RubensteinTech partners with leading creative firms to build high-end websites and software for web and mobile platforms across the legal, real estate, non-profit, technology, and financial services sectors.
An in-depth look at this increasingly complex evaluation process from three key perspectives - "the legal marketing department", "the technology partner", and "the marketing technology industry analyst."
A conversation with:
Katy von Treskow, Senior Marketing Manager Digital Media
Winston & Strawn LLP
Scott Liewehr, President & Principal Analyst
Digital Clarity Group
George Sanchez, Director of Business Development
Rubenstein Technology Group
With more than 2,200 self-proclaimed Content Management Systems, 15,000 potential technology partners and an ever changing digital marketing landscape, now is good time to learn how you can better navigate the sometimes daunting prospect of evaluating, approaching and selecting the right piece of marketing technology and partner.
George: I wanna thank everybody for joining us today for the installment of the RubyLaw Thought Leadership series. My name's George Sanchez, I'm the Director of Business Development here at RubensteinTech and I'll be your moderator for discussion. Our goal for today's webinar is to open up the communication around best practices and lessons learned when evaluating marketing technology for a large law firm. All of this in the context of how much things are changing and have changed in the last even two to three years within the digital marketing landscape, including smartphone and tablet adoption and the resulting responsive design paradigm, personalization, and adding to this, the overwhelming number of software solutions and technology partners available in the marketplace. It's getting quite daunting. The discussion itself can apply to many different evaluation processes, like app development, a new front-end website redesign, or evaluating content management system. But for today's purposes, we're gonna focus slightly more on the full website redesign, but a lot of the concepts can, obviously, apply across a number of digital marketing projects that you might be evaluating. I'm gonna go ahead and introduce our amazing set of panelists. I'm gonna start with Jaron Rubenstein who is the founder and president of Rubenstein Technology Group. Jaron has 15-plus years of marketing technology experience, deep technical expertise, and a passion for design that empowers his creative partners and clients to identify opportunities, manage complex projects, and maintain the integrity of their work. Second, I'm proud to announce Katy von Treskow. Hi Katy!
Katy: Hi there.
George: How ya doin'? Katy's a senior marketing manager for digital media at Winston & Strawn. Katy has over a decade of legal marketing experience spanning many different roles from copywriter to PR coordinator to practice area specialist. Five years ago, she was hired at Winston & Strawn where she was tasked with repositioning the firm's digital marketing and media strategy. That mandate recently culminated in a project Katy recently led to launch a firm-wide rebrand and website redesign. Currently, Katy oversees the Marketing Communications Department, which includes PR, digital media, and marketing technology. On a personal front, her favorite activity includes going to the park with her little best friend, her one and a half year old daughter. Hopefully you get to do that soon, Katy.
George: And lastly, very happy to introduce Scott Liewehr who is the founder of Digital Clarity Group. Scott believes that digital content is transforming the enterprise and he thrives to provide clarity and pragmatic advice to help organizations through this change. With a passion for content management since leading the development of his first large scale internet for Starwood Hotels in the late '90s, Scott has lead ECM, WCM, and Portal engagements for more than 55 of the Fortune 500. So, hey Scott, how ya doin'?
Scott: Hey, good George, how are you? Glad to be here, thanks for having me.
George: Great. I'm gonna get right into it, so we can get through all our questions today. If anybody, if any of the attendees wanna ask a question, within any part of the webinar, please do. And you can go ahead and chat myself on, and maybe on your side it shows up as, I show up as a host, so go ahead and chat the host. So, I'll just kick it off. I wanted to maybe start with Scott. Scott, why do you think today's discussion, we're calling it Acing the Digital RFP, so important right now?
Scott: Yeah. I think it's really important because we're seeing, and certainly from an analyst's' viewpoint, I tend to work not extremely deeply with most customers, but kinda shallowly with a lot of customers, right, helping them through these sorts of processes, and I think we're seeing a major shift. You mentioned mobile. A number of things like that. We're seeing this big trend where digital is becoming the backdrop to nearly everything and from a marketing standpoint, we're seeing more and more transition over to the kind of digital side of the house. And so, I think consumer expectations are really increasing, so kind of what's expected from you as a law firm, in terms of the information that folks are looking for is a lot more than maybe it used to be. It used to be kind of okay to not update your content very often and that sort of thing, but now it's kind of a much more conversational dialogue and folks are doing a lot of research on the web. So, I think it's really important for folks to be thinking right now about their digital presence and so, therefore, thinking about an RFP for this sort of thing is an appropriate discussion to have.
George: And Katy, you just went through the process yourself. Why do you think that this, specifically the digital side of the RFP, is so important right now? We're obviously gonna get into a lot of maybe the lessons learned you had over the last couple of months, but, sort of top level, what do you think?
Katy: Well, I think, to echo Scott's point, the business needs have changed significantly, especially in the legal market, in the last five to eight years and everybody's using digital tools for prospecting, to sourcing, to acquiring talent, to liaising with clients. So, to have that interaction and that conversation, you need to have a sophisticated complimentary marketing strategy online. And it's become much more of a solution and a tool for firms than it ever has been. It's a mainstream part of business.
George: Perfect. Jaron, anything you wanna add?
Jaron: Yeah. I would say that I agree completely with Scott and Katy on that, but also, I think it's important that we all understand that, more so than ever, because of the constantly changing technology landscape, you really need a technology partner that you're willing and interested in having a longer term relationship with 'cause it is typically gonna be a longer term relationship. Most of the firms' processes are thinking at least five years out, sometimes longer, and I think that that's critical to just get it right the first time, and that all starts with the RFP process, it starts with finding that right partner from the beginning, So, I think that's critical and getting that wrong could set, you'll ultimately set your marketing efforts back months or even years out of frustration. So, It's definitely a critical part of the process and it's where it all begins.
