Rico Burnett, our Global Director of Innovation, weighs in on how LegalTech compares to the show Money Heist.
When the extension to our lockdown here in South Africa was announced, it was inevitable that I would need a new TV show for binge-watching. With three small children at home, there are only very small windows of down-time, so I went looking for something a bit different. How intriguing to find a dubbed Spanish crime drama trending as the #1 show in South Africa (and in many other countries as well).
Money Heist ended up exceeding my own expectations. It’s not everyone’s favorite, and could be a victim of its own new found (Netflix) success, but for me it’s a smart heist drama that keeps a good pace. We also shouldn’t let good entertainment go to waste, and since I caught myself humming Bella Ciao non-stop for an entire week. LegalTech innovators should do these five things:
Assemble the right LegalTech Team
Whichever assessment or metric you use, you will need a combination of different personality types to be successful. Your own ‘Heist Team’ – maybe check the name with HR first. This team should of course include the Architect. (let’s call them ‘the Professor’ nudge nudge…), the Leader, (I do so have a real love-hate relationship with Berlin) and Implementers, (some central European mercenaries for example). But don’t forget to include the ambitious/enthusiastic ones, (how about Stockholm – from executive assistant in the mint to co-conspirator with a bullet wound in the leg!) and the productive introverts, (can you conjure up a (mostly) lovable father-figure who is always focused on getting the job done no matter the cost?) At Exigent we’ve seen the effects of using the right team member for a job. The creativity of a data visualization expert, the focus of a legal mind, or the empathy of a medical professional can all contribute to making a difficult project more manageable.
Working in a team where everyone understands the primary objective and is focused on achieving it, can overcome any individual personality issue. My personal delight at watching Nairobi smack Berlin across the back of the head with an assault rifle was soon replaced with a nagging concern about what this could mean for the master plan. Luckily, balance was eventually restored, and the team could get on with the job.
LegalTech and Reconnaissance
Understand your market and the risks and challenges presented by your vertical or your focus area, find out where the security guards, camera positions, and alarm systems are before you storm the vault! Identify and empathize with the people that will be involved, affected, or depended upon for implementation of your tech strategy. A benefit of tech reconnaissance is that you don’t have to get any physical disguises or expensive microphones to do it (Much good that did Tokyo or Rio). Subscribe to some good podcasts and webinars and start reading industry reports. This will give you the base level information that you need to move forward. Then reach out to someone who can give you honest, considered advice. We’ve come across many clients where the problem they face will not be fixed by buying a tool off-the-shelf. In many cases we’ve created a solution or assembled a delivery team to meet the client’s specification or leverage their existing internal capabilities. This process is a lot easier if you understand the value of good insight gathering and data validation.
Tackling any technology implementation project (much less a legaltech project) requires the right level of support from within the team, but also from the wider company audience, specifically those that are going to be most impacted/affected by the implementation. If you can turn the detractors into promotors you have a far greater chance of success. One of the keys to success in the heist was to win the support of the hostages. In real life, your senior leadership team and other business leads are equally important to the plan. Ideally, you won’t have to deploy the Money Heist extremes – offering extravagant cash incentives or shooting someone in the leg (which both worked really well in the end). It’s important to continuously gauge your stakeholders and get a sense of their attitude and objective for your project. The CEO, CFO, and your procurement colleagues need to be aligned in order to get the money out (nudge nudge).
Stick to the plan
The Hollywood cliché of everything going wrong with the slightest deviation to the ‘perfect’ plan has been replicated countless times in real life technology and innovation projects. In our consulting practice we often spend a lot of time reconciling the project charter and milestones with the reality of the project. It’s concerning how hard many companies find sticking to the plan. Now, I’m not saying that conditions never change (as they did for our beloved cities during the heist) or that plans should not include flexibility, but it’s important to at least have a process for dealing with any unexpected scenarios, and make sure everyone knows what the process is. Make sure you have your ‘red phone’ handy. The concept of the ‘red phone’ is a type of lifeline that links you to a central source of truth or context. Good reporting and interactive dashboards serve as a type of red phone for us and our client. You have to check in regularly, assess progress and allocate resource in accordance with your master plan. Good contract management and data governance forms the basis for building a flexible, but focused implementation strategy.
Many people have a tendency to ignore the necessary process mechanisms (call it administration of you want to) when they are in the middle of delivering on a project. Communication always suffers when we are focused on the urgent activity in front of us. This distancing causes friction and doubt when we do not report, update and ingest feedback. If we communicate effectively and honestly, we reduce the risk of small issues becoming big problems. Give your stakeholders as much visibility as possible. We’ve spent a lot of time building our data visualization, reporting and extraction capabilities, which improve deal support, spend management and workflow. This gives clients the visibility they want, but also allows us to better manage resources, adjust our technology offerings and be more proactive to our clients’ needs. Clients generally don’t find themselves in the same chaotic environment as the poor patrons and staff at the mint, but economic pressures and business conditions do create somewhat equivalent levels of stress!
It’s unlikely that any technology or innovation team will ever be in the type of situation that our Money Heist protagonists faced. But what will invariable confront you is the reality of technology implementation. It is often fraught with scope changes and financial constraints, teams that are looking for quick wins that get demotivated quickly, and you haven’t even begun to consider your reporting program. While I don’t have a Dali mask to help make your problems go away, I think the key is to remember the five pillars outlined above and reach out to others that have been on this journey for a while now. Just like a good hostage negotiator, we are always happy to talk…just don’t ask us what we are wearing (especially not now that most of us are working from home!)
If you enjoyed watching Money Heist (or not) and you have any other recommendations or suggestions around legaltech, let me know. I’d also be interested in which character you can associate yourself or your teammates with. I secretly suspect we all think we are the Professor, but we are actually Denver!