Kingfisher’s legal team trials GC Hub amid tech overhaul

This story first appeared in the latest Legal IT Insider

Kingfisher’s 52-strong legal team is trialling new law firm performance management tool GC Hub and embracing a raft of changes to its internal IT systems and processes, as the home improvement giant rolls out SAP and moves towards a single sourcing business model.

GC Hub is a freemium platform launched in May in which law firms and clients build their own profiles and connect to one another as they might on LinkedIn or Facebook, providing GCs with an area to communicate with their law firms, instruct them, track their performance on costs and automatically give them feedback at the end of a matter. It also enables GCs to consolidate and keep a record of their communication with law firms.

Each quarter law firms enter the total amount that they have billed a client and over how many matters, providing GCs with a notional blended rate that they can use to compare law firm costs. Law firms also add the quote given for work and how much was actually charged, allowing GCs to keep track of how those numbers diverge. At the end of a matter GCs are asked to rank law firms out of 10 on areas such as service levels, commerciality and sticking to the agreed budget.

Kingfisher’s group general counsel and company secretary Clare Wardle said: “GC Hub should enable us to get a clear handle on our costs and support more efficient working with our panel.”

GC Hub’s chief executive Richard Fleetwood, a former Addleshaw Goddard commercial partner who left the firm at Christmas last year to launch the site, told Legal IT Insider: “Law firms spend tens of thousands of pounds trying to get client feedback and when they get it, it can be difficult to use and have different reference points. This is simple, quick and uniform and allows them to build up a whole host of information from clients.” In May, Fleetwood was joined by high profile former Rolls-Royce head of legal and company secretary Nigel Goldsworthy as a GC Hub director.

Elsewhere, Kingfisher – which owns companies including B&Q and Screwfix – this year rolled out a SharePoint-based document management system called Fusebox as it transitions from being a set of locally-managed businesses to a single sourcing model, in an initiative branded ‘One Kingfisher’.

Kingfisher operates 1,200 stores across 10 countries in Europe and Wardle, who is taking the lead on the enormous task of working around the contractual issues as individual operating companies are brought together, said: “[It was] essential to have a common respository and communication tool, because we were pulling together contributions from lawyers across Europe including France, Poland, Germany, the UK, Spain and Romania against very tight commercial deadlines.”

The new system has been adopted as Kingfisher also begins the roll out of SAP, which is now up and running in Ireland and will be operational globally in two years’ time.

Wardle has been heavily involved in creating a charter that governs the processes behind Kingfisher’s implementation of SAP. Kingfisher’s legal team is no stranger to innovation and already automates its standard forms with a built-in risk and compliance tool that enables the business to complete a contract or diverts it to the legal team – a solution designed by Kingfisher’s own IT team.

Wardle said: “[It’s] a good example of the benefits of working closely with your friendly local technologists.”

She adds: “We as GCs need to recognise that we operate best as part of a broader team.  We don’t have all the answers.  Technologists bring some great solutions, ways to allow us to do things faster, cheaper and more efficiently, to resolve the detail into a clear picture and find ways to do things better.  Communication, process and risk management all work better if you involve the technologists.”