Surmounting obstacles on the road to digital transformation

Introduction

In the last decade, modern, high-tech tools have raised the bar for service excellence. Industry-leading organizations like Uber, Amazon, and Netflix have leveraged technology to maximize client convenience and process efficiency. The public has come to expect amenities such as 24/7 customer service, digital delivery, and personalized value from every brand they engage with – from shopping to entertainment to healthcare.

To provide these amenities, organizations must undergo “digital transformation”: integrating digital technology into their business processes. Market drivers have pushed digital transformation across industries, but some sectors have been more responsive than others. 

The legal industry has been particularly conservative in its approach to digital transformation. Law firms have historically been wary of change, as it can introduce new liabilities. They typically lack what is described as “cultural readiness”: “a high degree of alignment between cultural norms and a proposed change” when it comes to new technology.

This blog post will explore how law firms can generate cultural readiness for digital transformation. We will discuss how to (1) determine your firm’s current level of cultural readiness, (2) overcome innovation stagnation, and (3) convince skeptics to get on board.

What is Your Firm’s Level of Cultural Readiness?

In late 2020, Synaptiq launched an investigation into digital transformation in the legal industry. We conducted a series of interviews with leaders from a diverse group of law firms and collected our findings in a research brief, which you can download here.

Notably, we found that firms tend to fall across the following levels of cultural readiness: 

  1. Starting. Firms on the starting level prefer a conservative approach to digital innovation: one which allows them to continue using current processes and tools. They introduce new technology through incremental (not radical) changes. Their digital transformation is highly IT-dependent and, as such, competes against many other technology needs.
  2. Exploring. These firms prefer an opportunistic approach to digital innovation, often driven by a tech-enthusiast leader with specific requests. Their digital transformation involves opportunistic projects led by existing technology teams with executive input.
  3. Leading. Firms on the “leading” level of cultural readiness prefer a comprehensive digital transformation approach, requiring a firm-wide strategy led by dedicated, executive-level roles. Their digital transformation is well-funded, prioritized, and systemic. 

You can determine your own firm’s cultural readiness based on the descriptions above.

Overcoming Stagnation

“Innovation stagnation” occurs when an organization fails to introduce new technology for an extended period and (consequently) falls behind in terms of technical acumen and resources. If your firm is on the starting level of cultural readiness, you are likely experiencing innovation stagnation. To overcome it, we recommend that you begin digital transformation with a short-term project that has a high likelihood of success.

This initial project will serve as a quick confidence-boost and warm-up for your firm’s IT department. Assign it to an IT manager who is a “believer” in innovation and willing to go the extra mile to exceed expectations. The worst thing you can do is set this project up for failure with a skeptical manager or insufficient resources; this will kill momentum for digital transformation — the opposite of the project’s intended effect.

Convincing Skeptics

In any law firm — really, any organization — you will find “skeptics”: individuals resistant to change and wary of new technology. Skeptics often have good reasons for their inhibition. Perhaps they witnessed a serious technology blunder at their last organization, or maybe they’re threatened by the idea of tech-savvy professionals crowding them out. 

Whatever their rationale, skeptics are reluctant to embrace the innovation necessary for digital transformation. Rarely, they may hinder the digital transformation efforts of firms at the leading level of cultural readiness. More commonly, they prevent firms at the starting and exploring levels from gaining momentum and organizational unity.

To bring skeptics on board for digital transformation, it’s essential to start slow — before beginning digital transformation. You may think that skeptics will be “cured” when they see the benefits of digital transformation, but this is akin to trying to “cure” an arachnophobe by handing them a live tarantula. When skeptics confront new technology, they frequently resist using it — or, worse, resist learning to use it correctly. They may even lobby others to join their resistance.

Ultimately, the only way to convert a skeptic is through education: introducing the idea of new technology and addressing anxieties head-on. With this approach, you get everything out in the open — pros and cons, fears and hopes — and resolve their concerns straightforwardly.

The Biggest Takeaway

Digital transformation is on the rise, not least in the legal industry. It offers obvious and immediate benefits for law firms: improved project delivery, risk management, automation, business development, and more. However, it also requires that firms overcome the obstacles outlined above: lack of cultural readiness, innovation stagnations, and skeptics.

For more insight into navigating digital transformation in the legal industry, you can download our full research brief by clicking here or on the button below.

About Synaptiq

With over 47 clients in 20 sectors worldwide, Synaptiq is a full-scale AI consultancy delivering impactful solutions with applied machine learning and vision, natural language processing, and other data-driven techniques. If you are a law firm looking to explore digital transformation, we can help you unlock the power of AI and data science. 

For more information about Synaptiq, please visit www.synaptiq.ai

Additional Reading