Why is poor usability one of the greatest barriers for getting people engaged?

This resource was also featured as a Briefing Industry Interview in the November 2014 issue of Briefing magazine. To read the issue in full, download Briefing magazine. 

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Legal businesses know that better client service needs better information management. How firms handle information and deliver it to clients is at the heart of service innovation and differentiation, and technology is its life blood. But behind the technology is something perhaps more important: getting people to use the tools they are given. The way for firms to achieve this may be easier than they realise – in fact, it may be staring them in the face.

Poor usability is one of the greatest barriers to getting people engaged in using software, and ultimately getting value from it. Legal professionals now benefit from familiar, consumer-style technologies that feed directly through to client value. Software and the processes it runs need to be seamless, ie. become ‘invisible’ to the user, allowing them to focus on the task rather than grapple with how a company wants them to work.

“Software designers have made similar mistakes, historically,” says Dean Sappey, president and co-founder of document management and productivity specialist DocsCorp. “Software companies designed the interfaces for their software without thinking about the end user experience.” But that’s no longer the case, he says. DocsCorp, for example, has just finished a three-year rethink on how people want to use and interact with legal technology. “Now it’s more focused on the software being familiar and intuitive so that users can be efficient at work, and ultimately more productive,” Sappey explains.

Too many law firms buy software that never gets implemented because people won’t use it. Sappey says everything DocsCorp does is now aimed at “helping firms avoid this scenario.” “We’ve built our products on the Microsoft Office 2013 model because the look and feel is immediately recognisable and universally familiar. People can install the product and use it intuitively. This reduces the learning curve and gets people using the technology much faster,” he says.

“We’re probably one of the first in the legal space to have adopted this intuitive design philosophy. We are getting really positive feedback on our design approach from law firms who would have previously spent an enormous amount of money on technology while getting very little in return because it was too complicated to use.”

Building on these foundations, he says, firms can work more closely with their clients and more closely with the way they work – particularly as we move more towards project-style working. “Now, when so much information is being communicated on larger projects, it’s essential you’re able to do that more efficiently and at greater speeds.” The upshot of a more consumer-friendly interface on technology is improved productivity and efficiency as well as quality, says Sappey. “The end product you deliver to clients is thus perceived to be much higher value.”

“A client judges a law firm on the final product, not on the complex processes and workflows that went into producing it. They don’t see them and nor should they. Instead, a product that is produced and presented in a professional, easy-to-understand way will enhance a firm’s reputation as well as increase the value perception.”

Legal is moving on in more ways than one. Content management is going mobile so the project isn’t confined to the office, says Sappey. Doing that securely isn’t a problem with the right process and software, he says.

“A big change for fee earners is working on the move, which delivers more immediacy to clients. This is something that clients are increasingly demanding as they too become more mobile.”

But firms have to recognise the limitations of mobile technology in its current form and optimise ways of working with what’s available. “The right technology for the right time is important. There isn’t one perfect device for everything – and there may never be – but if firms can develop the best ways of working with the best tools they have available to them, their clients will see their service in a whole new light.”

This is a glimpse of a future legal industry that can, like its technology, deliver a valuedriven, client-focused service that delivers value to both client and firm alike – simply by making IT easier to use.

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