January 25, 2011
Let’s face it—Case Management Software isn’t cheap; it represents a substantial investment for most firms. I’m often amazed that firms are willing to spend a lot of money on such a powerful tool, and not fully commit to using it. It’s common for me to talk to a new Prevail user and hear the following:
- “Our new Prevail system seems to do a whole lot, but we don’t really have time to learn how to use it. We’re just going to put minimal client data into it for now and maybe learn how to do the other stuff later on.”
- That sounds fairly reasonable to most ears, but not mine. Maybe this is because I’m very familiar with the concepts of case management, and I know how big a difference it makes in your life when it’s properly implemented. To understand how crazy a statement like that sounds to me, just replace “Prevail” with “Buick”, and you’ll come up with something like this:
- “Our new Buick seems to be a very nice car, but we don’t really have time to learn to drive right now. We’re just going to sit in it and idle in the driveway for now, and maybe we’ll learn how to drive later on.”
You wouldn’t spend all that money on a car if you didn’t know how to drive, would you? Why should your computer system be any different? If you don’t roll up your sleeves and learn how to use it, it’s just an expensive Buick idling in your driveway. It’s a big mistake, but a more common one than most people would like to admit.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already spent the money for your case management system—so let’s work on making sure you get your money’s worth. In the past ten years I’ve overseen hundreds of case management installations, and I’ve noticed trends which clearly differentiate firms which get their money’s worth from those that don’t. I’ve put together a profile of five characteristics common to virtually all successful Prevail installations. Read over these characteristics and see if they describe your firm. If they don’t, you’ve got some work to do before you begin realizing a return on your investment.
Immediate Data Entry
“We’ll put data into the system when we get a chance” doesn’t cut it. Put your data into Prevail right away. The sooner the better. No system can do anything for you if there’s no data in it. The whole idea behind having a case management system is not having to go pull the file every time you want to work on a case. This means somebody has to take the time to put that information into the system. If it means you have to close your office for a day and have everybody enter data, it’s worth it. If it means you have to pay everybody overtime to come in on a Saturday to have a data entry pizza party, it’s worth it. If it takes more than a month to get your data in, you’re doing it too slowly. The firms that get up and running quickly are the ones that get their data into the system quickly.
Put Document Assembly Functions To Use Right Away
Prevail comes with lots of forms and form letters which it can create and track automatically. This ability, more than anything else in the system, can dramatically cut the staff time required for repetitive tasks. It’s easy to move this function to the back-burner because it requires somebody to go through the existing letters and tailor them to meet your needs, or put field codes into your pre-existing form letters. Granted, this is a daunting task, but the firms that begin reaping the rewards of automation soonest are the ones that make it a priority.
Look at how often you’re going to use each form letter, and make the ones you use all the time your highest priority. Remember that each time you use Prevail to generate one of these, you’re saving several minutes of staff time. The more time you save by generating those documents automatically, the more time you’ll have to work on other documents. You don’t need hundreds of form letters in the system to use it effectively, but you should at least have the 25 or 30 documents you use on a regular basis set up for automated production.
Remember—once you “teach” Prevail how to do these documents (i.e. set them up to merge the way you want them), it’ll keep doing them over and over for free. Sure, you can pay a staff member to type and format those documents each time you need them, but wouldn’t you rather let the computer do it for free? You’re always going to need staff, but no staff member can create and track documents as quickly as Prevail can. Go ahead and let the computer do what it does best. This will free up your staff to do the things that only a person can do – like provide friendly personal service and develop goodwill among your client base.
Place Power Users High In the Chain of Command
I’ve learned that you can’t really implement any complex system without a power user developing somewhere on the staff. It may not always be who you expect it to be, but look for one or more power users to develop as your firm feels its way through the implementation process. Some people “get it” much sooner than others, so look for the people with the light bulb over their heads, give them the ball and let them run with it. The rest of your staff will be much more likely to ask your resident “Prevail expert” a question than to call PTI for technical support. People always seem to be hesitant to call us and ask questions when they feel they should already know the answer – but they won’t hesitate to turn to a co-worker and say “Hey, Bob…”
Another thing I’ve noticed is that the higher up in the chain of command the power users are, the faster the implementation goes. The reasoning for this is simple. If the boss knows the system as well or better than anybody else, it’s impossible for the rest of the staff to skate by with feeble excuses of why they can’t use the system to do their work. Understand that it is human nature to avoid change and take the path of least resistance. Because there’s work involved in setting up and learning to use something new, you’ll likely get staff resistance when implementing Prevail. You’ll get a million and one excuses, and some of them may even sound logical if you haven’t learned enough about the system to know otherwise. It’s much easier to overcome this resistance if you’re leading by example. It’s also impossible to get bamboozled by logically indefensible excuses. I can guarantee that your staff will take the time to learn and use the system if you do. If you don’t, you’re taking your chances.
Frequent Contact With PTI Technical Support
We’re a small company and we listen. All our software updates are determined by client requests. The clients we hear from most often are the ones whose ideas are most likely to make it into subsequent Prevail releases. There’s also a pretty good chance that a particular feature that you’d like to see (or a similar feature that will accomplish the same thing) is already in the software. We can give you lots of ideas and help you solve a lot of your problems if you just call and ask.
This isn’t a plug to get you to pay us to come train your staff, but I have noticed that, as a general rule, firms that have onsite training meet the break-even point (the point at which net productivity after installing Prevail surpasses net productivity before installing Prevail) much sooner than firms that don’t. Make no mistake—there will be a dip in productivity for a time, no matter what you do. You can, however, minimize the duration of that dip by electing to have onsite training. Even if you don’t want to go to the expense of having a PTI trainer come work with your staff, you should have some sort of formalized training. Learn the program and teach the staff yourself if you want—just do something. The value of training goes far beyond the pure instructional aspect. In many ways, the opportunity for your staff to get together, ask questions and share information about how they’re going to use the system is more important than any knowledge imparted to them by a trainer. The mechanics of using the system are very easy. How you are going to use the system is what’s important – and that’s where training helps the most.