Adopting innovations: contract automation product lifecycle explained

In this blogpost, we will elaborate on adopting innovations and, illustrated by reference to the product lifecycle, it explains an aspect of how to implement contract automation. The handbook to everything Weagree does and fundamental to the strategy of Weagree is described by Geoffrey Moore. Moore’s bestseller Crossing the chasm – Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers uses the ‘product lifecycle’ as the starting point for an innovator’s entire strategy. The book explains how to reach the mainstream market (beyond the early adopter stage).

Contract automation lifecycle adoption curve

In the product lifecycle (also referred to as the ‘technology adoption lifecycle’ or the ‘law of diffusion of innovations’), five segments are recognized, each referring to a type of personality. You have probably heard about them:

  • Innovators: those who need no manual or support, who sleep in front of the shop in order to be the first to buy and use it – those who are keen to find the first bugs and defects, not because they seek your failure but because they want to be a father of your success. For Weagree, the innovators were ASML, TNO and AkzoNobel.
  • Early adopters: people who search for the newest thing; who are willing to go through the process of completing an innovation for the jump-step in their own career. Early adopters herald their successes, even if success is yet still to be reconfirmed. An early adopter, financing Weagree’s multi-document-creation and collaborative-contracting functionalities in 2014, was EndemolShine.
  • Early majority: people who are averse of revolutions, breakthroughs or leaps forward – a mere improvement is sufficient to them – and who rely on their peers. Weagree reached this part of the market in 2014, although for a number of subsegments and for many countries, contract automation is still far away.
  • Late majority: people who may follow. Or not – they are usually the last ones of your class, a year after the rest).
  • Laggards. Simon Sinek describes them as the people who hate change, who would only move away from their current affairs if staying there has become impossible.

Apply it to everything in your life

You will find this adoption lifecycle (and likewise these persons) in every market with every kind of product (contract automation is no exception). And if you think about it, you know who in your personal circle will tell you about the latest fashion, where to buy the wow-shoes or coolest clothes for the forthcoming season, which music will become popular and to which festival you must go.

Those people can also be found when it comes to buying your innovative idea. If someone tells you that he or she is not an innovator, but the ‘ideal follower, the first one to adopt a new technology or solution’; then you know: this is not even an early adopter but a mainstream customer.

At Weagree, we met a number of them: law firms tend to follow each other, rather than assessing what quality requires and taking a lead. Law firms (also the large ones) do ‘not typically’ have a vision but rather follow the mass. At the same time, while this is true for legal tech and legal-service-business-models, law firms may well host innovators of their own: partners who apply previously unused legal concepts or develop novel legal solutions which stay within the borders of the law.

Innovations may well disrupt preceding innovations (even before the latter become mainstream). For example, the first-generation contract automation solutions entered the market before 2003. They carry very burdensome implementation restraints and which imply limitations on the technical possibilities due to legacy technology platform. The Weagree Wizard was developed after 2003, on a more recent technology platform and with the fundamental advantage of not being integrated with MS Word. This made it possible to introduce a true clause library, to facilitate the administrators (for template insertion authoring) with visual admin tooling (not requiring any coding at all, not even the ‘not-coding’ promulgated by Weagree’s competitors), and a WYSIWYG editor (enabling a user, ridiculously user-friendly, to tweak the contract text while answering the questionnaire).

Apply it to your innovative idea

According to Moore, the marketer should focus on one group of customers at a time, using each group as a base for marketing to the next group. The most difficult step is making the transition from the visionaries (early adopters) into the group of pragmatists (early majority). Between these two groups of people is what Moore calls ‘the chasm’ (pronounce ‘kassum’). The product lifecycle is also mentioned by Simon Sinek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4ZoJKF_VuA#t=10m55s

Behind the chasm is a group of people who do not rely on what early adopters say. They rely only on what their peers (behind the same chasm say). And because none of them will act without your product being ready for it, you should not applaud when one sheep leaps over the ditch, but only once two of them did! Two sheep will enjoy conversing about your innovative idea, and because two can entertain a conversation (not one) the rest will follow. Make sure that they have a nice story to tell!

Implementing contract automation

When launching an innovation, or launching the Weagree Wizard in your organisation, make yourself familiar with the phenomena ‘crossing the chasm’. Keep your eyes open for those persons who are looking for the newest things. First things first: so first create ‘the whole product’ out of your initial idea together with your early adopters and only then plan your D-Day strategy: your quest for conquering the mainstream market, and cross the chasm! Weagree has followed this strategy meticulously and with success. Our contract automation solution did cross the chasm in 2014.

When implementing the Weagree Wizard in your organisation, involve your innovators and early adopters: they will likely herald the roll-out of your innovation, and be the ambassador to your envisaged mainstream users.

The book Crossing the chasm is Weagree’s bible: the first edition dates back from 1991, Weagree refers to the revised, second edition (1999), whereas in 2014 the third edition was published, in each edition describing the key dynamics by reference to the most recent innovations adopted by the market. This blogpost was previously visible on the 2015-website of De BLIC (written by Willem Wiggers)