Does Your Firm Have a Technology Steering Committee?
I frequent many legal industry discussion boards and, recently, a question came up on an ILTA board asking for “samples of charters for Tech Committees.”
Rather quickly, a few people responded and one in particular stood out to me. This firm (which I’ll keep anonymous) has clearly established IT as a firm-wide priority, both for day-to-day operations and for long-term success.
I’m going to share the entire document and then add my two cents at the end.
IT Steering Committee Mission Statement
The Technology Steering Committee is the group responsible for providing input to executive leadership in the development of standards, policies, and the prioritization of technology initiatives.
The Technology Steering Committee will provide a stabilizing influence to help ensure that technology standards, policies and initiatives are established and maintained with a visionary global view. The Technology Steering Committee provides direction on long-term strategies in support of firm needs and business vision. Members of the Technology Steering Committee ensure that Information Technology needs and objectives are being adequately addressed. In practice, these responsibilities are carried out by performing the following functions:
Identify and develop strategic initiatives
Prioritization of initiatives
Monitor and review initiatives at regular Steering Committee meetings
Develop and review standards and policies
Update standards and policies as emergent issues force changes to be considered, ensuring alignment with the Committee Charter as sell as the objectives of the company
Help to get buy-in across the organization
Act as a sounding board
Evaluate technology solution options
IT Steering Committee Charter
The IT Steering Committee (ITSC) oversees the information technology priorities and firm policies for The Firm. Members of the ITSC are appointed by and accountable to the Managing Partner. The committee will:
Provide strategic leadership for IT through the alignment of IT strategic objectives and activities with enterprise strategic objectives and processes.
Assist in developing IT policies, standards and procedures for The Firm.
Ensure open communication between the IT department and the other functional units of The Firm so as to promote collaborative planning.
The ITSC is not responsible for the IT department operating budget, IT department staff, or any other aspect of day-to-day IT operations.
The agenda of a typical ITSC meeting will include the following items:
Review major projects in flight and discuss concerns (i.e. status and issues).
Review and set disposition for new project proposals.
Review any changes in IT/business capacity.
Review the project priority list to consider adjustments.
Review standards and policies.
Members of the ITSC include:
Ad hoc members, as required, who are experts of particular business processes or technologies
All permanent members of the ITSC should be very familiar with the IT department’s policies, procedures and practices. As well, all permanent members should have the authority to make decisions and take actions on behalf of the business unit they represent.
If any member is unable to attend the majority of ITSC meetings, then the committee chair will designate a replacement. If the ITSC chair is unable to attend the majority of meetings, then the committee itself will designate a replacement.
My Two Cents
My first thought when reading this charter was that the membership should require a leader from the IT department. It is not enough that members "be very familiar with" the IT department's policies, procedures and practices. This Committee should require that a member be from the IT department.
Otherwise, I am very impressed by this firm’s commitment to its technology objectives! Too often, IT initiatives are based on gut feelings, the next big bling thing, “what everyone else is doing,” or a squeaky wheel. Thanks to representation from multiple business processes, as well as leadership insights into the firm’s future goals, this committee should be able to align technology needs, purchases and implementation with the firm’s short- and long-term priorities.
But will “the people” use it properly?
Time and time again, well-managed and strategically honed law firms understand exactly which technologies they need but they don’t consider the challenges of adoption across the firm, from long-time legal eagles to support staff.
Presumably, this line item in the ITSC’s charter should cover my concerns: “Help to get buy-in across the organization.”
But in my estimation, that seems pretty vague considering the incredible effort it takes to get any new technology indoctrinated across a firm’s landscape. Does “get buy-in” even begin to cover the Herculean effort involved in launching and training an entire firm to use a new document management system, for example?
Therefore, I would add a bit more to both the ITSC Mission and to the Charter:
To the Mission, I would add this line: “Create a culture that expects all employees to learn and use new technologies properly”
To the Charter, I would add this line to the Purpose section: “Provide support, training and incentives for employees to train and use technologies efficiently.”
Does your firm have a Technology Steering Committee? Would you be willing to share your charter and mission with me? I’d love to hear from you today! Jay@SavvyTraining.com