May 4 by Jason Smith
I recently participated in a panel discussion at Argyle’s Chief Legal Officer Forum in San Francisco entitled “Leveraging Technology to Drive Efficiency in the Legal Department.” Joining me was the VP of Legal Affairs for Jamba Juice, the Associate General Counsel for Wal-Mart and the General Counsels of Blackhawk Network and Synnex Corporation.
I introduced the session by discussing some of the biggest technology trends I’ve witnessed over the past 5 years in the legal space. After a decade of using back office systems like matter management and e-billing, legal departments are shifting towards a focus on analytics and data intelligence to improve case budgeting, forecasting of litigation reserves, even going so far as to predict outcomes of legal matters. And while “big data” was the popular title the past couple of years, there’s been a rapid shift towards analytics over the past year. This shift has moved from simply viewing historical information where “big data” provides a glimpse into past activities to predictive analytics where “smart data” reveals potential future strategic direction.
For instance, instead of just reviewing how past matters have been resolved or how much money has been spent, legal departments are consolidating information from multiple systems like e-billing systems used to manage outside counsel spend with contract and supplier relationship management systems to give a holistic view of legal’s involvement in the business to evaluate and measure the effectiveness of that contribution. Legal departments are often viewed as a bottleneck and cost center, but what if there was a way to gain additional insight into the context of the terms being negotiated or whether a deal is likely to even manifest or, on the other hand, end poorly? It’s now possible with the Quote-to-Cash Analytics initiative underway by Apttus and its clients and partners. The panel agreed this transforms the information from “big data” into “smart data” and one panelist even suggested this could turn legal into key part of the profit strategy of the business rather than just being a necessary cost center. Imagine the benefits for your legal department to be able to predict which deals could end unfavorably early in the sales process, before time has been wasted on negotiating and executing a bad contract.
We also discussed two other major trends, each related to the other: the Cloud and Cybersecurity. I mentioned that the same conversations being had with legal today about the safety and security of storing information in the Cloud is almost identical to the conversations that were taking place a decade ago when everyone was approaching this new concept of the Internet in business. Cloud-based systems are changing the game for business, reducing the cost of IT infrastructure through the pay-as-you-go concept with minimal capital expenditures. The Cloud provides for a much quicker and more scalable deployment and enables easier access to information by users.
That easier access concept, when combined with stories in the
media of breaches and hackers, has some questioning the security of Cloud-based systems. But like the debate that raged in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the cost, scalability and flexibility of Cloud-based systems is outpacing the almost irrational concerns about security. Cloud-based providers are incentivized to maintain the highest levels of security and keep their software current and relevant… where traditional on-premise solutions require an army of IT staff to maintain infrastructure, always trying to keep software and servers updated, patches installed and stay one step ahead of the threats. And because the business resources aren’t tied up focusing on maintaining the IT infrastructure, they’re free to provide more strategic guidance to the use of the information management systems being utilized by the company.
The biggest trend the panel agreed upon was that with the new analytics-driven smart information, businesses are working more strategically and proactively, rather than simply reacting out of fear and in response to competitors and crises.