Building a Center for Workflow Automation Co-Innovation

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The real impetus behind digital transformation of the legal industry doesn’t come from any developer, technology provider, or market trend. It originates with the Legal Operations community and the users who make legal tech tools their own.

As the poet Mattie Stepanek famously put it: “Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” 

Collaboration has been found, time and time again, to be an essential trait of any healthy organization. For corporate legal departments, that’s equally true. And that collaboration can often extend beyond the legal department, to involve outside counsel, technology providers, and other members of a company’s legal “ecosystem.”

In the case of legal workflow automation, collaboration should take the form of co-innovation between the Legal Operations users of a particular solution and the vendor’s client support team. The goal? To adapt the tool to suit the needs of the organization, and not vice-versa.

That co-innovation begins with the workflows being used by Legal Ops. In-house staff and vendor merge their talents and insights to deliver process solutions perfectly calibrated to Legal Ops requirements. The result is often more than the sum of its parts, and something neither would have arrived at on their own.

Creating a co-innovation community

One useful practice to encourage a culture of co-innovation, of sharing ideas and building better iterations upon the success of others? Launch a collaboration center where legal workflow automation users can post and browse workflow and form designs created by others.

That center not only should allow people to view the work of others, but should encourage communication (and, if feasible, collaboration) between the original designer of a workflow and others who want to adapt it for their own purposes.

We’re talking, obviously, about internal idea-sharing. It’s a good thing to have a central portal or repository where corporate co-workers can share workflow designs. But would a Legal Ops team ever want to share its ideas with outsiders?

To understand the value of this kind of external collaboration and idea exchange, look no further than how two different communities treat idea-sharing. One of them has seen huge success, while the other is suffering stagnation.

Collaboration Comparison

Critics accuse the medical research community, particularly when it comes to clinical trials, of stagnation and inefficiency. That owes, in part, to the fact that researchers and institutions are jealous and protective of their findings, and often guilty of walling off outside collaboration as they hope to be first to monetize new drugs or treatments.

Yet a culture of sharing has been central to the success of the software industry, as developers, programmers, and software architects share ideas and vet each other’s work. But communities like Dzone or Github and the notion of the “hackathon” are alien to medical research, to its detriment.

Best practices for sharing workflow automation innovations

In our own experience with our TAP Workflow Automation solution, we found our clients to be a wellspring of enormous energy and innovation. Since they’re part of a dynamic Legal Ops community exemplified by forward-looking organizations like CLOC that foster cross-fertilization of ideas and best practices, they have no qualms about sharing what they’ve learned every time they meet.

To facilitate that, we’ve launched the TAP Co-Innovation Center, where users can browse the workflows created by their peers in the TAP user community. In creating it, we followed best practices that make it a more viable and secure experience for everyone, and are worth following in designing similar centers:

  • Ease of sharing: Community members can share workflow ideas and use cases quickly and simply using a self-guiding form.
  • Integration within the application: In TAP’s case, workflows can be exported from within TAP via a one-click import/export feature.
  • Security: A password-protected secure repository contains all uploaded designs and use cases.
  • Anonymity: Members may not want to declare their identity, for competitive or policy reasons, so any workflow can be anonymized.
  • Connection: Members can contact each other directly (or through ad admin or support team) to facilitate sharing.

Advancing Legal Ops for the good of an industry

Legal Operations has the capacity to transform the entire legal industry. But as some remind us, that will happen only if everyone commits to it. That level of commitment has been an inspiring hallmark of the Legal Ops community.

By sharing their ideas and innovations for helping truly useful legal technologies like workflow automation get better at their jobs, Legal Ops professionals can advance transformation in their own organizations, and sustain the growth and value of the entire Legal Rising movement and of Legal Ops in general.

Again, to see how we’ve put that into practice ourselves, visit our TAP Co-Innovation Center page.

Embracing co-innovation and idea sharing, whether as users of a particular software solution or as part of their overall culture, will reward Legal Ops teams in more ways than we can put into words. Especially since one TAP client did an exemplary job of it already…

“TAP has the power to connect people and instill a shared sense of possibility. I’ve seen that unfold in our firm, with clients and throughout the legal ecosystem. TAP-fueled conversations create possibilities before anyone even touches the software – tapping into the curious optimism that brings out the best in all of us.”

Justin Hectus
CIO/CISO, Keesal Young & Logan