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System and process change: hard, harder, hardest

Though the rewards can be significant, implementing new systems and processes always seems like such a massive challenge. And it is. It is hard work to determine what the current process is, where it meets and does not meet your organizational objectives, and then to map out the desired process. Once done, it can be harder yet to implement your new system and process that will improve the product or service delivery. Inevitably, this means change for many people. But, once you have people using your newly developed and implemented system and process, you are still not into the rewards. To use a football analogy, you are only now inside the 10-yard line. You still need to push it into the end zone. You now need to get your organization to use the outcome of this new system and processes to make smarter decisions and take you closer to achieving your organizational goals. For those recalling my last article, this is where you get your return on resource investment — or RORI. This last step is the hardest. Hard, harder, hardest.

Project charters

How you manage your project — and that is what implementing new systems and processes is — is important. We use project charters to manage our projects, and I would recommend you do the same. These set out what all involved agree they will do and not do, who will do it, with what resources and on what timeline. They are particularly important where the project is cross-functional.

Process mapping = hard

Before you can solve your problem, you need to break it down into its pieces. As much as you may think of yourself as a T-shaped lawyer, this is where you might need help. We have Business Process Improvement experts whose skill is to break down and map out business processes. They know how to build out a process map and follow the thing through the process — not what people do with it. It’s an important distinction. For example, for a contract management process map, you will want to map the journey of a contract, not what people do to generate a contract. You can’t know what systems or process changes will improve your contracting process until you know each step a contract takes from cradle to grave. Furthermore, you will likely have variations on this process depending upon the nature of the contract. A renewal of a $5,000 cloud-based click-through licence requires a very different process than does a new $1-million HR Information System or a new $150,000 licence for a CRM. All of this needs to be mapped out for your desired state.

You will also need to get organizational buy-in for your change. Sell, sell, sell! But, that is a whole other article. Stay tuned.

Implementation = harder

Now that you have your process mapping complete and understand what systems and processes you are going to use to achieve your organizational objective, you will need to implement them. This will involve some degree of development/coding skills regardless of whether you are building it or customizing an off-the-shelf solution. You will also need development skills to build out the inevitably necessary APIs or other tools to get any technology side of your solution to talk to other key systems in your organization. For example, if you are implementing a new contract management system, at the very least, it will need to talk to your finance system. So, reach out to your development team early.

You will also need to train those that will be using the newly implemented system and process. There will no doubt be a hard skills aspect to this training. But there will also be the more critical change management side to the training. Any time you change what or how people do things, there will be resistance and frustration. If you are involving new systems or a change to an existing system, there will inevitably be bugs and glitches to resolve. On top of this, you will likely be operating both the old and new systems for a period of time while you ensure the new system is functioning properly.

Lastly, if your project involves a new system, you will need to ensure adequate future resources will be made available for fixes, updates and training of new users.

Use = hardest

Congratulations. You have now mapped out and implemented your new system and process. Users are trained and it is being supported. This is awesome. But don’t pat yourself on the back yet. You have not yet achieved the organizational objective. You are in the red zone — not the end zone. You now have modest RORI, not the real win. Back to football. You are now in field goal range. But it’s the touchdown you want.

You now need to get the leaders in your organization to use the output of the new system and process to make smarter decisions. This is the real RORI. To stay with the contract management example, you have mapped out your new process and implemented a new contract management system and process. How does this help your organization? The improved process itself will no doubt increase the speed of your contracting, have all contracts in one place and reduce the risk of committing to contracts that are not approved by the organization. You have some RORI, and this is good. But there are vast amounts of data that a contract management system can provide your leaders to make smarter decisions. For example, you may find that you are spending significant time negotiating low-risk contracts, such as NDAs, and relatively less time assessing risk on critical software licence deals because they are click-through contracts. These types of insights can help you better align legal resources with key organizational objectives. This really moves the needle on RORI. Congratulations. You are now behaving like a modern in-house lawyer and are in the end zone.