We live in a world of automation, and by and large this has brought significant benefits to sectors such as manufacturing and logistics, significantly reducing production and distribution costs, which has allowed companies to remain competitive.
Automation isn’t just about robotics however: chatbots and other automation tools have been used in the professional services sector for some time, in particular for marketing campaigns. Automation can also be used to support better customer experience through frictionless interactions, allowing employees to rid themselves of mundane and low value repeatable tasks, whilst providing operational consistency and quality. Automated solutions can even provide the ability to engage with partners or regulators improving relationships and compliance performance.
At its core, automation is about identifying parts of a process that can be routinely repeated with minimal human intervention and with more predictable, consistent results. Some of the obvious candidates for process automation in law firms include:
1. Time recording
2. Time-keeper rates management
3. Debt collection
4. Accounts payable
5. Expenses esp. billable expenses
6. Conflict clearance
7. Matter referral processes
8. Trademark and IP submissions
Automation works best where margins are low, and volumes of transactions are high. In Japan (which leads the world in the potential for automation given their working practices) it is estimated that 56% of activities and occupations could be undertaken by autonomous programs and bots – transforming the workplace, for better or worse, depending on your point of view.
Automation comes in many different forms/applications: from Robot Worker to Tactical Systems Integration, from 3rd party automation (yes, your outsource providers are no doubt leveraging automation to reduce their overheads) to unattended or attended automation. Across industries, automation is being used to reduce headcount and/or free up bandwidth for knowledge workers.
Reap The Benefits
Knowing how and when to apply automation is not an easy task and we have seen several automation programmes fail to reap the promised benefits. This is not really reflected in the latest McKinsey report on Intelligent Automation which shows a large number of organisations undertaking automation programmes with an apparent 60% success rate – but this is no doubt probably reflective of the fact that the majority of these programmes are actually only pilots.
In terms of the benefits of automation in the legal sector, there are opportunities in every practice area to make processes more efficient. As an example, where profit margins are below average for a particular type of work such as Real Estate departments – where it would make more sense to use paralegals – changing processes so that lawyers only undertake the supervision and more complex work will reduce transactional costs.
In all businesses, processes evolve over time as requirements change, technology improves and the demands on productivity and profitability increase. Unfortunately, as requirements change, the usual approach is to add only what is necessary rather than assessing the overall fitness for purpose of working practices. Taking a holistic approach, with regular reviews of processes, offers huge potential for cost reduction and increased profitability.
As firm’s grow the challenges of business process management and automation increase, however the benefits of rationalising and optimising processes, “the size of the prize”, are amplified also. At Peru, our experienced practitioners have real-world expertise in areas such as operating models, business process improvement and the application of automation technology that can help you identify and maximise the opportunities from change.
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