George: Thanks Jaron.
Katy: I also think, just to clarify to Jaron's point, I think that the important part for us in selecting a tech partner was finding someone who can help us drive that transformation because a law firm is inherently risk adverse to embracing new technology and digital tools and solutions. And so, it's really important to have a partner that understands it beyond the legal sphere and can help us drive it and move it forward. So, that relationship and that connection, personally and professionally, is really important. I totally agree with that, Jaron.
George: Thanks, Katy. Hey, Scott, do you have anything to add there? I mean, you bring a unique perspective 'cause you're coming from outside the legal space, which is great for this community. Have you dealt with any really conservative firms or industries and, you know, that challenge is a big one for all of us, anything you can provide in terms of color on how you got over that hump, or maybe it's just a really hard challenge to tackle?
Scott: Yeah, you know.
George: Maybe it's a larger discussion than what we're gonna go through here.
Scott: And it might be. I know you wanna get through a bunch of questions, but I'll briefly say that certainly from one kind of part of the industry to the next, if you look at kind of where each of the sectors are, some are more advanced than this where this is, for example, if you were in retail and you hadn't modified your, your digital presence in the last three or four years, you've already lost a lot of ground. If you're a law firm, however, you might be kind of a little bit more on the front end of that and you haven't necessarily, the expectations for that portion of the industry haven't necessarily, there are not a ton of really amazing leaders in the space, maybe, that are kind of taking, taking market share from you, for example. But, so, it kind of does depend from one sector to the next, where insurance is versus where retail is versus where, you know, law firms are. Different places in terms of expectation from consumers. But what's undeniable, though, is that it is coming. The massive wave is coming and someone will come in and disrupt you if you don't have and the reason for losing business will become more and more your digital presence if it remains a black eye and you don't take this head on right now. So, that's kind of our advice to most and certainly rallying up organizational change and getting people to buy into that, there's lots of strategies we can talk about for that. But I'll leave it at that for now.
George: That's perfect. Thanks, Scott. I'm gonna go ahead and continue. I wanna lay out a very simple scenario. I just want you guys to assume, not you guys, the panelists to assume that I'm, basically, a director of digital marketing for an 80-plus year old international 800 attorney firm and I'm now charged with doing a top to bottom refresh of the look and feel, i.e. branding, and the user experience of my firm's site. And the question is am I hiring one firm to do the brand strategy, the visual identity, the wireframing, and the eventual implementation? Or is it two firms, what's optimal and what have you seen, Scott, folks do?
Scott: There are as many ways to kind of approach this as there are companies out there that do it. I don't think there's a, I don't want to prescribe a single best approach. I would say, though, that there are factors to consider. Even if you look at, thinking about this like a basketball game, you can have a team that's kind of mediocre, but works really well together. All of their team members are, all of the individual players may not be the, necessarily, the best at their position, but they play really well together, they're coached really well together, great communication, everyone knows their role, that sort of stuff. You could also get kind of a dream team of sorts that, we've seen cases of this in the actual Olympics where they actually go and lose. They might be the best individual players, but they don't communicate necessarily very well, they don't know their role. Kind of all out for themselves sort of thing. So, same thing when you're establishing a team to work with here. There are some firms that claim expertise in both the technology and branding on a number of those sorts of things. We focus specifically on service providers and agencies and there are plenty that say they can do all that. But there are plenty of other considerations, like you might want a particular technology that they may not have expertise in, necessarily, and so, therefore, finding another provider who specializes in that particular technology to work with them would be great. Or you might have an agency of record that you've worked with really well, but you know might not have the technical prowess, but they know your brand really well, they've worked with you for a long time, and they're gonna be the best ones to come up with that. So, I think that the thing is about how are you gonna have them work together to ensure success is the bigger question in my mind.
George: Fantastic. I appreciate that. And Katy, you just went through the process yourself. When you were sorting out the sort of structure of your team, what did you think about and how'd that play out?
Katy: Thanks, George. I think, I actually have that coming up from a different angle, I think. If you are a law firm and you are going through a, you're looking to rebrand your firm and come up with a new identity, I think the priorities have changed and it's really less about where you were and understanding your brand now and really about finding a firm that's gonna help you understand your brand tomorrow. And that's looking a lot more like your clients. So, if your clients are retails, if they are insurance, it's important to show that you can understand their priorities, understand what, how they do business and that means, on a lot of fronts, looking like them and giving them the information they need. So, for us, it really meant finding an agency that could really get invested in helping us look less at who we were and where we were coming from and more at helping us kind of guide us to tomorrow. And so I thought that when I originally started the process, we were looking at trying to do one, all of it on one umbrella and as we got further involved in the process, we found that the, you know, a tech firm and a branding agency offer very different things and it's hard to find one, one shop that offers two very competitive solutions because the needs kind of evolve as the project unfolds. And so, for us, it really became who's gonna give us the best visual design and then are they gonna have a really seamless and good relationship with a tech partner. We wanted to find that partnership between a tech partner and a design firm that was so seamless it felt like it was the same animal, but they were driving each other to try new things. And so, we felt like having those two separate relationships was really, really beneficial in this case. But we'd never felt like it was two different relationships. But I do feel like they pushed each other in different regards and they helped us with a lot more like our clients' priorities than us. That make sense?
George: Great. Yes, yes. We're obviously a bit biased 'cause we, you know, that's our business model at RubensteinTech is to partner with creative agencies, but, maybe Jaron, you can give some color on why you think that may be a good option for folks.
