In many paper-based offices and departments, process management is defined as just having a system in place: emails, task-list spreadsheets, or even interoffice envelopes that float back and forth between departments. Some more forward-thinking companies will implement a task list that lets a manager assign items to staff, but overall, it requires a lot of manual input and is not intuitive – and when a new task comes in, the manager and staff scramble to assign it and account for it. Technology can take the pain out of this process – particularly a system that allows for automatic routing of tasks and creates accountability. Here are just five ways investing in the technology can streamline difficult processes:
- Creates a front office for legal departments. In an organization with a legal department, there is no receptionist, unlike private law firms. No one is taking messages with information on new cases; often, an email will be sent to someone in the legal department, and work will be expected to commence. That person may be out of the office or may have to reroute the work. With process management, that work gets routed automatically. For example, general counsel may need to review contracts for over $1 million, which the sales department may NOT know. Process management alerts the general counsel to the need and allows her to get right to work, rather than have it routed through a more junior attorney.
- Enables legal departments to track and account for work. In the traditional paper- and email-based project management world, it’s very hard to account for who is doing what. This leads to confusion and wasted time. With process management, each task is accounted for by assigning it to the person best suited for the job – which you define. There is no more of this “I thought Susie was handling the discovery requests.” Now you know that Bob is responsible, and Bob can update the team of the requests’ status easily.
- Enables legal departments to budget for work. In today’s economy, budgets are at the forefront of law offices and legal departments. For law offices looking at alternative fee arrangements, process management can help them better estimate flat-fee agreements and ensure that they are staying on budget by tracking the hours spent working on matters. (Yes, it seems counter-intuitive to a flat fee arrangement, but tracking hours is the best way to gauge how much to charge.)
- Improves efficiency. This goes back to tracking and accounting for work: a good system definitely improves efficiency across the business. It automatically assigns tasks and allows the requestor to track how the task is progressing, eliminating the need for multiple emails, phone calls, or trips to the department to get updates.
- Allows insight into performance. Let’s face it, the sales force or marketing department isn’t quite sure what goes on behind the curtain of the legal department. They only know that they need a contract created or a subpoena answered, and Nervous Nellies may call repeatedly. “Where’s my contract?” With a process management system, Nellie can check on the status of the contract. “Oh, it’s gone to General Counsel,” she’ll realize. “That might take a few hours.” And she’ll get back to what she does best – selling the company’s product or service – while she waits for the contract.
If you’re considering how technology can improve your processes, don’t hesitate to examine some of the systems out there. They can improve efficiency and increase internal customer satisfaction, something that can’t be measured.