Digital Transformation Lesson #6: Digital Transformation Requires Changes in Process and an End to Low Value Customizations
Any law firm or department undertaking digital transformation will typically encounter a considerable number of process nuances and customizations that fly under the radar in a human executed process. I call a lot of these nuances “concierge services” because many are requested by influential attorneys “off the record” and implemented by staff without any notice to management, and typically without any thought given to countervailing considerations such as cost/benefit and quality implications. The result is that most law firm and department processes are riddled with low or no value process nuances that were requested or demanded by personnel who were only seeking to conform operations to their perceived needs using only their limited perspective as options. These sub-optimal customizations are frequently costly overkill and yield little benefit other than satisfying peculiar individual needs that are not important to the vast bulk of attorneys or staff. One example of this in the banking industry would be special treatment bank tellers might offer bank customers in a branch bank, such as filling out deposit slips in a certain way that requires special knowledge of the customer’s preferences. This level of service may not be documented anywhere and known only to one or two tellers among many.
As a result, perhaps one of the most difficult lessons of digital transformation is that unduly complex or nuanced “concierge services” are typically baked into most legal workflow processes and are becoming formidable digital transformation roadblocks, as these process customizations are not infrequently undocumented, much more complex to automate, and authored by influential individuals. If these nuances are required to be included, they can dramatically drive up the cost and time needed to digitally transform, or even derail it altogether.
So what can you do to overcome these “concierge service” issues? First and foremost, leadership has to make it clear that digital transformation is essential, and that no process is sacrosanct unless it is indispensable to getting the job done or serving the needs of the most important bulk of customers. That means for example that customizations that are only for the convenience of attorneys or paralegals (and other only slightly less convenient alternatives exist) should be viewed skeptically, as well as “nice to haves” for customers who may not or do not perceive as high value, should also be discouraged, particularly if the customer is focused on cost reduction or is cost-sensitive. This is not to say that better or new services should be discouraged – it is only that they should be designed and prioritized for implementation in a way that allows for maximum impact digital transformation.