Jaron: Yeah. I think that's an easy one for us because, I mean, as George says, it is our model to partner with creative and the reason we do that is really, I mean, we've been doing that for 12 years, but the reason is that we've always felt that it's best to focus on the engineering, on the technology side of it. And I think that 12 years ago that was true, but today, I think it's 12 times as true. And that's really because the technology complexity of, you know, of just everything, of marketing technology in general, of the web, of content management systems, of mobile and social media integration, the speed with which that has been increasing and gaining in complexity has just gone sky high. I mean, it's almost impossible for, you know, everyone in this industry to keep up with everything all the time. And what we found is by bringing that deep-seated technology expertise and that real engineering approach to the projects, coupled with the experience we have in legal, we're able to get the best of both worlds. We're able to provide the best technology and the best design. And, honestly, again, I mean, we've been doing this for 12 years and while we do work with some interactive firms that do both in-house, they'll bring us in when the complexity gets beyond what they can handle internally. Because, generally speaking, a firm is either, even the best interactive firms out there are either really strong in design or really strong in technology. I don't know of any that are exceptional in both. And I think that that's what you get when you bring in therelationship. But it is, the chemistry is incredibly important. The background knowledge of legal and other industries that you can bring to the equation, I think is really important as well. And basically, just making sure that the client, at the end of the day, gets the best possible design, the best possible branding, the best technology, and at the end of the day, what you wind up with is the best user experience for your site's visitors and that's what it's all about. These days, it's all about user experience, it's all about how visitors to your firm's site experience your brand firsthand and making sure that that's exceptional at every level and consistent across the thousand different devices that they might have.
George: Great, thanks for all the answers. That was really good color. So, we're gonna move on. So, now, let's assume that we go with our route. That I've now decided on a design or creative partner and also a separate tech partner to work together. There's a big third component here that we're not talking about, which is the actual marketing technology, or back-end or content management system. Who chooses that? Is that, do I leave that up to my technology partner? Creative partner? Is that a separate discussion altogether? And how does that fit within the digital RFP process? I'm gonna start with Scott again. Scott, any color there?
Scott: Sure. I think that's a really interesting question and I think we're starting to see it change a little bit across the board. So, today, you know, again, at the end of the day, I think you can have, if you have a, to the point that everyone just made in the answer to the previous question, if you have, you know, the best technology in the world and only a mediocre team, you will end up with mediocre results. Meaning team being whether that be your branding team, implementation team, et cetera. If you have, you know, mediocre technology, but the best team in the world, I think you can end up having still amazing results. So, the technology, in my view, while it can be a hindrance or a great enabler, I think is the lesser point of this. So I'm glad that we've talked about the kind of role of the implementer, I think that is really key. But in terms of, you certainly, still, there certainly are some bad choices that you can make out there and who's the best one to make that choice? I think, you know, again, look, if you've, if you've got a creative partner, or maybe you kind of serialized your process for the rebrand and you first focused on kind of identifying a new, you know, brand features and that sort of stuff and you're working with an agency or a firm that you have placed a lot of trust in, that you have a great working relationship with, and that might have a relationship with one or two technology vendors or maybe even their own technology, then I would say that you can probably look to them. Or I would weight that higher in my discussion, my decision of whether or not to look to them might rank higher. You could also go, as many do, many use, kind of, whether it's or whatever other things to go and try to pick a technology. I don't think that's the best advice, per say, just to go look at those charts because they're not probably made with you in mind, but regardless, you can go do kind of a pure technology only selection and go do that and that's fine as well, knowing, though, that while you do that, you need to make sure that the context of who's gonna help you implement that is kept solidly in mind. You could very easily go pick what you think is the best technology out there, but your kind of vendor of choice to work with to implement it doesn't necessarily specialize or have good experience in that, good background in that. So, I think you can go either way. But, I don't mean to keep giving these loose answers, but there is more than one answer.
George: No, I think you're dimensionalizing it quite well and it's, for us it's, we have our own system and a different model. But, maybe Jaron, you can talk about the flip side. I mean, Scott, maybe give some more color on, we obviously have RubyLaw which is our own content management system. It's a shared source model, but you can, you know, a firm can go out and hire or pick a technology software which is you know, "off the shelf" and then have to go out and then find the right implementer, those are two very different models. What's the market like for, to call it, the commercial solution?
Scott: Yeah, so, I mean, you guys actually are a prime example to kind of make my point. If a firm had worked with you and you have this deep expertise, you obviously have a lot of specialty in working with other law firms, you're gonna know best practices really well, your technology is catered to this particular scenario, yet it's not gonna show up on any of those kind of commercial product reports, right?
Scott: It's not ranked there against some of the off the shelf products, which can be tailored, certainly, but don't necessarily specialize in it. And so, depending what a firm is trying to do, certainly, yes, they can go with the one that gets the medals and the kudos as being kind of recognized against others in its class, but you could end up working with a firm that doesn't, sorry, with an agency that doesn't know anything about law firms and doesn't have deep experience, or who have spend a lot of cycles and time tailoring that product to your needs, to your as a law firm's needs, which might be costly. Or they might do a bang up job at it and just be fantastic. So, I think the, there are more than one ways to skin the cat, but I think you guys are a perfect example of why it's not necessarily best just to go do a pure kind of technology selection and look at quadrants and waves and things like that to go find 'em.
Jaron: Scott, I have a question about something you just said. 'Cause this is something that I've felt very strongly about for awhile. Everyone has to start with their first site in an industry at some point, right?
Jaron: If you've never done something in legal before, you have to start, and that's something to consider when you're the purchaser, the buyer. But it's always been my feeling that as we've learned more and more about the industry and the legal profession, our solutions have gotten deeper and deeper and more focused on what their needs are without them needing to tell us upfront. And I feel like when you're starting with a more generic solution or an implementer that doesn't have that experience in that industry, that that's a big detriment. Do you also find that? I mean, I think that's what you said, but I just, I wanna kinda dig deeper into that.
