The term ‘digital transformation’ has become a buzzword in the corporate world, although the meaning is open to interpretation. For some organisations, digital transformation simply means incorporating the latest app into existing infrastructure. Yet, another interpretation involves the implementation of technology, to change the way organisations conduct business. That’s where digital maturity comes into play and it is important to understand where you stand.
The MIT Sloan Management Review refers to digital maturity as ‘the process of your company learning how to respond appropriately to the emerging digital competitive environment.’
Unlike digital transformation, digital maturity is a process that occurs over time. Even though organisations may be at different stages of digital maturity, they can grow and adapt to reach the next stage. A digitally mature organisation is never done transforming but constantly looking for ways to improve. It’s important that organisations assess their level of digital maturity, because it’s a good indication of how an organisation will fare in the evolving digital landscape.
So what does this mean for legal tech?
There’s a misconception that only large corporate legal departments can become digitally mature because they have sufficient budget and resources. Departments of all sizes have the ability to become digitally mature, and those that do not can expect to struggle to keep up with changes in the market. Fredrik Svärd, a legal tech journalist based in Sweden, says, ‘organisations that refuse to become digitally mature will operate less efficiently. They will be perceived as less innovative and that could damage their reputation.’ As Wolters Kluwer’s Future Ready Lawyer Survey points out, technology leaders – organisations that are currently leveraging technology and will continue to invest – have a competitive advantage and are able to accelerate it by investing and leveraging technology.
Introducing the digital maturity scale
Our Legisway portfolio for corporate legal departments serves over 1,000+ customers and 50,000+ users in Europe and the US. Based on years of expertise helping legal departments meet any type of information challenge and reducing the administrative burden, we developed the digital maturity scale. It takes into account that digital maturity is ongoing and divides legal departments into three phases, each with their own specific needs in terms of technology. All departments fit into one of the phases, depending on whether their legal management is at a basic or advanced stage (horizontal axis) or whether they have implemented technology in a limited way or advanced way (vertical axis). Keep in mind that since the model is not a set of fixed steps, some legal departments may have started their journey at one of the later phases of digital maturity.
Assessing your digital maturity
A comprehensive analysis may take months to carry out, but the following questions can help you indicate where your organisation stands:
- Are existing (and new) technologies integrated into your organisation, and are they helping you achieve desired business results?
- Do these technologies tie in with key performance indicators? Do you have a process for evaluating outcomes?
- How is your organisation prepared to keep up with changes in the market, and disruptions due to digital trends?
- Do you have a technology roadmap and are you aware of the impact of digital maturity initiatives on the roadmap?
- Do you know what tech features would help you achieve business outcomes? Do you have the resources (including budget, resources and support from leadership)?
- Do you make informed decisions based on data and analytics?
Even if you don’t have the answers to the questions above or aren’t satisfied with them, they can help you get started with the process. As the scale indicates, not all areas will become digitally mature at the same time. You can pick one or two areas that you’d like to focus on first and expand later.
Phase one: basic legal management – business as usual
At this stage, organisations continue operating the way they have always been. One of the reasons change is resisted is because there is a lack of urgency. The culture is risk-averse, and investing in legal technology is discouraged, thus the organisation continues to operate as it has in the past.
In order to find out how our customers have experienced digital maturity, we asked a number of them to share their experiences.
During the early stages of digital maturity, Hein Bijl, general counsel at citizenM, recalls he was forced to rely on manual updates of spreadsheets for keeping track of all his entities. His secretary would spend hours scanning signed agreements and even more trying to find them.
If you identify with this phase, technology adoption is in a very early stage. While digital initiatives are not ignored, the legal department follows old roadmaps and sticks to outdated processes including routine tasks that could be easily digitised. Without standardised processes in place, in-house legal teams spend a lot of time on administrative tasks.
Documents are stored in shared drives, hard drives and inboxes, which provide no overview. Chantal de Waal, general counsel at Ace & Tate, found herself in this position when she started in her current role. ‘My biggest pain point was the lack of overview because we had no overview of corporate files, business agreements or data processes. At that time, the company was much smaller, but with the strong ambition to grow came the inseparable need to professionalise and to obtain such overview going forward,’ she says. In an attempt to structure information, in-house legal teams may have consolidated legal and corporate information in generic software but these solutions are not specifically for legal departments and fail to meet reporting needs.
Isabella Ho, general counsel at MyRepublic, found herself in a similar predicament. When she joined the company, it was unclear whether the contracts stored were complete and whether the company’s business relationships were properly covered. She explains, ‘it was extremely difficult to work without reports and source documents at my fingertips.’
Phase two: centralised legal repository
Organisations move to the second phase of digital maturity once they realise working with generic software and manual processes are not sustainable. For Nigel Brunning, financial director and company secretary at Johnston Sweepers, this occurred when he came to the conclusion that he was the sole employee in the organisation who knew where most legal documents were located and how to access them. He felt he had ‘a duty to keep good records and needed to improve efficiency. Finding the right document used to be very time consuming.’
In the early stages of this phase, the legal department starts to organise their information into a centralised database. As opposed to the previous stage, information is now stored in a single place, enabling easy access. Isabella Ho explains one of the advantages is that she can access information quickly and securely, ‘even when I’m not in the office.’
What sets repositories apart from the technology mentioned in the previous phase is that the information is structured so it can be easily managed and shared with colleagues. The goal of technology in this phase is not only to improve productivity and efficiency but also help you meet regulatory and business requirements. Chantal of Ace & Tate says that the implementation of a centralised repository has helped the organisation to ‘have a clear overview of where the company stands in terms of corporate housekeeping, the company’s current contractual obligations and the reassurance that they won’t miss key deadlines and termination dates thanks to key alerts.’
Reporting and auditing capabilities empower legal departments to proactively manage risk, create value and generate insights. For Chantal, one of the biggest advantages is, ‘it helps our company to have legal control.’ The strength of centralised repositories is that they can meet any kind of information challenge.
It is easy to become lost in all the features that legal tech investments offer, instead of integrating your day-to-day operations into digital processes. Even though the legal profession is not known for being innovative, when it comes to digital maturity it’s important to remember that, ‘the good news is, the foundation is there’, Fredrik states.
If you’re still using spreadsheets or generic software to carry out specific legal tasks it can difficult to keep track of information and trust its reliability. Designed specifically for corporate legal professionals, Legisway Essentials gives you the tools you need to:
- Manage your legal information including contracts, corporate records, compliance policies, regulations, cases and intellectual property in one place.
- Save time finding and summarising information.
- Boost efficiency and improve collaboration across the entire business while retaining full control over access rights.
- Manage risk and generate insightful reports, to protect the company and create value.
Are you ready to transform your legal department from a cost-centre into a business enabler? Discover how Legisway can work for your organisation, and Schedule a demo today at Legisway.com or call +44 2033 181087.