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The Singapore Law Gazette

CEO’s Message

Dear Members,

Technology, technology, technology. We are all tech this month with the launch of the Tech-celerate support scheme on 2 May in partnership with the Ministry of Law, Enterprise SG and IMDA and the launch at our Tech-celerate conference on 15 May of SmartLaw Guild for the forerunners of our profession. We are grateful for the sponsorship of Workforce SG which helped keep the cost of the conference extremely affordable for our members. If you still haven’t heard what the fuss is all about, check out our new Legal Productivity and Innovation microsite or reach out to us at [email protected].

At Secretariat, we are also figuring out the sweet spot for digital transformation. It isn’t a project that I can just shove onto an IT team. It certainly did not take me long to realise that there is no substitution for “getting my hands dirty” so to speak – doing a deep dive into the operational needs of each department, understanding their pain points, finding out first-hand from vendors what they have to offer, checking out their clients’ testimonials to see if the vendors can really deliver what they promise, analysing the strengths and weaknesses of each product, projecting future needs of the Society, deciding on the appropriate allocation of our limited resources, prioritising certain projects over others, figuring out the principles upon which to base such decisions, managing project timelines and budgets, applying for available grants and, this is certainly the most crucial bit – sharing the vision with and obtaining buy-in from Council and staff.

At times, my biggest battle is against cynicism. Mine and those whom I work with. When vendors fail to live up to our expectations, when technical hiccups in the new system make us wonder if all of the effort is worth the trouble, when passive-aggressive behaviour threatens to undermine the entire project, when effort and good intentions are not only unappreciated but totally backfire. Sometimes it is just about picking myself up for no other reason than that there is no one else to do it for me.

Nevertheless, confidence for carrying through with digital transformation projects can be built up over time. As my SmartLaw panellists from the Tech-celerate conference advised our conference participants, products that do not achieve mass adoption within the firm have to be quickly canned, losses cut and new products be sought out. With each attempt, we should have a better sense of what works and what does not for our unique business needs (ok, this is starting to sound a lot like dating, I know!). Grants, external funding and trial period can alleviate the pain of this process, at least from the financial angle. Curation of products by professional bodies like the Law Society and/or government agencies like IMDA also provides short-cuts. However, without a reciprocal investment of human resources and a willingness to adopt a different way of doing things, the project is destined for failure.

Ease of use is undoubtedly a top consideration in the choice of product to adopt. Coupled with training for users on product features which solve their current problems and pain points, the likelihood of the product gaining traction within the organisation can increase dramatically. This is also where vendor support becomes a critical element to the success of the digital transformation. A vendor who provides comprehensive user guides, training and a responsive helpdesk and is willing to customise its products has an obvious edge, before we even delve into matters like subscription fees and product features. The last person I want to speak to is a vendor who wastes no time in making me feel how inferior my technical knowledge is and trying to convince me that he or she knows my organisational needs better than me. The second last person I want to speak to is a vendor who informs me that my wishlist is unrealistic because of technical limitations and displays no intention to hear out or solve any of my problems. Well, we all have our battle scars – I am certain I am not alone.

Cybersecurity is never far from the mind of anyone involved even remotely in digital transformation. The legal technology survey we conducted with members last year validated this finding. Vendors who fail to reassure customers as to the security level of their products will be quickly called out. Yet the risks appear to be continually heightened so much so that even blood donor information is not safe from hacks. The constantly evolving nature of security risks means that a strong sense of network security, continuous monitoring and real-time assessments, and an effective incident response plan become imperative for the organisation.

Exchanging tips with like-minded organisation leaders certainly helps make the digital transformation journey a less daunting and lonely one. For this, I have to thank Ms Serene Wee, Chief Executive of Singapore Academy of Law, Ms Katherine Yap, Chief Executive of Maxwell Chambers, Ms Fann Kor, Director of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA) and Ms Mel Nirmala, Executive Director of Singapore Corporate Counsel Association (SCCA).

Attending conferences and reading cutting edge literature on the topic is also immensely helpful. I recommend Digital Transformation by Lindsay Herbert and The Digital Transformation Playbook by David L. Rogers. Both books can be borrowed from the National Library Board’s eBook reader app Overdrive. I am inspired by Lindsay Herbert’s closing words in her book: “Like a champion boxer, digital transformation isn’t about quick-fixes or one-off solutions. It’s about finding a new ‘Business as Usual’ that keeps your organisation fight-ready for the next challenger, be it threat or opportunity, that enters the ring.”

Chief Executive Officer
The Law Society of Singapore