Scott: Yeah. Yeah, so I definitely think that there's a lot of merit to the notion that, and it's kind of funny, as an analyst, we're going in and help people capture requirements and stuff and often times they'll even look to us, trying to decide between us as an industry analyst in terms of how we can help them find technology, they're looking whether or not we have experience in their particular industry sector, and often times the feeling is is, you know, ah, your needs are so similar to the other one's needs and everybody thinks their needs are unique. Well, in fact, they are, in many times, and especially when you're talking about an implementation partner who doesn't even have to ask you certain questions and just know that a focus on, on matter management or whatever the scenarios might be, you know that's more for an internal system, but to have that experience and bring that to the table when you're talking especially about somebody who's going to be doing the implementation, which is a far deeper level of requirements to deal with than is just the kind of requirements that help you narrow down your list of technologies, right? Those are very kind of surface level things versus now I'm gonna go through an implementation. I very much think there's a lot of merit to finding a partner, especially the implementation partner who has fairly deep experience in your, in your vertical. And if they don't, then at least going in eyes wide open and having some other reason why you're choosing them is helpful and how can you then make sure through the course of the project to counter the fact that they don't necessarily have that information first hand. You might have more mild tone reviews or things like that, that you're working with them more closely or some other way you can take into that account. Take that into account.
George: Great, thanks Scott and Jaron. Obviously, that discussion can go on and on. But I wanna keep it going and talk about structuring. We talked about structuring your team externally with a creative firm, one firm, creative firm, and a tech firm. What about internal? What's the best structure internally for somebody who's running a process at a law firm? How do you set up your project team? How do you set up the decision making process and team? And what's worked that you've seen, Scott and Katy, I guess. Why don't we start with Katy 'cause you just went through the process. Katy, what was your setup when you started and how did that work itself out? Both in terms of the project team on the day-to-day basis and then when you needed to go and actually get approval.
Katy: So, I've done this a couple times and I think this last experience, because it was such a broader effort that started with a redesign, website redesign, and then launched into a full on rebranding campaign, our needs kind of shifted a little bit. But we were really gearing up for this for about a year and we, you know, you can have just these huge, massive teams and different levels of approvals that you need to go through. Law firms are a very, kind of, political animal and you have to navigate the landscape very carefully and get all different types of approval and, you know, lawyers are inherently curious as well as like to always be involved in big decisions. And so, for us, we had different, the way it worked for us, and it was really the best experience I've had at a firm was I kind of designed a Working Committee and then an Approval Committee. The Working Committee consisted of a mix of admin from recruiting to business development to directors of admin or the chief administrative officer to heads of practices and office managing partners, and different C-level executives at the firm. So, we had a team of only 13 that were are Working Committee and I only involved them at big aspects of the project. And then there was a really, really kind of working working group of seven of us that were really invested in it and three of us that made all the big decisions. Then we would go back to the seven and then the seven would present to the 11 at every key aspect of it. And when the 11 would sign off, we would be great. But when we had big processes of approval, like the design for example, or the navigation and the user experience from the wireframing, we would go to the Approval Committee at that point. And the Approval Committee consisted of primarily our Executive Committee at the firm and it was, it got to the point where anytime I got to the Executive Committee, I had so many people invested in already and so many different avenues of approval from my Working Committee, there were so many good internal constituents that were involved in that process, anytime I went to the Executive Committee with final presentations of different aspects of it, they, there was never any points of contention or concern or questions raised. It really worked out very cleanly. So, and I've been, when I did this once before it, you know, spiraled into having to present this to 500 people with voting options and it was a monster project in undertaking and that can be the beast that you're working with, with law firms. But if you start with a very good and involved and invested working committee that consists of a mix of different attorneys and senior staff, I think that sets you up for success. Or at least it did in our case and we've had a really good internal buy-in. And then, when we did launch a project we did what we call a soft launch for a week leading up to it. And the soft launch, we did a launch party in each of our big offices and everyday for five business days, we did a pretty significant email communication about different features of the site along with a desk drop to really help people understand the new branding elements, the new functionality, because this, like I said, it was, it became a tool. This is a new experience for websites, now. Or for law firms, websites are. So, I think that this experience especially was really successful because we had a very organized and involved group and launch effort.
Katy: I think committees are great.
George: No, that's fantastic. I think the internal buy-in, especially, or getting internal buy-in in that whole process is critical, especially at a law firm where you have.
George: Sometimes hundreds of owners, right? There's hundreds of partners that all, technically, have a say. So, that's great that you were able to corral all that. Scott, have you gone and experienced something similar in terms of optimal project team and decision making structure? I know you, 'cause you deal with maybe even larger organizations than what we deal with.
Scott: Yeah. And, you know, actually, first of all, I think Katy's points were extremely spot on and people would be well advised to heed them. I think, you know, it actually, I've worked with extremely large organizations with 150,000 people in them, but the project team consisted of six. And I've dealt with smaller organizations, in fact, that tends to be the case, kind of the smaller the organization, the more that everyone feels like they've got a say, whether they feel like it or whether they actually do or not, you tend to have even larger teams with smaller organizations, right, isn't that kind of.
George: Yes, absolutely.
