Freelance General Counsel and Legal influencer.
Implementation, as one GC recently remarked, is a discipline in and of itself.
It certainly requires more strategy, discipline and commitment than some legal teams anticipate.
Implementation is fundamentally about adoption. Because without adoption, innovation doesn’t come to life.
It’s not often I meet a General Counsel who shares my zest and varied approach for tech implementation. But Jemma Stevenson is a kindred spirit.
She’s the General Counsel & Company Secretary of Powerco in New Zealand, leading an innovation award winning team of four lawyers and an administrator.
During a recent mid-week virtual conversation, briefly interrupted by an e-commerce delivery, Jemma shared her key ingredients for legal tech implementation.
Warning: there may be jingles, pizza, chewing contracts and Alice in Wonderland costumes involved.
Before rolling out Plexus to business stakeholders, Jemma and her team ensured that they tested “any bugs and teething problems” first.
Jemma shared that if she herself could navigate the system without guidance, then her business colleagues ought to too. This involved her and the team being “hands on” at every step of both the pre-implementation and implementation stages.
In parallel, the legal team ran pilot groups with a small group of business stakeholders who they knew would become super users - which the legal team called “eagles”. The purpose of these groups was to encourage feedback, including to Plexus as the tech vendor, and minimising “anything clunky and confusing”.
The team was conscious not to “lose the goodwill of the business by launching something unnecessarily painful and be prepared to adapt and change tact if something is not working”.
While Jemma felt the pressure of not putting the team’s reputation on the line, it wasn’t about getting the solution “perfect”, but just easy and intuitive enough to inspire the business to want to use it - because it was better than the current system (which was built in-house and had many limitations), and satisfied the key pain points gathered in several surveys conducted pre-implementation.
As is the case for many businesses in the digital age, Powerco had some tech rollout fatigue after an SAP implementation.
This inspired the legal team to do things entirely differently with its CLM implementation.
And that meant creating hype.
If you’re involved in the metaverse and NFTs, you’ll have observed that hype and buzz is the #1 ingredient to a project’s success.
The Powerco legal team created hype by releasing a jingle to the business (created by one of its theatrically talented team members) to the words of “I will survive”.
While “incredibly cheesy”, Jemma said that it was also “incredibly effective”.
As I write in my first e-Book, Legally Innovative - change is managed better when it’s implemented with inspired action.
Inspired action is a magical combination of progressive mindset, clear strategy and taking the action with a sense that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning.
It’s not “vanilla”, because it doesn’t come from a place of compulsion or a sense of going through the usual motions, but because you want to inspire others. It is invigorating because it’s leading you and others to something great or bigger. It has a fire in its belly that is contagious. It brings a degree of confidence about the change that is infectious for early adopters, and assuring for any change resistors.
Your stakeholders should feel inspired about what’s ahead no matter which media you leverage (and I suggest you leverage them all!) – face to face at business updates, at inductions, via email, on social media and even how you to talk about legal innovation casually with your colleagues.
And that’s not limited to the start of the implementation. For example, the legal team hosted refresher training as a first birthday party for Plexus to reinvigorate the buzz one year on from launch, which was very well attended.
In my experience, creativity is at the heart of a strong and sustainable implementation strategy.
The process of contracting isn’t naturally fun or exciting.
Once the Powerco legal team were given permission to apply free creative reign, the ideas flowed in abundance, leading to enhanced engagement and collaboration amongst the team.
It also allowed the team to learn new skills: creating jingles, how-to videos, visual aids and interactive training sessions all produced in-house.
With content production now a regular service provided by the legal team to complement its activities and ongoing change management, Jemma sees this upskill within the team as creating efficiency in the long run, not being reliant on outside agencies or IT.
The way the team writes emails, uses colours, and fonts, and communicates about transformation has also significantly transformed, she shared.
Food also tends to lure people in.
Pivoting away from customised cupcakes which the team had done before, the legal team used pizza as the drawcard for its CLM implementation.
Pizza was used as a central theme for “how to” videos explaining how building a contract was like making a pizza, going as far as having someone chewing on a pizza and chewing on a contract. Early adopters were given pizza vouchers as a thank-you for their support. Product demos involved contracting with a sample pizza company.
“Little memorable things like that” that helped both engage legal team members but also make the contract experience - but importantly the digitisation of it - memorable and relatable for the business.
And while Jemma shared that this heightened creativity was initially outside her comfort zone, these “surprise and delight” tactics was a side of the legal team the business had not seen from the legal team before. Marketing was shocked!
“The feedback from the business has been phenomenal. You wouldn’t think that the business would get so excited about a contract management system, but they are”.
And where do costumes fit in? Well, there is nothing that this legal team cannot do it seems. In attending the New Zealand Legal Awards, the team decided to dress up in Alice in Wonderland costumes. Jemma attended and accepted the team award dressed as the white rabbit.
As you can see, implementation of legal tech is an art, not a science.
Read the full Powerco Plexus case study.
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