Same Old Song & Dance: Rolling Out a New Product

by Erik Adams

Recently it was reported that celebrity chef Jamie Oliver had incurred the wrath of the people of Spain for a new recipe: a paella that included chorizo. Paella, it seems, is considered the national dish of Spain, and although there are many ways to make it, none of them include pork sausage seasoned with paprika. He was publicly chastised for thinking outside the box, trying something new.

I was reminded of this controversy as I sat through the kick-off meeting for a project we are embarking on at my firm. We are rolling out a new research product, and the vendor has proposed a fairly standard plan to introduce it to the firm and ensure that it gets used. The basic steps are:

  1. Kick off meeting with major parties (vendor representatives and librarians, in this case)
  2. Survey the firm to identify hot spots
  3. Recruit champions among the attorneys
  4. Introduce the product to the firm with demonstrations of basic features
  5. Provide more advanced training targeted at practice groups
  6. Review usage and identify areas for improvement

We’ve been down this road before with varying degrees of success and feel that there are some areas that need improvement. Therefore, we have proposed some slightly different steps to make the rollout quicker and more effective.

First, we have found it very hard to get attorneys to respond to surveys. In my personal experience, the number of responses to a survey is inversely proportional to the length of time it takes to complete; I got the highest number of responses from a survey that had only two yes/no questions. In a law firm that is as large as mine, with a diverse number of practice areas, any survey that really digs into attorney needs is going to be too long. Fortunately, we are not rolling out this product completely blind; we already have a competing product from another vendor. Thanks to feedback we have received, data we already have in our reference question tracking software, and web analytics, the attorneys have already told us what is hot and what is not.

Recruiting champions has always been difficult. I am reminded of a Dilbert cartoon where a manager asks employees to volunteer for a new project, but with the secret goal of identifying which workers don’t have enough to do and can possibly be laid off. We do need engagement from attorneys, but rather than brainstorm about who doesn’t have enough to do, we thought we could get our champions to self-select by making a change to the introductions.

Rather than making the initial product demonstrations a discussion of basic features, we are going to have the introductions targeted to specific practice areas. In practice, 80% of the presentations will be the same, but the examples will be tailored to practice groups. For example, securities people won’t have to sit through litigation examples. This will hopefully serve two goals: attorneys will be more likely to participate if they know it will directly apply to their practice area; and, the attorneys who attend are more likely to be interested in helping make the project a success. The attorneys who attend the initial demonstrations can be the group from which the champions are selected.

These are pretty small changes, but when we proposed them to the vendor, they were receptive. They’ve been down this road before (probably more times than us) and know what works and needs improvement. Our suggestions aren’t wild, and ultimately we have the same goal: getting attorneys to use the tools to be more effective in their work.

This entry was posted in Customer Service, Issues in Law Librarianship, Legal Research Instruction, Platform change. Bookmark the permalink.

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