Scott: Yeah, so, it's actually not really reflective of a size. It does have to do with, I think, a couple of key points and Katy made some of these, but just to rehash, one is, if you have a strong leader, meaning the sponsor for the project, they can really set the tone. Certainly the culture of the organization is going to, and as you've said, in law firms, often times kind of everyone gets to have a say, that's just how things go. But if you have a strong kind of sponsor who can help to really chart the course to make sure that people understand that their interests will be represented whether or not they have a personal stake. In some cases, you run requirements gathering conversations whether it's one-on-one or workshops with lots of people where people can feel like, okay, I took part of this, now, and as long as you kind of inform them along the way, they can feel like my interests were represented there, and they see their value add in that. They see that their voice was heard. They participated in it and now they can be kept abreast of it, that's great. And hopefully, I think that's a better approach. Often times, from a purely kind of academic stance, be comforted in the fact that more than like interviews with about 12 people or so doesn't usually yield many more requirements at all. Usually, you just start to hear the same thing over and over again. And so, know and be conscious that you're gonna spend time and money getting that, but sometimes that's extremely valuable because you'll have buy-in, right. But just kind of be aware that you might be doing many more, having many more conversations. You might not get as much payback on the broader requirements, but if that's your kind of way of getting buy-in and that's the way your culture of your organization works, then it's gonna be valuable regardless 'cause the last thing you want is to go make a decision and then people can't pull the trigger because you didn't get perspective from some valuable folks. But I think Katy's points were, I think that's a great organization for the product.
George: Perfect. I think that's a good segway to, my next question basically covers, you know, before you even start to write the RFP, let's keep it to maybe three things that folks should be doing in terms of research. You spoke about workshops, but sometimes that's covered by whoever it is, is doing the actual project, your creative partner or your technology partner, but what are some other things that folks could do to make the process more efficient and to give the service providers they're trying to evaluate some good insight and context? I think I'll start with Scott again.
Scott: I'll do a brief answer to allow the others 'cause I think it'd be good to hear everyone's perspectives and I know that sometimes I get up on this, my high horse here, and start talking forever. So, I'll try to keep it brief. One is that everyone should be considering, not just in terms of being able to give insight to the prospective partner, but we should all really be considering who's in our audience, right, so who are we trying to serve ultimately, who's the audience of our digital presence in the first place? And that's going to tell you a lot about what they expect, what information they're looking for, what types of experiences they're typical to have? Is social, with that particular audience, something that's really prevalent? Are they tend to be a mobile audience? So, it's understanding who they are, what information they're looking for and are trying to get is going to be able to really help guide you what your presence needs to be in the first place, how you're providing that information to them, that sort of thing. Second, I think is, there are some kind of, helping them to understand the channels that which you intend to communicate are significant. So, we've talked mobile, but is rich media gonna be important for you? I think it should be more and more, by the way, as we become kind of more and more outside-in focused or customer-centric, trying to provide them information about what we do and act as experts for them. Things like videos and stuff is a really healthy way of being able to do that. So, helping them understand your content and the content that you plan to produce in the future And then third is just kind of just generally your, your kind of philosophical stance on this from where are you coming from. Are you a kind of bleeding edge firm that's always trying to be on the cusp of things and you were the first ones out and involved in social or are you more reserved, conservative, that sort of stuff? How many authors are you gonna have? Are the attorneys themselves gonna wanna be writing and posting on this? All of that's gonna really dictate I think a lot to have to do with the technology. So, there are lots of things, but those are some, some that I'd start out with.
George: Jaron, you wanna add to that?
Jaron: Yeah, I would, I mean, like Scott said, there's a long list here, but if I have to just limit it to top three, I would say the first is audience. Going with what Scott said, again, who's your audience? Who are you speaking to with this website or app, or whatever the project is? Where they're located, what level of technology are they going to have, what are their personas, really, from a user experience perspective? The second is who will use it? Who will use the content management system? Who is the communications team? What level of technical level of expertise do they possess? Where are they located? More and more firms are, you know, diversifying and spreading out content management requirements and responsibilities across the firm, across offices, often international offices are getting involved in managing the content in their respective languages, et cetera. So, knowing who's gonna be using the system, I think, drives a whole new set of requirements and thinking through the process. And then the third thing is, is really issues with the current system, with the current CMS. This one is, it's amazing how many times clients come to us and say we can't stand our current system, or we're not being supported well, or whatever those issues are. But when we start to ask those specific questions, you know, what exactly, where are the issues with CMS? Sometimes they haven't listed those out, they haven't thought those through. And in engineering it's very simple. Input, output, requirements, results. If we know that these are the issues that you've been having, that's gonna drive a lot of the satisfaction you have with the new system. So definitely knowing what issues you're currently facing and of course you wanna resolve in, at the end of this project that you're putting the RFP out for, really important.
George: Katy, you wanna add? Maybe provide some color on what exactly you did or didn't do that you wish you did.
Katy: I mean, there's not much for me to add there. I think they both, you know, raised exactly the points I would, which is that it's important for, to be able to design a very competitive RFP in such an interesting space as legal, you really have to understand the organization. Law firms are not the same from place to place. Firms specialize in different areas. They have different client bases, they have different locations, they have different platforms, business model, everything. So, it's really important to understand the firm, I think, culturally as well as understand our audience. Who are we speaking to? Are we focused on, for example, on the recruiting service? Or we focused a lot on? Or are we focused more on laterals? Even that discussion, I think, weighs in a lot on designing a digital strategy and a competitive RFP. And I think for us, in terms of a CMS, anybody who's in the law firm in a website environment and managing sites has experience with the CMS, and probably has a wishlist of what they want in their next CMS system and we're looking at a tech partner kind of to one, tell us what the right solution is and that they offer as well as kind of give us something that's proprietary and customizable based on our needs. And so, that really drived, I think, RFP process with our partners at Rubenstein.
Scott: So if I can add one more thing really quickly, George, first of all, I think both of those points are great and the one that Jaron mentioned about your users and stuff is extremely important as well. I'd just add one point to what Katy just said as well. Make sure to keep in mind the things that your current CMS has got if one does well, also.
Katy: Right, right.
Scott: Because the easiest thing to do is to come up with that laundry list of stuff that it doesn't do well. Go make sure that you satisfy those requirements and then now you're left with a problem that it stink what you thought you had a checkbox on. So, just keep that in mind, too.
Jaron: Excellent advice.
Katy: Very good point.
