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Out of comfort zone

How to Embed Change and Innovation (2)

How to Embed Change and Innovation Successfully.

Highlights from the Alternative In-House Technology Summit 2020.

By Sarah Barrett-Vane, Legal Operations Consultant.

This article was originally published on the Alternative Insights website on 30th April 2020.

Click here for original article

This is Parts 3B and 3C of a series of three articles covering the key content, for me, from this year’s event, held on 3-4 February 2020.

  • Part 1:   How to develop a culture for change and innovation.
  • Part 2:   Lawyers and change.
  • Part 3:   How to embed change and innovation successfully.

Part 3A (published on 23rd March):

  • What problem are you trying to address?
  • What data do you need and what will it tell you?
  • Choosing your product/solution
  • Resource planning

Part 3B:

  • Selling the product/solution internally
  • Sponsorship from the top
  • Dealing with stakeholders – internal and external

Part 3C:

  • Change management
  • Communication
  • Training
  • Measurement and ROI
  • Celebrate your success

Parts 3B and 3C follow below.

Selling the product/solution internally

  • Can you sell the product or change in a way that will affect everyone for the better? Have you enough carrots as opposed to sticks? How will solution ABC make people’s lives easier? Is there something for everyone?

Problem - ideas-solutions

  • Identify potential super users or ‘champions’ early on. You need people on side to help you sell the product/innovation.
  • Listen to feedback. This is where super users/champions can be very useful. Be prepared to change the solution/configuration if things aren’t working or need adapting.
  • You may find it easier to sell the innovative idea/technology product if you avoid the word ‘legal’ in the title. Business users may prefer the words ‘delivery’, ‘collaboration’ or ‘innovation’ to ‘legal’.
  • SBV: If you are planning to label a product or process, tailor this to your organisation. If you want to call a new process a ‘legal service request form’, for example, gauge reaction with your internal clients/colleagues.  If it works, fair enough.  Don’t rename things just for the sake of it.
  • Remember that once you promise something, you must deliver on that promise.

 Sponsorship from the top

  • You can’t just push out innovation. You need engagement – ideally at all levels and from all directions.
  • SBV: You absolutely need the buy in/sponsorship from the top. If you need CFO/CIO/CPO buy in – as well as the GC’s – then you must get it.

 Dealing with stakeholders – internal and external 

  • Engagement. You need to engage with everyone – internally and (where required) externally. From the bottom through the middle and to the top – whatever is required, given your organisation’s make up.
  • Think about creating an old fashioned stakeholder map/communications map to ensure you cover everyone off.
  • SBV: Think of it like a map of nodes. Who will be affected by what you want to do? Map them all out – IT/procurement/business users/sales etc.

How to Embed Change and Innovation Successfully

  • If you can make the IT team understand what the legal team does – and what it sees across all aspects of the business – you will get better buy in.
  • Consider talking to the HR team, assuming it is larger than legal, and has already made substantial changes in terms of people, processes and tech. They may have lessons to share. They may have a shared services model for example.
  • SBV: With many processes or new technology products, you will have external users as well as internal (e.g. ebilling). Bringing your external stakeholders on side is very important. Some of these people may have the ear of very senior internal people, so if they are unhappy you will soon get to hear about it and they may derail your initiative.
  • SBV: Identify any potential blockers. They need to go at the top of your stakeholder mapping list, especially if they are important blockers. You should deal with them first.

How to Embed Change and Innovation Successfully

  • SBV: What are blockers? These are people who want your initiative to fail, for whatever reason. They could be any grade and may include very senior people.  They could be inside or outside the organisation and may even be within your own team. You may encounter them right at the beginning or as you progress.  Assuming your change programme is essential, and has sponsorship from the top, you need to handle these people – in the most appropriate way.  Ideally you will get them on side but, if you can’t, the issue may need escalating. If the GC needs to resolve an issue directly with the CFO/CIO, for example, then that must happen.  Strong, consistent messaging is key.
  • SBV: Sign off. You will need to create a viable, credible and evidence-based business case for investment, demonstrating clear benefits and ROI. Sell the benefits visually if possible – the before and the after.  Include the types of data and evidence your sign-off committee will want to see.  Do your homework first. Include your project plan if this is required.

Change management

  • Change is good – but change is also hard.
  • Adoption doesn’t start after the technology is delivered.
  • This is why you need to include all major stakeholders early in the process (see above).
  • Consider the level of change you can manage internally.
  • SBV: You can only implement the amount/type of change your organisation can cope with at any one time. Don’t overdo it. You may well fail.
  • You cannot do change to people. You must do change with people.

