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SVP & GENERAL COUNSEL
Technology and the Power of the
I’m speaking this week at the Alternative In-house
Technology Summit in the United Kingdom.
Consequently, I’ve been thinking about how technology can accelerate in-house performance.
Often, this is an area where simplicity gets
overlooked in favour of complexity, resulting in
tears. As Steve Jobs noted: “Simple can be harder
than complex … but it’s worth it in the end because
once you get there, you can move mountains.”
In that spirit, I believe there are three golden
rules that you should follow when considering
technology upgrades. They are as follows:
■ ■ Process before technology;
■ ■ Boring before sexy; and,
■ ■ Managed change.
Process before technology
To make intelligent technology decisions, you must
first be clear about what the problem is. Too many
GCs adopt the mantra “Ready, aim, fire!” when it
comes to technology. Instead, thoroughly consider,
and understand, the problem you are grappling
with and only then consider technology solutions.
To paraphrase Victoria Lockie, a past colleague
and the former senior vice president and associate
general counsel of strategy and special initiatives at
Pearson, technology is not the solution; it is merely
a tool that can help you implement the solution.
To understand the underlying problem, first
focus on understanding your processes and then
create a plan to correct the deficiencies that you
find. If you have a highly inefficient contract management process, for example, address the underlying roadblocks before you roll out expensive new
contract management software. If you don’t, you
will not solve your problem because the processes
that are causing it won’t have changed.
Technology solutions also require their own
inherent process adaptations to yield true benefits.
Contract analytics, for example, require you to first
put in place a process to enter the data, and create
decision trees and escalation clauses into the tool.
If you fail to do this, your analytics will be useless
— garbage in, garbage out.
Therefore, start any technology transforma-
tion with a process improvement project. You
might consider using of one of several systematic
approaches or methodologies, such as benchmark-
ing or lean manufacturing. The best approach
will depend on your circumstances. You might,
for instance, be experiencing problems with how
incoming work is received, handled, and allocated.
You may need to better define what work gets
prioritized, how assignments get delegated, or how
work more generally gets done. Different systems
will be best-suited for different problems.
Legal operations can play an important role in
looking at how to optimize processes. If you do not
have, or can’t afford, your own ops team, consider
either renting one through an alternative legal
services provider, or hiring a consultant.
Boring before sexy
Once you’ve figured out what your problem actually is, you can begin to consider technology solutions. Unfortunately, this is where many GCs yield
to the siren song of the sexy.
Artificial intelligence, The Internet of Things,
and blockchain technology are all tantalizing.
Sometimes, however, the most impactful solutions
are the mousy grey ones right under your nose.
Communications and productivity tools, including videoconferencing systems, email, mobile telephones, and cloud-based servers, for example, are
easily overlooked. These will likely cost you nothing
and will empower your people to work from anywhere, having a profound effect on everything from
recruitment and retention to department cost.
Allowing people to work from home is also an
overlooked benefit. A permissive attitude toward
remote work will attract top millennial talent,
in particular. A 2015 survey from job service
company FlexJobs for example, revealed that 85
percent of millennials want to telecommute 100
percent of the time.
Of course, you must establish ground rules,
including appropriate attire on video calls, and
adequate office facilities and equipment at home
locations. You also have to pay closer attention to
productivity, and may need to ensure that lawyers
can commute on a regular basis for meetings.
There may be specific jobs that require people to
be physically present in a location, and corporate
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