George: Great point. We've been getting some really great answers, but have taken quite a bit of time. I'm gonna skip ahead one or two questions and start to focus on the RFP itself and writing it. We've been participated in a number of them over the last couple of months where we've had to highlight some things that weren't even in the RFP and I just want to maybe talk about that a little bit. Jaron, what do you think folks have been missing and what should they be asking in terms of the RFP? One or two things, three things, areas, that make sure that they're covered.
Jaron: Yeah. It's funny 'cause there's definitely a common set of things that we see missing recently and it always gets covered in the questions, but mobile is one. How important is mobile support, whether that's responsive web design or just mobile support or optimization is really how we differentiate between the two. Mobile compatibility or mobile optimization, big thing. You know, experience with migration is a big one, migrating from past systems. A lot of firms are looking to change their systems and it's important to either ask about that experience from the provider or also specify what's going to be migrated. So, is it 10,000 pages of content? Is it 2,000 pages of content? I think there's this sort of unknown expectation of vendors that if you send us to your URL, we'll know how many pages are on your site. And unless we spider your site, which most firms would not like us to do without permission, and even spiders will miss a lot. So, a lot of that is doing a little bit of an audit on your end to figure out what's on the site and what's coming over? Frequently, there might be 10,000 news and publications, but often we've been asked by firms to only migrate the last three years, and that's only 1,000 new and publications. Just having some ideas of what's gonna be migrated is important. Multilingual is a big one. More and more firms are being, are growing overseas, growing offices, or have that in their sights for the next three to five years and having a system that can support multilingual might be a requirement. Another requirement might be specific languages. Which languages do you wanna launch with? How extensive are you gonna translate the site? Is it gonna be a few key pages? Is it gonna be every page on the site? Is it gonna be a few bios? Is it gonna be every bio? Et cetera, et cetera. I can go on and on, I'm gonna stop it there. But that's some, those are a few of the key things that we see being really important today that two, three years ago, even, were just, they weren't even on people's radar.
George: Anybody else wanna add to that?
Katy: I think one thing I'd add to that is, for us, what was really important, and to you, too, your point, Jaron, with the content migration and evaluating how much you wanna move over and what your needs are, the needs have shifted very much. And so, what you were seeing five years ago with law firms is five to 10 years ago, law firms were really about marketing themselves and telling people who they were and why they were great and showing their successes and now it's really saying, hey, we have the results, we have the experience, we know what you're interested in and we're gonna give it to you. Really listening to your clients and kind of designing a personalization framework. So, as you're kind of rewriting your content to align with those evolving needs of your audience, you have to think about search and is it gonna be an easy, search is a huge component, I think, in designing sites, now, that you don't think about, maybe. It doesn't come top of mind of as something like management or responsively design your mobile needs. Because searches very much, offsite and onsite search is just as much a priority, I think, as any of those other areas. And that was a huge discussion, as well as multilingual, I think, and responsive.
Katy: And now to add one other part, 'cause I think this is an, I'm sure this is why people, this is the essence of why people came onto this, this webinar, this conversation. So, to me, it's, yes, there's a lot of good points made that have been made about kind of what topics are, may have been missed. But I think it's about how you ask the questions. Making sure that they're open ended, that you're describing the scenario, like why am I asking you about social, what are trying to do with it, and then help me understand, because the, It's not. Jaron gave the example of multilingual support or localization. And I just did a, I do a monthly show. Yesterday, we just covered on the topic of globalization yesterday and there are so many forms of that. That could just mean supporting characters that are UTF-8 and support all the characters, or that could mean like you have a very complex process for you've got a decentralized group of people who have to be aware of various versions of the website that have to be kept in concert and if one changes something after it's already been approved in language, everybody else should know about it. There's just lots and lots of ways to do that. So it shouldn't be a yes or no sorts of questions. The second kind of major thing is that until you show signs of intelligent life as a buyer, you will be kept in the qualification queue by vendors. There's a lot of prospects out there. These sales folks have a lot of RFPs to answer and if you write up a cookie cutter, you've copy-pasted from some list of requirements that you found somewhere on the web and you paste that into your RFP, you're gonna get copy-paste answers if you get any answer at all, if they even think it's worth their time. So, you know, show some life, tell them your scenario, what does this mean to your organization, what are you trying to do, describe some scenarios for them and have them answer with consultative answers, helping you understand how their technology will help you in those particular scenarios.
George: Thank you everybody. That was great color and I think it leads to our next question in terms of, I'm gonna skip again, we have roughly 10 minutes left. I wanna talk about timelines and budgets. And from a timeline perspective, I wanna hit upon the RFP process itself. We've found it sometimes frustrating where the RFP process can drag on for months at a time with no communication either way. And I wanted to just maybe ask Katy. Maybe we don't see what's happening behind the scenes and it's not whoever's fault that we're dealing with why it's getting delayed, but was that something that you encountered in trying to push internally and being responsive to your potential service providers and the people that you were evaluating? How did you sort of reconcile all of that? Did we lose her?
Katy: You hear me?
George: She muted?
Jaron: There you are.
George: There you are, yep.
George: We can hear you. We can hear you.
Katy: The question very straightforward. If you are designing, with this kind of project, you need to have cushion period in the timeline. And with the vendor and with your team, there's gonna be business as usual that interferes, so you need to allow for that cushion period and you need to project for that and plan for that. And you also need to do the same thing with your budget. There needs to be a goal budget, a high-end budget, and a low-end budget and you have to, I think you just have to be realistic in knowing that business will interfere, people have other responsibilities and there's nothing you can do about it. You can only push it as far as you can. I know it gets frustrating on the vendor's side. It gets frustrating on our side and the project side. And you just have to plan on it, it just happens. It's just part of life.
George: And give everybody some color on what can they expect from, from start to finish. Your site was very extensive and it was top to bottom. Redesign. Was it nine months, was it? Was it 18 months?
