It was early spring 2020, and two members of the professional services team at Wilson Allen were putting the finishing touches on the go-lives for two multi-year Elite 3E implementations. In each case, the Wilson Allen team members served as project managers. Each faced the challenges of bringing software live in a remote environment. Here’s how they did it, providing insight into how firms can advance technology projects while working remotely.
Switching from on-site to remote at a national law firm
Jill Hilbert, a project manager on Wilson Allen’s professional services team with 20 years of legal technology experience, was appointed to lead the 3E implementation one year into a three-year rollout. The scope of the implementation addressed the needs of a national firm with locations across the United States.
Hilbert began to work with the firm during the first of its three test conversions – with the final conversion scheduled to take place in March 2020. At the end of February, Hilbert arrived at the firm’s headquarters to get started. It was business as usual for the first week of the conversion, and the team was able to get the firm’s back-office transactions live on 3E. Then the World Health Organization characterized the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic on March 11.
Moving forward despite major upheaval
With concerns about the health and safety of its employees, the firm began shutting down offices and switching to remote work. The core implementation team was scheduled to be on-site through March 20, while additional resources were to be on-site through the end of April. That was no longer possible. Everyone was sent home by March 14. While still on-site, the team tried to complete as much as possible before switching to a remote go-live.
“Everything was happening so quickly,” explains Hilbert. “Suddenly, we were not just trying to manage the project; we were trying to manage the project and figure out how to keep moving forward while dealing with the implications of the pandemic.”
Preparation pays off
Because the firm had been so well-prepared for the go-live, switching to a remote situation had its challenges, but went relatively smoothly. “We had started planning the final conversion about eight months earlier,” Hilbert says. “The firm did phenomenal testing throughout all three of their test conversions and worked well through our go-live planning. So, the number of issues we had to address post-go-live was minimal.”
Frequent communication, understanding and adapting to the needs of different users, and managing issues and action items were critical success factors for the project. “Each of the firm’s offices worked with a designated application consultant,” Hilbert says. “Plus, we had daily touchpoints throughout each day and had team meetings a few times a week with the whole project team to make sure things were moving forward.”
Getting the project across the finish line
Hilbert explains that one of the biggest hurdles was due to the logistics of the firm having to provide its users with the tools to work remotely on such short notice. Hilbert says all involved stepped up to bring the firm over the finish line, overcoming several obstacles and making adjustments to support the firm remotely. “Through it all, the firm and the implementation team persevered,” she says. “Due to their dedication and hard work, the firm is using 3E to take advantage of improved visibility into operations, enhanced reporting, and improved controls and security, which all factor into an enhanced user experience.”
Enabling a 100% remote go-live for an AmLaw 100 firm
Where Hilbert faced the challenges of transitioning to a remote go-live, Jennifer Hallett, Wilson Allen’s senior director of professional services, oversaw a full remote go-live scenario. With more than 25 years of legal technology experience, Hallett served as the project manager for the implementation of 3E for an AmLaw 100 firm.
After a 2016 project launch, the implementation progressed fairly smoothly but paused temporarily to allow time for a merger, pushing the original implementation date out by one year. After multiple test conversions and confirmed readiness of numerous work streams, the final go-live was on track for April 2020, when employees of non-essential US businesses were already working from home. Rather than delay the implementation any longer, the firm decided to proceed with the go-live remotely.
Overseeing a remote project team
Hallett led the implementation as the project manager, working with the firm’s internal team, and other third-party resources. Together, they collaborated on the final 3E conversion planning and prepared an extensive plan for the transition to live operations.
“To address the complexity of this project, we had to take a different approach to our communication,” Hallett says. “We did that by catering different documentation approaches for the applicable teams. We hosted one-on-one meetings with the teams to ensure all roles, responsibilities, and tasks were clear as we proceeded through the go-live process.
Re-imagining the in-person experience
Hallett said one of the best things the team did was to have an all-day open meeting platform. “There were some long hours, but this approach came the closest to duplicating an on-site project meeting room,” Hallett says.
Thinking outside the box to address user requirements
The firm utilized a ticketing system to address end-user questions and support items. Issues entered into the ticketing system by the end users were monitored in real time and routed to a support team member to be addressed. The application support team member would then work with the end user via e-mail or phone call. In addition, each support team member had an open meeting platform in which end users joined if screen sharing was required.
The team was scheduled in shifts to provide coverage for all time zones for the early morning end users on the East Coast and those that worked later into the evening on the West Coast.
“The system ended up working very well,” says Hallett. “It allowed each support team member to manage their dashboard and list of open issues.
For Hallett, the number one takeaway from the remote go-live was the importance of having an open communication line. However, the key to success was all of the prep work that led to the successful go-live. “Whether you’re on-site or working remotely, the key to success is in the details,” Hallett explains. “All of the tasks have to happen in a particular order due to the dependencies on each other.”
Hallett credits the firm’s project and technical teams for their creative thinking and hard work in the completion of the project. “Through their efforts, we were able to bring all of those pieces together for a successful outcome.”
If you’d like to learn more about how Wilson Allen’s professional services team can help support your current or upcoming technology projects, please contact us.