One of the challenges in legal process automation projects is that it can be hard to figure out the current process and agree on what it ideally should be.
In many legal processes, there is no written process map at all.
It’s also quite common to find that, if there is a documented process map, that’s not how things are actually done anyway! We regularly find that when we talk to the people doing the work, they have invented many other workarounds to make things work in the way they think makes the most sense.
This could mean that:
- Instead of using the correct base template that they should be using, they are using “Save As” on a previous document and attempting to update the details from there.
- Draft documents may not always be saved in the correct location. It is common for documents to be kept in Outlook or saved locally rather than in the correct SharePoint location.
- SharePoint or Teams sites are set up in different ways, making it difficult to know where and how to save and find things.
- People are not always clear about when approvals are required and how best to get them. Approvals given may not always be stored where they can be easily found.
These issues, and many more, are pretty common and relatively easily addressed with automation once the intended process is clear.
- Staff will use the correct, and up-to-date, template automatically.
- SharePoint sites, with consistent folder structures, can be created automatically, and draft documents can be saved directly into the right location with consistent naming formats.
- Approvals can be triggered based on data, and approvals requested and given digitally. No more paper approval documents, pasting images of signatures, and following up repeatedly by phone and email!
Because it will be easier to work this way, staff won't have an incentive to invent work-arounds.
Before you start an automation project, and if you want to keep momentum and get quick results, it’s helpful to have already spent time understanding your current process, where the gaps and opportunities for improvement are for everyone involved, and how much additional time and cost is involved. Quite often, people involved in the process won’t know what they are doing is wrong or that it could be making things harder for colleagues in other teams, so there can be a need to focus on change management and build buy-in to the need to make changes. The aggregate benefit to the organisation should be a lot more than the sum of the individual parts.
Even if you’re not at the point yet where you are ready to bring in some automation, time spent on understanding and documenting your processes and building consensus will be time well spent. It doesn’t have to be perfect or exact. You’ll probably find more issues than you initially expected, and it may help you to make the case to bring in some new technology earlier than you initially thought. We can help with these early phases if you need support.