Katy: So, we did, I did pretty extensive discovery process and kind of a competitive audit, both in the industry and outside of industry for about nine months leading up to the project before we even compiled that line for the RFP. So, once we got to that process and launched an RFP, it then took four months, I would say, to really secure the vendor and the back and forth and the contract negotiations, and making sure that all of our, we had all of our considerations outlined because a lot of this stuff evolves. You don't necessarily know all of your needs until you meet with your vendor and you're like, oh, you're right, I think we will need to think about that. And so, it was about four months, so that's nine months, four months, and then 14 months once we started the project and we projected 11 months. So, that's not a huge delay, but it is a pretty lengthy process when you're rebranding and redesigning at such a big scope. And we narrowed our content from 13,000 pages to 800 pages, excluding our bios, so we really, this was a very meaty undertaking and we stuck to a pretty aggressive timeline for such a big project.
George: Sounds like a lot of fun. I just want to highlight one thing. You said before you even started the RFP process, you were working on this for nine months.
Katy: Yes, I was. So, for nine months I did kind of, you know, I did everything from understanding what the digital media landscape looked like. I did a ton of research. I lived essentially like an analyst. I studied the landscape. I looked at what are the biggest web trends, what are the biggest digital media trends. What are clients doing? What are they hungry for? Let's interview our clients. Let's interview key members of the press and our journalists and our relationships at big industry publications and understand their needs. Are they hungrier than us? Who are our biggest users? Where are they based geographically? What is missing? And then, who at the firm is gonna be really invested in helping me drive this? And before, and I compiled the committee and then I went to our senior chairman, sat down with him, and I had all of that competitive insight and knowledge in nine months, and a big presentation, and it was a 30 minute meeting to, that turned in from a great, I agree redesign, but you know what, I think we want to rebrand entirely. And that was it.
George: Got it. I think if everybody did that, the probability of success would go way up, so I congratulate you on that amount of preparation. We're almost running out of time, here. But I did wanna talk about, and maybe Scott, you could give us maybe some color on budgets and not necessarily dollar amounts, but creating apples to apples comparisons and is there a way to break out pricing from a technology side, say it's front-end, back-end, and like ongoing support that you should ask your folks participating in the RFP to break it out in a certain way?
Scott: Yeah. Yeah, so, the question certainly makes sense. The answer will not. To add quickly to what Katy just said is, by the way, excellent idea about padding your time limit, be very realistic to yourself, business as usual will happen and it will disrupt your process. The thing that I'd say to all of that, though, is that also to be transparent with your prospective partners, here. Do view this whole process as the start of a partnership, even if only one will result. The point is the more respect you treat the others on the other side with, the more respect you'll get in return. The more attention that you'll get and the better for a longer-term relationship it will make. You are picking partners. So, if you're stretching the timeline, if disruptions to the timeline happen, keep everybody aware. I mean, if you had a big hire you were making through the course of the hiring process, some things like that get slowed up as well. You would certainly keep in touch with them because you know they've got plenty of places else to go. So just I would just say that, to that point. Regarding, George, your question about budget, you know, I talk to these CMS vendors every day of the week, literally, and they are just so not aligned with the way that they price in the first place that there's only so much you can do to require this. I mean, some are have per user pricing, per server pricing, per core, per CPU, I mean, all these crazy thing. So, it's really nuts. But I would definitely say a couple of things. One is, you do wanna make sure that when you're budgeting, whatever you budget for the technology, you're budgeting at least three-fold for the implementation and services that go along with it, whether it's the same part, whether it's the professional services group of the vendor or not. And if you're doing a larger rebranding like Katy did, probably five times. But the point is that technology will not be your biggest spend, is the most likely scenario.
George: A great point.
Scott: Yeah. Secondly, is that certainly you wanna understand, okay, what the technology is gonna cost you today, so the kind of the Capex costs. I think the biggest thing you wanna be clear about is asking them to give you the Capex cost, you might have to give them some information like users and architectural information so that they can scope it, 'cause usually their licensing is based on how much of the software you need to support how many things like that. So, you might have to give them some information there. But I think the biggest key is making sure that they break out if there are add-ons or modules that would have otherwise been optional that they have presented to you and told you about. Their capabilities in their proposal that they break those out for you or they include them in the price, because that is a common tactic to tell you. Our software can do all this great stuff, oh, by the way, but you didn't ask me for this module and that module and the other one in the pricing. So, making sure to be explicit about that. From a maintenance standpoint, yes you wanna know what that's gonna cost. Usually, it's a percentage. It's usually quite negligible. Expect somewhere between 17 and 25%, depending on the level of service that you require. And then, certainly on the implementation, you'll wanna have that broken out. Likely though, be prepared to spend some time. They're not gonna be able to give you a full implementation.
Scott: Cost. So, they'll likely break that out into some sort of a fixed price engagement to kind of solidify what the full on project is going to be, so expect that. So, things there, you just wanna kind of understand are rates and how they did their pricing. Is it per day? Is it fixed? That sort of stuff.
Katy: And George, one thing I know. One thing I was gonna say, just to reiterate and kind of expand on one of your points is with budgeting, one thing we did that I think really helped us was we looked at what our support maintenance looked like for a couple years every month, so you get those invoices from your vendors, and I think that was really helpful in us kind of projecting what our maintenance needs would be now that we were gonna have a much more sophisticated experience online and kind of figuring out what maintenance we needed. And also, we had to think about how long we expected this relationship to be. So, if this vendor, in addition to looking at all the add-ons and additional features and making sure that it was really transparent and clear, it's really important to think about the longevity of the relationship and what those costs will be throughout the course of that. And be realistic compared to what you're using now. Does that make sense? That helps you kind of define a budget, I think.
George: That's a great point.
