Pioneering legal innovation
NetApp’s Connie Brenton, chief of staff/director of legal operations, has had a front row seat to the technology evolution taking place in the legal ecosystem. As a legal innovator, Brenton found that both in-house and outside law firms can make tremendous efficiency gains by implementing workflow automation (WFA).
However, there have been few technologies dynamic enough to mediate and bridge the gap between law firms and legal departments – until now. NetApp has been able to overcome this obstacle by implementing the ThinkSmart Automation Platform (TAP) to make business processes more efficient, inside and out.
NetApp, a Fortune 500 company with more than 10,000 employees worldwide, is an industry leader in data insight, access and control for hybrid Cloud environments for many global organizations. That scale and complexity results in sizable demands on their legal department and outside counsels providing NetApp with legal support, who together form what Brenton terms a “legal ecosystem” with an enormous number of workflows and processes.
The issues driving innovation
– Creating collaboration and connection, both within a department or firm as well as with clients and external resources.
– Establishing and reinforcing its branding and identity.
– Becoming more responsive and agile.
– Reducing costs while delivering more services, more rapidly to a large client base.
Use cases and adoption
NetApp faced an early hurdle in adopting workflow automation: identifying which new use cases to apply it to, due to the lack of experience in applying the technology within business units. Given this challenge, ease of adoption was a priority.
As a starting point, Brenton and her team decided to use the ThinkSmart Automation Platform (TAP) to automate their non-disclosure agreement (NDA) workflows as a “proof-of-concept” for workflow automation in Legal Ops.
“We rolled out our first use cases, which positively affected our operations, and discovered this technology is truly unique. It worked so well and was such an easy implementation, we got very little pushback,” Brenton says. “It’s incredibly intuitive, so there’s very little training required.”
Eventually, NetApp identified so many potential use cases for workflow automation, it began to train internal experts. Today, workflow automation has been applied to no less than 40 use cases. Building interest around WFA across business units wasn’t difficult. “Implementing a workflow automation system has resulted in an immediate return,” Brenton says, “It’s caught on by word-of-mouth from the positive impact.”
Beyond internal collaboration, one of the main values of Cloud-based workflow automation is how it can potentially integrate with external partners and resources. As Brenton explains, “It unites the entire legal ecosystem; since it can be used in different environments equally well, we can co-create with outside counsel” she says. “It’s one of the few technologies that crosses in-house and outside counsel. As a result, we’ve shared our learnings within the ecosystem and within the industry so everyone can benefit.”
“Not only does workflow automation save time and money, it has changed the way we do business,” Brenton said. “It allows us to create processes that are streamlined, which has helped our company embrace digital transformation. We save, on the average, $70,000 a week from using electronic signatures. That’s equivalent to $3.6 MM a year.”
Empowering the enterprise
An essential advantage that any workflow automation adopter should look for from a prospective platform, in NetApp’s opinion, is its ease of adoption. “One of the benefits,” Brenton said, referring specifically to her experience with SaaS WFA, “is that you don’t need IT. The fact we can configure it ourselves is a reason it’s a big win inside the company. We can train anyone. It’s a self-serve technology, and that’s unusual.”
That makes it easy to spread the benefits of workflow automation elsewhere across the organization, too. “All of this has empowered the enterprise, because these are now self-service solutions; we’re training experts to be collaborators and leaders in extending these benefits to other departments,” Brenton says. “We’ve used it for very simple workflows, like NDAs, and we’ve used it for the most complex. We’ve used this during one of our last RIFs. We’ve also used it in different organizations including finance, sourcing, and sales.”
Brenton has advice for fence-sitters who haven’t made their mind up about adopting workflow automation. “My recommendation is to just start. The biggest impediment to change is that people are too afraid to start,” Brenton says. “The earlier you start, the faster the cost savings, and the sooner you can spread the word throughout the entire enterprise.”