Automation is beyond a buzzword today; organisations are relying on it to harness the full potential of their workforce. For in-house legal teams experiencing growing pressure to better support their organisations and adapt to evolving business demands, automating time-consuming legal processes is an opportunity to create efficiency and gain back time.
A successful automation project that delivers return on investment (ROI) needs the right decision-making from the very beginning. Often, we are asked, "where do we start?". "How do I know this investment will pay off?" Meanwhile, those already mid-way through their automation journey may not achieve the anticipated ROI committed to their projects. The worst case I've seen resulted in an organisation needing to hire additional people to maintain its automation platforms, resulting in a negative ROI.
To draw the highest value when evaluating your organisation's next automation project, consider these four questions.
1. How many people are currently involved?
More is not merrier in this instance. As a rule of thumb, every person added to a process can lead to delays as an action sits in someone's inbox for another half day. Put simply, the more people involved, the slower the process is to action. Consider doing a RACI exercise to determine who should be involved and what role they should play:
- R = Responsible (for doing the work)
- A = Accountable (for approving)
- C = Consulted
- I = Informed
When automation is done well, it can result in faster decision-making not only because of the speed of processing, but clearer guidelines and greater urgency on who needs to process the next action.
2. Who does most of the work you're trying to automate?
…and where can their time be better spent? With a highly skilled legal function, time spent on a process is often already costly. When factoring in the lost opportunity cost of what they could be better spending their time on, this usually tips the balance. Legal functions can sometimes become a borderline helpdesk. What if you could automate or create a self-service function for a few of your frequently asked questions and requests?
3. What type of process and decision making is required?
Not all processes are suitable for automation. When evaluating what to automate, look for processes that:
- are repetitive and have high transaction volume, e.g. daily or weekly requests
- are rule-based - the thinking can be distilled into a logical series of questions
- favour standard inputs - information or requests that derive from the same form or file structure (or can be made to do so)
- are manual and prone to human error
- have few exceptions, do not break the rules often and require human intervention
4. How long does the process currently take to complete?
Evaluating the time associated with a process can be as simple as reviewing the time it takes to generate a document or to reach an answer.
Time is often where most of the attention is directed when automating. However, this is also where the benefit is sometimes over-emphasised. When considering the end-to-end, automation often not only speeds up the processing of the task but reduces the waiting time between steps. Speed to decision and speed to output generated from time of request are truer measures of your ROI.
Deciding what to automate first is often clear. It's the next few automation projects that will require more consideration and evaluation. If your legal processes pass the test with the above four considerations, you should put them on the automation to-do list.
For more information about automation or to discuss which tools in the market are best suited to your automation project, contact our iHub team. We have recently released our Legal Service Automation offering to help our clients navigate their automation journey and provide real savings to their business.
All information on this site is of a general nature only and is not intended to be relied upon as, nor to be a substitute for, specific legal professional advice. No responsibility for the loss occasioned to any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material published can be accepted.