As a former Deputy General Counsel at a software giant, I learned an amazing amount about how technology is designed, as well as how users respond and interact with technology.
This is top of mind because our new tech company is built on taking advantage of lessons learned. A key lesson is this: any improvement that leverages the way people already work is vastly superior to one that depends on getting people to adopt a new and different way of working. This may seem obvious, but it’s a persistent problem, especially with technology.
“We need technology that embraces rather
than forces us to change our work methods.”
Regardless of industry served or type of technology (i.e., software, hardware, peripherals, or networking devices), most tech companies market new technology under the assumption that customers want to move from what they’re currently using to something that, in theory at least, offers a better solution. Seldom mentioned is whether the product is better for how actual users function. Taking into account the human behavior factor is crucial for companies that market solutions to professional workers for whom technology is not the focus of their work, but only a means to an end. Lawyers, for example, who tend to be risk-averse and steeped in precedent, generally lack prowess when it comes to technology, and the cost of learning new systems is a deadweight loss to their productivity and bottom line.
One of my biggest professional mistakes was ignoring this point when I helped introduce a document management system to my fellow attorneys when I still was at Microsoft. Our consultants told us that our documents needed to be centrally stored and managed, which made total sense at the time. What didn’t make sense, it turned out, was expecting my colleagues to change the way they were used to working by taking the extra steps to manually upload and tag all their documents. Guess what? No one did it, rendering the whole point of a centralized DMS moot.
What we needed was technology that embraced rather than changed our work methods. It’s this principle that lead me, along with my co-founder Marty Smith, a gifted IP attorney, to form MetaJure in order to create the first fully automated document management system. Our design principles were: avoid creating any new work for the user, automatically capture 100% of an organization’s documents, and make retrieving documents as simple as conducting a web search so users don’t have to learn anything new. In short, unlike traditional DMS solutions like Netdocs, Worldox or iManage, MetaJure was founded to empower users by allowing them to retain and retrieve files, including emails, that are saved anywhere in the system, be it a server, personal computer, hand-held device or in the cloud, without having to do any additional steps or change how they like to work best.
For more on the importance of creating technology that adapts to how humans behave, check out Legal IT Insider’s “It’s Only a Better Solution If Users Find It So.”
Kevin Harrang is co-founder of MetaJure Inc and former Deputy General Counsel of Microsoft Corporation. Designed by lawyers for lawyers and staff, rather than by IT experts and back office specialists, MetaJure leverages automation to enable law firms and other companies to locate and retrieve stored documents from multiple devices with the same ease as conducting a Google search.