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When Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe converted to a new document management system recently, we put to the test the lessons we had previously learned about successfully implementing new technology. In recent years, we had upgraded our IT systems on a number of fronts, adding new technology and significantly upgrading our infrastructure. From those experiences, we learned that there are a handful of “critical success factors” that ensure a successful installation. Above all, we learned that, in the end, it is not about the technology — it is about making lawyers’ professional lives easier and adding value to the enterprise. These lessons guided us during our recent conversion to iManage, the document management system developed by Foster City, Calif.’s iManage Inc. 2 MILLION DOCUMENTS Heller Ehrman has 12 offices in the United States and abroad: seven on the West coast (including Alaska); two in Asia; two on the East coast; and one in Madison, Wisc. We have 624 attorneys, 180 paralegals and 706 support staff. Our 10 document libraries contain 2 million documents. A conversion of this magnitude is never easy. Adding to the challenge was our goal of causing virtually no disruption to our attorneys and support staff. Let us skip the drama and tell you how it ended: It was a success on all fronts. Over five weekends we converted the entire firm from our former DMS service from Hummingbird Ltd. to iManage, upgrading groups of offices each weekend. It was not perfect, but it was close. What “hiccups” there were taught us even more, so future implementations will be smoother yet. How did we manage a conversion of this magnitude? Here are some of the critical success factors we employed. • Know and respect your customer. Get them involved early on. Trust that they know what they want. Listen to what they have to say. We established focus groups of attorneys, as well as secretaries and word processors, to help us identify system requirements, look at competing products, assist us in configuration decisions, and assess our approach to training and implementation. Our IT professionals are great at assessing the nuts and bolts, but you need the involvement of the professionals to whom the system matters most. • Choose wisely. With a number of good technologies available, how do you choose? In our case, we narrowed the field to two competing products, iManage and Hummingbird. Both products met — sometimes even exceeded — our technical and functional requirements. Both organizations were impressive, responsive and professional. Importantly, both were competitive in their pricing. The choice came down to this: Hummingbird’s product, though impressive, had only recently been released, while iManage had a number of solid implementations at firms very much like ours. While we had substantial confidence in both organizations, document management is a “bread and butter” application that directly affects our ability to provide legal services. A rock-solid, known quantity simply had the advantage. We went with iManage. Selecting a major system has to take into account a variety of factors. Never let technology alone drive product selection. The best product, if poorly implemented or supported, is often not the best choice. • Quality matters. As complex as this conversion would be, there was no margin for error. Our documents are important assets — a significant part of the firm’s intellectual capital. Accordingly, much of our preparation for the conversion involved testing and quality verification. For weeks on end, we ran multiple tests, converting each of our document libraries, learning lessons each time that enabled us to do better the next. By the time of the production conversion, we had a document loss rate of virtually zero. We devoted the same level of preparation and attention to detail to our desktop installation, with weeks of fine-tuning and testing of our standard installation. Little things do count and no detail is too small to merit attention. There is no such thing as a “minor” problem, when it affects 1,500 of our customers. • Communicate. Then repeat. One of the most labored-over components of any technology initiative is the communication plan. Change can be difficult under most circumstances, but when you change a system as fundamental as DMS, remember that you are turning your customer’s world upside down and invading their comfort zone. Few measures are as effective as good communication to increase users’ comfort level and encourage their participation. We have learned to plan our communications from the perspective of the people being affected. What do they need to know and understand? When do they need to know it? How can it be made clear and comprehensible? We even “brand” the implementation so that critical messages stand out from the avalanche of other information they receive. No medium is off-limits: For important messages concerning the iManage implementation, we used everything from professionally designed brochures to multilingual handouts to flyers posted in bathroom stalls. If you want to be heard, say it clearly, say it often. • Expect the unexpected. Not everything goes according to plan; something will go wrong. Technology is not perfect and neither are we. The key: Have the flexibility and adaptability to react quickly. Two weeks into our iManage implementation, we were working closely with the company’s technical development staff to fix the handful of bugs. The company was very responsive and delivered quality software “patches” as warranted. Despite everyone’s best efforts, however, one patch broke more than it fixed, most notably destabilizing Microsoft Outlook on some systems. Outlook is the most heavily used application at the firm, so this was significant. Having developed a good working relationship with iManage and having a top-notch technical team, we worked around the clock for several days to identify, test and implement a solid fix. Our ability to identify and shift resources on a dime — from implementation to problem resolution — prevented a serious problem from turning into a calamity and jeopardizing the implementation. • Don’t overload your customer. We have all heard staff complain loudly and clearly about information overload. Don’t compound this by trying to force feed training in huge portions; it is simply not effective. Our method of ensuring that training was digestible was to modularize it, providing training along separate tracks tailored to the trainee. Secretaries, for example, received more substantial training than did attorneys. While they might find a three-hour session in the classroom palatable, most attorneys would not. For the lawyers, our goal was to give them the basics. We did this in 45-minute “quick start” classes given during brown-bag lunches, “technology huddles” and one-on-one. We have since followed up with roving trainers available on request to individual attorneys. POST-IMPLEMENTATION After implementation, we followed up with well-publicized “iManage features of the week.” We also had our roving trainers drop by attorneys’ offices and ask if they could take five minutes to provide some pointers. Several months after the conversion, using our roving trainers, we have incrementally increased our attorney and staff expertise using a method that acknowledges the other demands on their time. Were our users iManage experts the Monday after the conversion? Absolutely not. We accept as truth that there is no such thing as “one-size-fits-all” training. But they had the knowledge they needed to get their work done. Robert Meadows is the chief information officer at Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe, in its San Francisco office. E-mail: [email protected]. Web: www.hewm.com.

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