So far within this “Legal Process Improvement – How to Guide” series, we have looked at:
- Defining the scope and objective of the project
- Assessing the current state
- Analysing the current state
- Defining the Future State
Within this, the last of our five-part series, we look at some of the key considerations in implementing the future state processes that were developed within part four.
Assessing implementation complexity
Not all implementation projects are created equal and one of the first things to establish is just how complex is the project going to be?
There are a number of factors that increase the complexity of the project, namely:
- Uncertainty – at the outset, how sure are we that we can deliver to the timetable? How sure are we over the costs and benefits of the project? Higher levels of uncertainty require greater levels of flexibility within the project plan and greater levels of ongoing monitoring
- Scale – how big is the project relative to the organisation? Larger projects are more difficult to implement and the consequences of poor implementation will be more keenly felt
- Number of Components – how many processes, teams or business units does the project impact? Does the project impact on parties outside the direct control of the business (e.g. suppliers, clients etc)
The following illustration (1) shows that as each of these factors increases, the overall complexity of the project is increased:
Bearing in mind the differences between the relatively easy and relatively difficult projects in the above, hopefully it’s clear that there is no one size fits all approach.
There is a very real risk at this stage that the complexity of the project is underestimated and the project spirals out of control. Alternatively, a relatively simple project can grind to a halt through over-management.
However, there are three areas that you should consider for every implementation, big or small, which we will come on to next:
- Project Governance
- Project Planning
- Benefits Tracking
Project Governance refers to the management framework for your project. It’s an area that’s far too big to cover within this blog and will be the subject of a future entry.
However, irrespective of the size of the project, there are absolutely two key roles that need identifying and defining for every project:
- Project Sponsor; this person retains ownership of the business case for pursuing the project. Ideally, they should be sufficiently senior to gain buy in from stakeholders in the project. Importantly, they should hold the project team to account for delivery to the project plan and budget.
- Project Manager; no matter how big or small your project is; it needs a Project Manager to manage the project plan and budget throughout the life of the project. The Project Manager is responsible for the day to day management of the project and reports on progress to the Project Sponsor.
The scale of project management required can range from one existing employee handing over some of their day-to-day duties to actively manage the project through to a formal Project Management Office (PMO).
Each of these approaches can work. It’s important to match the formality of the project management and governance to the complexity of the project.
Project planning includes both the timescales and the budget for the implementation phase.
Project plans can be prepared to varying levels of detail and the following table illustrates this with reference to the overall complexity of the project:
|Tools||Simple Excel Spreadsheet||Gantt Chart||Specialist software (e.g. MS Project)|
|Level of Detail||Key milestones||
Programme and project plans
Probabilistic time estimates (e.g. PERT)
Broadly, as the complexity of the implementation increases so too does the sophistication of project plan required to keep on top of the delivery timescales.
Similarly with the project budget; a simple project is unlikely to need anything more sophisticated than an offline spreadsheet, whereas more complex projects may need project codes established within the firm’s accounting system and/or a detailed financial model underpinning delivery of the project.
In our experience, more attention is paid to the external costs as there is both greater pressure from senior management to manage these costs and they are easier to compile (e.g. by obtaining quotes or looking at past expenditure).
In contrast, the internal resource costs are either ignored (because it’s assumed that people will just absorb the project into their day jobs) or are significantly underestimated. As a consequence, projects can experience significant delays because there isn’t the internal resource available to complete key tasks within the expected timeframes.
As well as managing the costs and the timescales, the expected benefits should also be managed throughout the implementation.
As the project enters its implementation phase, the assumptions underpinning the future state design are tested, validated or rejected, and this can materially affect the benefits realised from the project.
Often the business case underpinning the project, or the future state processes we looked at in part 4 of this series will include some high level benefits, whether they are improved efficiency, increased quality, shorter process lead times or enhanced client satisfaction.
The expected benefits need to be phased and aligned to the project plan; when we are expecting the benefits to be realised is just as important as what are the expected benefits.
It is a key responsibility of the Project Sponsor to hold the project team accountable for delivery of the anticipated benefits throughout the implementation phase; not just as formality at the end of the project.
Within this blog, we’ve looked at the following areas:
- The factors relevant to assessing the relative complexity of the project; Uncertainty. Scale, and the Number of Components
- Project Governance and the key roles of the Project Sponsor and Project Manager
- Project Planning, including project budgeting and project timescales
- The importance of tracking the anticipated benefits throughout the implementation phase
We’ve now reached the end of our five part How to Guide series. Hopefully this series has provided you with an overview of the key steps to delivering a successful legal process improvement project.
Are there areas within your firm, department or practice area that would benefit from a structured LPI project? If so, hopefully, this series has given you some ideas of where to get started and how to avoid common pitfalls.
If you’ve missed any of the articles in this series, you can access them below:
Step 1 – Define the objectives and scope of the project
Step 2 – Assess the current state (legal process mapping)
Step 4 – Define the future-state process
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(1) Adapted from Operations and Process Management, Slack, Chambers, Johnston and Betts (2012: 502)