9/3/13

How Law Librarians Can Adopt an Apple or Google Approach To Change

Google and Apple - true love
Image [cc] Joakim Jardenberg
Since the demise of Google Reader, I've been a little less frequent in going through my RSS feeds using the Feed.ly platform. Over the long weekend, I tried to catch up (and am still trying), and came across an article from bwagy on the different approaches that Apple and Google take when it comes to preparing their customers for change. Apple takes a slow, methodical, periodic approach. Introducing the next #Version in the series, followed by the next #S version about every two years. There are significant changes with each upgrade, but not so much that the customer feels unfamiliar with the product. Apple seems to hold back on some changes so that they do not get too far ahead of its customers. Google, on the other hand, pushes out changes as they come available, sometimes at the expense of leaving some customers very uncomfortable with the changes. The interesting thing that has happened over the past few years is that Google has become cool, and Apple has become the stable platform for the masses.

The whole concept of how to approach change made me think about the way law firm librarians package the mass amounts of online, print, and on-demand resources we buy for our firms. We all know that most of our lawyers, paralegals, and other members of the firm that use research products are usually creatures of habit, and don't adapt very well to new platforms. Many of us know that there are partners out there that are still upset that WordPerfect 4.2 was taken away from them. However, change is the one constant, and there are many times where we know the products we are familiar with are transitioning into new platforms, or have been purchased by one of the big legal publishers, and eventually will become either completely obsolete, or with just completely go away altogether. So how do we approach the inevitable changes? How do we prepare our customers for the changes?

Some of us push the next level of technology or research platforms out to our users much in the way that Google pushes change. New product comes out. Buy it. Push it out. Train, train, train. Then use the early adopters as champions to show that it can be done, and that everyone needs to get on board. The Google approach can also include bringing in a wide variety of unrelated products that address a broad range of needs. Changes come quickly, and sometimes a product can change multiple times over a relatively short time period.

Some of us push the Apple approach to change. We coordinate contracts so that they align and the changes come periodically. Since we know we have two or three years before we need to make changes, we hold back the changes and have them fit a set life cycle to fit those two to three year periods. The information about the changes come well in advance of the change itself. Many times the customers watch as their peers from other firms discuss all of the new bells and whistles of product version #S, while they are still stuck using the pre#S version. This can create an interesting dilemma of driving demand for change from a base that is usually change-resistant.

The common thread between the Apple and the Google version for addressing change is that they plan for the change and the customer base understands the pros and cons of how their favorite technology companies push change to them. Take a look around at your change policies. Which version do you take when it comes to pushing change to your customers. Do you even have a policy? If you don't, it might be time to consider implementing one. The only thing worse than pushing change out to your customers, is blindsiding them with it.

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