In this episode of the Legal Marketing 2.0 Podcast, Guy is joined by Eric Feldman to discuss how we can leverage people and processes to drive technology implementations. Eric is a seasoned attorney and business operations professional. As the Director of Strategic Projects and Initiatives for Wiggin & Dana, he supports the firm’s COO to develop and advance a wide range of operational objectives. Eric loves fixing things and is genuinely motivated by oat cappuccino.
1. What do you mean when you describe yourself on LinkedIn as a “human middleware”?
I wanted something a little different on my LinkedIn headline and self-description than what I had seen. I also wanted to actually communicate what it was that I think I’m good at, and what it was like doing it. When I spend some time staring at other people’s descriptions and staring at my own job history and thinking of what it is that I bring to a team I think it’s communication. Its communication between different groups of people and it’s a natural interest in breaking down silos of information. It’s also just a natural distaste for inefficiency and trying to get these disparate systems to communicate better. I’m patient or foolish enough to walk into conversations with zero context, just to see if maybe I could figure out what it is I’m talking about as I go. There’s a lot of head nodding and waiting until the little green lights connect. From a technology standpoint, middleware generally is some kind of software that enables communication and management of data across different systems. That struck a chord for me, and I think that middleware sits between the operating system and the apps on your phone which are the things that people are used to looking at. The middleware piece kind of operates between those spaces. For me, being able to change gears quickly and jump between all these different organizational initiatives just made sense so I added the human piece because I’m a human. Putting myself in between these different systems and silos of information is the first way to get them all to connect. Ideally, I want to automate that process and make my involvement redundant, and then disappear. The fact that I’m pulling the little pieces together, ideally, the system will be able to do it on its own, so I can move on to the next interesting issue.
2. Do you think technology can solve operational issues if you don’t have the processes down?
Technology is not pixie dust and it won’t magically change an organization. I think it’s a tool, and it can be a very effective tool, but even identifying what problem you’re solving with that tool is important. Then the change management component of getting people interested in stopping whatever broken system they already know and having to go through the learning curve of anything new. Especially at a law firm when there’s not a lot of time or the pressure to produce information for an attorney who has a last-minute client meeting and just needs that grab and go pitch material right now. I think there’s always a fear of looking like you can’t get that type of project done, so it’s tough to get people to change over to a new system. So really understanding the pain points on a team is almost more important than even having a great technological solution. Maybe it’s just emailing the right person the first time instead of asking the “uh pardon the interruption” question to the wrong large group of people. If you know the specific questions and route to one person who has the best information, you could solve issues
3. What is your experience implementing marketing technology?
My last role was primarily based on rolling out a pretty large firm’s intelligence platform and it started off as a replace and retire or legacy system type of project. But there was a lot of frustration on our team around that legacy system. A few months after, we had a session of just everyone airing what their problems were. More than anything, I was just listening to the team’s needs and understanding what problems we’re trying to solve with this new sweeping firm intelligence platform. We really just wanted to focus on a few things, and that was speed reliability. I click a button and then the screen actually shows up quickly, with the right information, organized how I want it to look. A lot of that was needing to understand the platform, but then working with every department in order to aggregate that type of information. You’re talking with people in HR and finance and accounting and convincing everyone at a law firm, who’s used to owning their own information, that I wouldn’t break their system and I only read info we are trying to sort. Knowing that we had to get buy-in from senior stakeholders across the firm was a new challenge for me. To come in with a very amorphous project at a large law firm and be able to get by was a challenge and our kickoff was at the end of March, beginning of April 2020. It very quickly went from an in-person large team kickoff to fully remote. Instead of me waiting outside people’s offices to get their attention, a lot of outreach over email, a lot of zoom calls, a lot of collaborative additions to smart sheets and shared excel files. I was building it from a distance, which was also not something I had ever done before. So for me, it was using tech to get that information shared and then implementing a different technology platform.
4. Do you find that your experience as an attorney makes it easier for you to figure out the right technology and the right process?
Being an attorney makes it easier to understand the subject matter and the type of information we’re working with. In a way, that might not be as easy unless you’ve either practiced or worked in marketing and business development and understand the language, taxonomy, and the attorneys you’re working with trust you to know what they’re talking about. I think that opens up a whole world of being able to move information so for me, yes, definitely in that I understood what type of information we were trying to move very well and, in that, being process-oriented. I think being very structured is a pretty big focus of law school and lawyering in general. Being able to organize your thoughts in a way that’s “A, B, C D”, so you can go down the checklist and say, “have we done A? Yes, that we’ve done. B, yes,” and so forth. I think it is very important to make sure that you’re really getting the most you can out of any of these tech implementations.
Find someone who’s interested in marketing and business development and have them start talking with the IT group or set up bi-weekly meetings. Start talking about pain points, team needs, upcoming projects, and really just understanding the reasons we can or can’t accomplish a specific goal. Let someone who expresses interest and get them in front of the right IT team members to just learn. Those open conversations end up yielding interesting results. You don’t know what they’re going to be, but they’ll be interesting
You can find Eric Feldman on LinkedIn.
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