People like to say that corporate legal departments are the Department of No when it comes to technology innovation.
As the general counsel at ServiceNow, I can say this is a fundamental misunderstanding. Legal teams don’t want to stand in the way of new technologies, but the technologies that are offered rarely work for the way a legal department operates.
It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it can’t. For organizations to innovate and iterate as quickly as they need to nowadays, legal departments must have the tools to operate with the speed of the businesses they support. The best way to ensure that enablement is to embrace digital workflows.
Most corporate lawyers still rely on spreadsheets, email, and proprietary software that only their teams use. The customized software represents a support headache for the IT staff and a potential security risk, because most of these programs are old and infrequently updated.
Because the technology isn’t fit for their purpose, GCs rarely have good insights into their teams’ work process, which often means relying on guesswork to determine where to add staff or how best to balance individual workloads. As a result, most corporate legal teams can’t objectively generate or measure KPIs against performance goals.
Most general counsels I talk to recognize the need for greater insight into how their departments function and for greater integration with the rest of the organization. The problem is that they don’t have the workflow tools they need to accelerate the speed of their business.
Most corporate legal teams can’t objectively generate or measure KPIs against performance goals.
How do you convince someone in my position to embrace our digital transformation offerings and find new ways of working?
Show me the payoffs
Because setting up digital workflows takes a lot of initial work, GCs need to be convinced the investment is worth the effort. Demonstrating ROI upfront is essential.
At ServiceNow, one of the key payoffs we’ve seen is deal acceleration. When sales teams need us to approve a new-customer contract, an automatic workflow pulls customer data into a contract and routes it to someone on my staff who has both the availability and expertise to complete it. Rather than an exchange of emails or a game of phone tag, the work is routed the right way from the start.
Embracing our digital workflow automation, we reduced the time it takes to get started working on a contract by more than 80 percent. Field sales teams initiate the process using structured intake forms that they can access from their mobile phones. Because my team has the knowledge to educate and inform users making the request, we can start work immediately which eliminates wasted time.
If a customer asks for exceptions to our standard contract language, the workflow guides the sales team about why our terms make sense for our deal and the deal size and presents criteria we would need to start making exceptions. That way, our sales team is educated so they can avoid promising something they can’t deliver.
Bottom line: Customers are happier, deals get done faster, and salespeople have more time to make new deals.
Show me how you’ll measure performance
Any major digital initiative needs to show what it will measure and why. These days, legal departments are expected to run like any other part of the business, with KPIs and data showing how well they do their jobs.
Digital workflows give me visibility into everything that’s going on with my legal team, so I can allocate resources more efficiently than was previously possible. I can see, for instance, whose workload is too heavy or which offices are falling behind in properly documenting new IP developed by our engineers.
We also identified approximately 35% of our commercial contract team’s work as candidates for standard terms and conditions. Legal exists to help the business, but it is not scalable to provide bespoke contract terms under a specific contract value.
Show what’s in it for me
Reducing or eliminating manual workflows has had a huge impact on my ability to manage my staff and their ability to do their jobs.
I no longer have to guess, based on who’s responding to emails late at night or early in the morning, which attorneys are overstretched. When attorneys in two different regions both ask for extra legal staff, I can see who is busier and needs the help, or I can re-assign tasks to balance workloads. As we have all seen, being more productive and less stressed leads to less burnout and greater retention.
When digital workflows are properly implemented, corporate legal departments can help accelerate a company’s sales pipeline, simplify processes for compliance and IP, and improve customer and employee experience, making their own jobs easier in the process.