What is it and why is it relevant?
Human-centred design is an approach to designing products that puts people at the centre of the design process. It involves identifying the relevant people, understanding their context, needs, preferences and experiences, and developing, with them, a solution to fit.
The adoption of a legal tech system is essential to its success. To ensure that it is embraced by users, it must be user-friendly and provide tangible benefits to those interacting with it, now and in future. Taking a human-centred approach helps make this a reality.
Don’t the legal tech vendors dictate the user experience?
Only partly. The overall user interface of a product is usually prescribed by the vendor, however most modern legal tech products are configurable, and this configuration can have a huge impact on the user experience.
In any case the user interface is only one component of the overall user experience, which usually starts well before the user logs onto the system, and doesn’t end when they log off. E.g. if the contract template a system generates is clunky or incomplete – this can complicate the drafting and negotiation process. If a report is inaccurate, bad decisions may be made. In the worst case, users will stop using the system altogether.
How does it work?
A human-centred approach informs every part of the technology journey.
Beginning the work
- Identify all of the people involved with the existing processes and systems and their output. This is likely to extend well beyond Legal. It may include Procurement, Finance, Technology, HR, and more. It may also include people external to the business who for example review contracts (including counterparties) or rely on data generated. The solution needs to work for all of them, so understanding who they are is critical.
- Engage with those people to understand the context in which they work, their needs and expectations. In doing so:
- Focus on real-world examples. Rather than discussing how things ought to work, focus on how things actually work in practice.
- Understand the emotional context. How do they feel and perceive their current ways of working, and why.
- Don’t make any assumptions. No matter how well you think you know the area or the people, it is crucial to get their perspective.
- Identify the real problems and needs. People don’t want technology for the sake of it, they want (for example) a contract, or a data point, or a report, or a reminder.
NB the goal of this work is not to merely digitise existing processes, but rather to deeply analyse the problems at hand, in order to develop new processes and technologies that can effectively address them.
- Using the insight and feedback gained through this process, develop a set of requirements which detail individual needs.
- An effective way to document these is as “user stories” – short, simple descriptions of “who”, “what”, and “why”. For example: “As a procurement manager, I need to be able to generate a report on contract expiry dates so that I can plan renewals.”
- Play back those requirements, and ask the individuals to prioritise them.
In my next blog, I’ll talk about creating the solution. In the meantime, if you want to get started with legal technology or want us to take a look at your existing solution, then please, get in touch.
Stephen is the Practice Director – Digital Contract Consulting at SYKE.
Stephen heads up the Digital Contracting team in SYKE’s consulting practice. He has been involved in commercial contracting for over 20 years, much of that time spent in-house, where he also held senior management roles in Technology and Procurement during major transformation programmes. Before going in-house he spent 9 years in private legal practice, specialising in technology, outsourcing and commercial contracts.