Jaron: Yeah. I just wanna add two things to that. One of them is that the, when Scott's talking about maintenance, there's different kinds of maintenance, and this is not always clear to prospective clients. There's the maintenance of the actual software, sort of a baseline maintenance. Often enterprise software will have an annual maintenance fee that gets charged just for the privilege of using the software and getting updates on occasion. And then there's the maintenance, which is more sort of the ongoing support and enhancements. And bug fixes and those sorts of things specific to your particular project, your particular site. So, those are two different areas of that. So, I just want to make that point, and that's it.
George: Yeah, I think we're gonna run out of time, here, and this is probably gonna be our last question. Before I ask the question, I wanna thank Scott and Katy and Jaron for taking an hour of their time to give us some really good insight here. This gas exceeded my expectations. Really good color and I think the fact that we're gonna have a recording and for people to look at this on an ongoing, or hear it, listen to it on an ongoing basis is gonna be really helpful to the community, so thank you.
Jaron: And thank you to all of our participants for joining us.
George: Absolutely, of course. The last question, 'cause we often see this as an area that full commits quite a bit is we were just talking about this is ongoing support maintenance. You know, we talk about the creative side of a project and the tech side. More often than not, you're gonna have a really long-term relationship. You know, Jaron mentioned maybe at least at a minimum five years with your tech partner if he's doing a good or she's doing a good job. You know, how you ask the right questions Scott, Katy, Jaron in terms of how that relationship is gonna look? How does a tech partner react to requests? Do they have a support desk? Do they have a ticketing system? How important is that to you and should it be to folks writing an RFP? Jaron, you wanna touch that one?
Jaron: Yeah, I'll start quickly. I wanna give Scott and Katy a chance to talk about that, but you know, I think that it's. A lot of, on the design side, generally, the project ends when the site launches. But once the site launches, that's really when the software life cycle continues on the technology side. And you've launched the site but then there's often ongoing changes. There's often technical support, you know, requests. There's just the enhancements are as frequent and as large as a firm will look for. Right, I mean it varies from firm to firm. We've launched sites where for year after launch, they didn't touch it and then we've launched sites where for year after launch, every month there were, you know, weeks of work to, not to change it, but really to add to it, and that's a good sign in a way because it means that, you know, the firm's constituents have seen it and they've got new ideas in addition to things like that. And you know, how to manage that is a whole another conversation, but the point is that you definitely need an ongoing support and maintenance option. The hosting's a big part, just about all of the web vendors these days, web partners have, you know, a hosting option and most IT departments are happy to do it that way because they don't wanna manage the geographic redundancy in up-time and all the other things that are required of a public website. So, we often provide hosting and maintenance. We do provide hosting and maintenance to all of our clients. The only thing I would say is just in terms of getting an idea of, you know, this is more after the RFP's written, after the proposal's written in your evaluating potential partners. You know, the best thing to do is to talk to their clients. Talk to their clients, their current clients, and ask them, you know, how they are responsive. You know, how responsive they are, how often tickets are being created, how frequently they're getting responded to and resolved in reasonable amount of time, et cetera. I can go into it many more than that, but I think that responsiveness is critical because I know that in the marketing departments, at least the clients we work with, you know, attorneys and partners, other marketers are constantly demanding things to be changed immediately. And having a rapid turnaround, having a rapid response in place is critical for the ongoing support of the site.
Scott: Yep, I think that's right and the point that you made at the end of the last question to distinguish the types of support, I think is also very helpful. I think, I know to me, I would just make sure that generally, I mean, philosophically, the situation you identified where, you know, there were lots of changes requested after launch. To me, that should be the norm going forward. If we're focused on the call, hopefully you're viewing that launch day is, you know, when you select your product, select your vendors, and then you go through the implementation process and you launch. That should be viewed day one of your future much longer programmer project to kind of you know, make sure that you are constantly representing yourself the best you possibly can from a digital perspective. It shouldn't be viewed as like oh, we're done, all hail champagne, we can go home now and just let it sit there. So, hopefully, you do plan a lot of engagement with your agency and firm or whatever because you are constantly wanting to up. Also, often times, just from a scope perspective, you tend to push some sorts of capabilities like personal volition or something like that, often to the next phase. And so, you wanna be able to have a map to get there, but I think generally, the thing here to consider, for me, is again lots of players. The question is who on the team is playing what role. So, you know, is your agency or implementation partner the one that you're suppose to call first when there's a problem or what do you call them for first? Versus, you know, when do you call the hotline for your technology vendor? Sometimes, especially in the case of open source software, you're only calling your implementation partner. In other cases, your professional services and everything was even by the technology vendor. So, lots of choices, but the question is kind of who do I call first and then yeah. Making sure that you have a maintenance agreement that first and foremost allows you to sleep at night. That you know there's gonna be a certain level of hop to it when there's a big problem. I think, you know, not everybody though needs the full 24/7 highest level support in the world because it might not necessarily be business critical, you know, like for retailer or a transportation firm had their website go down, they're losing money of every minute. I don't know that everybody has to be that way though. So, don't overpay for support. But I would definitely plan for lots of long-term support from the standpoint of improving your site and making changes to it. Usually that's a kind of engagement by engagement fix, you know, piece by piece. But there's some sort of keep the lights on cost with that as well.
Jaron: Scott, everything in legal is always business critical. Otherwise I agree!
George: Katy, unless you have something to add, we're probably gonna end the webinar.
Katy: No, they covered it and I don't have anything to add there.
George: Excellent. Well, thanks for participating. And I'm sure we'll be doing plenty of these soon. So, thanks again to everybody.
Scott: Thanks for having us, bye.
Katy: Yeah, bye.
Jaron: Thank you to our panelists and thank you to our participants. Everyone have a terrific day.
Katy: Thank you, buh-bye.
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