can the company actually afford not to anymore?”

Matt Gould is the head of legal transformation at ContractPodAi. He brings over 20 years’ experience as a general counsel leading global in-house legal teams in the telecommunications and tech sectors.  Read his executive bio here.