Out of comfort zone

  • You want high, not low, user adoption rates. Do not underestimate how hard some people find it to adapt to new ways of working. This is a change management programme; you must treat it as such.
  • SBV: How to succeed in a difficult environment? Small steps, such as carrying out pilots/proofs of concept with an innovation-friendly user group, may be the best way forward.
  • Be willing to fail fast. You can do that easier and faster if you test/pilot your idea in a small area first.
  • Look for quick wins. Deploy a new product in phases if that will suit your organisation best.
  • SBV: Ultimately you will probably have to accept that you may not be able to bring everyone along with you, or at least not happily. There is a saying: ‘You can’t change people but people can change themselves’. Try as hard as you can to bring them on the journey, finding something positive in it for them. Try, yes, but there is another saying: ‘If you can’t change the people, you may need to change the people.’ Hence the importance, again, of early stakeholder engagement and planning.


  • Communication is vital when implementing any type of change programme. You cannot over-communicate. If a 15 minute conversation takes an hour, so be it.
  • SBV: Speak in a language appropriate to your audience. Use tools they understand and use them regularly – e.g. Excel or PowerPoint rather than Word when required.  Speak face to face to people to ensure buy in when this is preferred.

Appropriate language

  • Communicate with the team throughout. There is no such thing as too much communication with projects like this. Ramp up your communications as you approach launch date.
  • Continue with communication post-launch, taking feedback (ideally constructive feedback).


  • After any implementation, be it process or technology, you must embed it fast. Get people using it immediately.
  • Train, train, train. You can have a big fanfare but that means nothing if people aren’t trained appropriately and don’t start using it immediately.
  • SBV: You should train your super users/champions before anyone else, and use that feedback to further enhance the product or process. By the time it is rolled out to everyone you will have fixed the initial problems so should have a happy user base.  Having happy super users on side is essential as you roll something new out.
  • Train the bulk of the team after the super users/champions. Then train them again – as frequently as required until it has been embedded successfully. Users learn and adapt at different rates, so post-live support is important.
  • SBV: Joint training sessions work best, where the technology vendor and in-house project manager train the team jointly. They can cover all bases, technical and practical, and also present as a united force, showing the product really will perform as promised.  Remember – promises made must be delivered.
  • SBV: Once the team is fully trained, include any feedback in your training programme for next time – new starters etc.

Skill Up

  • SBV: Offer people ‘training surgeries’ where, for example, you drop by at the end of a team meeting to deal with their individual queries, one by one. Sometimes a 15 minute session with someone can completely change their mind on how useful and easy the tech is to use, and they will spread the word if you’re lucky. You’ve created another champion.
  • SBV: Tailored training sessions work best – e.g. full ‘bells and whistles’ training for the super users/champions and then intermediate or basic training addressing individual users’ needs.
  • SBV: High level training. I advise you to include top level training for your GC and senior leadership team so they understand the product and what it can do. They need to know and use it, even if only for the basics. If your GC knows how to perform just 1 or 2 simple tasks on, say, an ebilling or contract management solution, it may give them the vital information they need before a meeting with the CEO/CFO. Think what they might need in a hurry and show them (and their EA) how to get that information easily.
  • Train your external stakeholders where required – e.g. law firms for ebilling. The more people you get on side, successfully using the product/system, the better.

Measurement and ROI 

  • This is crucial. You must demonstrate it’s all worked. Prove ROI to those that matter.

Measure performance

  • You will now have the data. Legal technology gives you wonderful data. This is news you can use – highly effectively.
  • Don’t forget to measure the product itself. Keep on top of it. Maintain a snagging list. Feed back to the vendor regularly. This will aid the product’s continued success. And then train people on any new releases and improvements.

Celebrate your success 

  • Too many of us don’t do this.
  • When you get this right, this is a win for the legal team and hopefully the business too.
  • Use the data you now have.

How to Embed Change and Innovation Successfully

  • Share senior stakeholders’ positive feedback with your team.
  • Use your new stats and your new knowledge to help you plan the next initiative!
  • And when you do … Think. Plan. Act. In that order.


Author: Sarah Barrett-Vane

Previously Director of Legal Operations at Royal Mail plc from 2012 to 2018, Sarah provides consultancy/interim services to in-house legal departments, law firms and technology companies, including:

How to Embed Change and Innovation Successfully. Alternative In-House Technology Summit 2020.

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