Digitisation: 5 practical steps to get started

Law Firms Technology
2 April 2019

In our previous article (available here), we looked at the key digital technologies that are going to disrupt the Estate planning industry.  Now we turn our attention to 5 practical steps you can take to start or advance your digitisation strategy.

ACTION 1: DEFINE YOUR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Digitisation is not just having a great website.  Your firm’s website is a shop window, and is predominantly one-way.  It provides a platform for telling your clients about you, your services, how skilled / experienced / approachable / innovative you are, and how clients can contact you.

Digitisation is two-way – you want your clients to interact with your business using the internet as a channel.  And just like any other channel between you and your clients, it starts with an understanding of them and their needs.  Ask yourself:

  • Who are our target customers?
  • What problems are they trying to solve?
  • How will they go about solving this problem?
  • How would they like to buy services (from us) to help them achieve this?

You need a clear understanding of their needs, not just your capabilities.  Where possible, validate your understanding with your existing clients (or those who you would like to be your clients!)

ACTION 2: TAKE AN HONEST LOOK AT YOUR ORGANISATION

This step is applicable across a whole range of business initiatives, but becomes especially important when you’re entering the “brave new world” of digitisation.  Without honest introspection, it is easy to join the digitisation train because it’s seen as the right thing to do, without the true appetite for change that will be required to be successful.

Questions to ask of your organisation include:

  • As an organisation, are we proactive or reactive?
  • Are we innovators, prepared to forge our own path, or would we rather sit back until technology and approaches have been proven to work?
  • What are our internal capabilities? What skills and services might we need to buy in?
  • Who will lead this process within our organisation? How will decisions be made?

It is important to understand the level of commitment (both financial and time) that you are prepared to invest, and to set realistic expectations for what is achievable, what payback might be obtained and by when.

ACTION 3: DEFINE YOUR STARTING POINT

The path to digitisation can be both incremental (building capability on the back of previous initiatives) and experimental (testing new approaches and not being afraid to change tack if required).  In both cases, the journey is typically iterative – involving many small steps rather than a few giant leaps.

With your clear understanding of your customer’s requirements (action 1) and your honest appraisal of your organisation’s commitment (action 2), you can determine the starting point that best suits you and your needs:

  • Are you embarking on an innovative initiative that will disrupt the industry, or are you building on existing steps to increase your digital capability?
  • Are you exploring a new opportunity on a small scale, or will your undertaking affect a proportion of your existing client base?

ACTION 4: START SMALL, CHOOSE EASY WINS, WATCH AND LEARN

Digitisation initiatives – increasing the digital interaction between you and your clients – don’t have to be large-scale, large budget activities.  There are many ways to start with more moderate initiatives that are often more palatable in terms of financial and time investment:

  • The increase of API integration services and off-the-shelf, system-to-system connectors allows organisations to connect their existing systems to increase efficiency, eliminate business processes bottlenecks and improve accuracy.
  • SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) solutions allow you to try out new technology without expensive capital expenditure. Often the base-level solution is available at low or no cost, or you can trial the software to prove it works for you before committing to a subscription.
  • Social media campaigns can be carried out to increase brand awareness, or to promote services, and the results are immediately visible (and quantifiable).

The important thing is to pick something that is achievable, then make a start and – most importantly – measure the results!

ACTION 5: FIND SUPPLIERS TO GIVE YOU A TECHNICAL STEP UP

The chances are that you don’t have a large, in-house development team skilled up in the right technologies for all aspects of your organisation’s digital future.  You’re going to need the support and input of technical suppliers with the right skills, experience and attitude for your needs.

Just like choosing the right lawyer, selecting a technology provider can appear daunting but, in the end, it comes down to the 3 same aspects:

  • Professional competence. Do they possess the right skills for the initiatives you want to undertake?  Can they demonstrate a track record of success?  (Although this can be tricky with “cutting edge” technology.)  Do they have sufficient capacity to fulfil your requirements as well as meeting the demands of their other clients?
  • Attitude. Do they understand the problems that you (and your clients) are facing?  Do they offer sensible and pragmatic advice?  Can they map out a way forward that you can understand and believe in?  Do they provide thought leadership to help inform you?
  • Trust. Are they a secure organisation that will be around when you need them?  Do they have a roadmap for consideration of emerging technologies (such as AI and Blockchain)?

There isn’t really a magic “one size fits all” process for supplier selection, but my advice is not to overcomplicate matters.  Often, selection is best achieved by open discussion: being frank about the challenges you face and your own capacity (or lack thereof) to meet these challenges.  The actions already outlined above will put you in the best position to have this kind of discussion, and to connect with a supplier who is the right fit for your unique situation.

TO SUM UP

In part one of this article we saw that:

  • Digitisation in the Wills and estate business is going to intensify;
  • This is being driven by technologies that are becoming more commonplace and widely adopted.
  • For individual firms, and for the industry, digitisation creates significant opportunities right now, and
  • AI and Blockchain have the power to fundamentally the way we do business in the future.

In this second article we’ve seen how you can be part of this journey by:

  • Working from the customer experience first.
  • Starting small (but making sure you do start!)
  • Looking for easy wins and building from there.
  • Being honest about your business, and your commitment to change.
  • Working with a trusted technology partner.

The future is exciting and the future is digital – your challenge is to make sure that you are part of the future, and not stuck in the past!

~Lincoln Watson, Arken.legal CEO