In last month’s article, I presented a primer on core law department technology and described its role and function in supporting the law department. Maximizing the value of that technology, however, requires vision and planning. This month, I discuss the core elements of a strategic technology plan used to capture that vision and planning:

1. Opportunities: Strategic planning begins with understanding the goals and objectives to which the strategic plan should be driving. The challenge for many law departments, however, is that lawyers often do not know how technology could be supporting them. Further, it may be difficult to articulate or even identify challenges, particularly if the department has long-lived processes or procedures to support work activities. Therefore, strategic planning should begin with a survey of the legal technology landscape, if not a broader look at the business and operation of the department in comparison to current and best practices. Outside reviews and benchmarking may be useful, as well as attending industry conferences or webinars outlining trends and developments. The goal is for the department to understand technology opportunities.

2. Relevance: Next, the department needs to look critically at each opportunity to ascertain relevance. While some initiatives may be appealing or follow the latest fads, the true measure of value is whether or not the initiative has the potential to resolve an issue or bridge the gap between where the department is and where it wants to be. Ideally, the initiatives rated highest in relevance and value should tie back to departmental and organizational goals.

3. Vision: Creating a vision requires considering which technologies will support the relevant opportunities. In some cases, several technologies must work together to support an objective. For example, for lawyers seeking to find documents related to a matter, integrating the matter management system with the document management system will facilitate matter-centric design. Ideally, the plan should include a visual depiction of the necessary technologies, their points of integration, process or data flows that bind the technologies together and critical outputs (reports, dashboards).

4. Projects: Once the vision is in place, the department must outline the projects necessary to build the vision. Projects may include additional studies, software selections and implementations, system enhancements, process design and training. The plan should contain a profile for each project, citing estimated costs, resources, dependencies and risks.

5. Prioritization: Not surprisingly, the projects within a plan typically require higher budgets or more resources than a department can reasonably provide in a single year. To identify which projects to tackle first, create a ranking of projects by relevance/value as well as a ranking by ease of implementation (the easiest getting the highest score). Factors that impact “ease” may include cost and resources requirements, company standards and controls, internal knowledge, general availability of technology and department interest in the project. Plot the projects based upon their scores:

Projects in the Quick Wins quadrant are the best bets for initial focus barring dependencies upon other projects and other externalities.

6. Roadmap: The roadmap is the final component of a plan that identifies the order in which a department will undertake the projects. Much like a typical project plan or Gantt Chart, the best roadmaps show the timing and duration of projects in relation to each other. I prefer to create plans in monthly or quarterly increments (depending upon the overall time span covered). It is fairly easy to create an Excel layout that shows each project’s duration and identifies high level costs anticipated to be incurred at each time period,

While I have seen extensive plans that incorporate additional components, those I just outlined are the most common and meaningful in that they identify the goals, the business value and approach.

In next month’s article I will take a deeper dive into the technology vision, namely, building analytics into the vision and plan.