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The concept of automation has become extremely prevalent amongst both enterprises and legal practices. But despite the anxiety, this may cause to some, the reality is that not everything that can be automated, should be automated. In fact, there is still a lot of work that requires human or expert judgment and work that although can be automated, provides no real benefit to the organisation.
So whilst you can do it, the question is should you do it? In this article, we’ve outlined 4 key factors to consider when assessing if automation is right for your use case.
Deciding whether you should automate a process is really about evaluating the tradeoff between benefit and time spent automating it. The easiest way to do this is by evaluating how frequently this task is completed and how much time is spent doing it each time. For example, a task that is only completed two times a year and takes ten hours each time might seem like a good use case to automate but if building the automation solution takes fifty hours, you can see how this may not be the best use of time or resources. Automating a task like this, although beneficial for the person who puts in the work, has no real benefit for the entire organisation and therefore won’t be adequately championed through the business.
There are several examples of use cases like this where things can be automated but because of the lack of frequency, time, or perhaps on the flip side of the equation, the high effort, time, or cost to automate it, outweighs any benefit.
However, automation sometimes goes beyond a simple cost-benefit analysis. It is also important to consider the level of talent or human capital that will be involved or benefited from the activity. For example, is automating this use case saving a paralegal’s time? Is it saving a lawyer’s time? Is it saving a junior lawyer’s time or a senior lawyer’s time? Or is it shifting time from a senior lawyer to a junior lawyer to allow the junior lawyer to complete the same work?
This sort of analysis also needs to be factored into the value cost formula because ultimately when you multiply these things together, you’re able to come up with a more accurate dollar figure.
What are the users saying?
The best way to evaluate if something should be automated is by speaking to business users or the legal team to understand where the pain points are. If you’re going to drive automation and technology through the business, a big stakeholder, that is often difficult to get across the line is the business user. Business users will need to be a part of the change management process, the adoption of new technology, and ultimately the beneficiaries of the legal team performing better and more efficiently. And so asking them, what they’re frustrated about when they work with the legal team, and being quite transparent with your own team and the business users will help surface a whole bunch of new ideas. A good way to facilitate this is by running a very active ideation workshop or a process improvement workshop. However it’s not about running this sort of thing once but about building it into the culture of the team and building it into your leadership team, in being able to say that this is important to us and that we’re not all just heads down lawyers trying to grind through our backlog; which is often a result of not adequately looking into automation solutions.
The last thing to consider is the concept of prioritization. Not everything that can be automated and makes sense to be automated should be automated today. There’s a different order of severity and impact back to the business and to your people’s time that needs to be factored in. It’s therefore important to rank the importance of the use case based on a score against the different types of use cases, the ROI, and the business case for each of these automation use cases. This will help you understand what is important to automate this quarter versus the next quarter and the quarter after that.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is automation?
Automation is the use of technology to perform manual, and oftentimes, tedious tasks that reduce the need for human input.
The benefits of automation in an organization?
1. Giving time back to teams 2. Faster turnaround for business clients 3. Higher compliance 4. Standardization 5. Data capture