Category: Document Automation
It appears that the document automation industry is at a stage of development where there is still a lot of value to be captured by customers – that is, the benefits to be reaped far exceed the costs of implementing.
Common issues when deploying new technologies
The most common issue we encounter is that organisations are generally not well-prepared to deploy automation. This is understandable because unless you are in the business of technology, you are not deploying new systems on a regular basis. This can manifest itself in the following ways:
- Not having requirements bedded down. For example, a law firm seeking to automate their precedents might have different versions of the same precedent used by different departments (or even different partners in the same department) with variances purely of a stylistic nature. Automation can handle different versions for different scenarios, but documents for the exact same scenario should be standardised.
- Not having user buy-in. Technology is easy. Change management is hard. Most people have a bias to doing things the way they are used to doing it, and are averse to change. The thing with automation is that, in order to reap the benefits, you are necessarily introducing some form of fixed patterns and letting the machine do some of the work behind the scenes. We see this challenge in every organisation, but lawyers are particularly wedded to fine-grained control. In fact, the very best lawyers can (and should) be pedantic to a degree and pride themselves on their freehand drafting skills. (Do not worry, there is still a place for bespoke drafting, see below.
- Not investing in resources to rollout and maintain the system. Automation is not something you can do by half-measures – it is a technological implementation exercise and requires a disciplined approach. This is a challenge for all organisations, because costs are constantly under pressure, but professional service organisations seem to struggle more with allocating appropriately skilled staff to non-direct, revenue earning roles.
This article relates to LexisNexis’ special report into the future of law. Open the report here.
In deciding to implement document automation, you should set it up as a “proper” technology project and staff it appropriately, with a project manager, business analyst, etc. (If you do not have in-house capability then consider engaging contractors, the selected automation technology provider, or a third-party integrator).
Make sure to understand your requirements early (your technology providers can help with this, especially in the pre-sales stage when they are eager to impress and win your business). This includes engaging your users early and throughout the process to ensure they buy-in to the vision of the document automation project. Make sure they understand there will be work on their end that needs to be completed – this will ensure they are invested in the project too.
Invest in getting your team trained up on the technology once it has been selected, so that the right architecture and design decisions are made at the outset (thereby avoiding re-design and re-factoring down the line).
Consider a proof of concept with well-defined success criteria, if there are aspects that you are not sure about.
Why choose document automation?
Businesses generally adopt document automation to:
- Improve certainty, reliability and consistency, by increasing visibility and minimising manual labour and associated error rates
- Increase revenues by providing a more competitive, efficient solution that wins business
- Reduce costs and turnaround time
- Increase customer satisfaction by increasing speed and service levels
- Monitor and manage risk and compliance
- Eliminate low-value repetitive tasks to focus on higher value strategic tasks
- Empower and enable lower skilled resources to complete higher level tasks
- Manage workload and the efficient allocation of work to appropriate resources
Top tips for success
Thinking back to our most successful implementations, they have the following in common:
- A focus on building a strong business case for the initial implementation (usually this is to meet a proven market need).
- Do not try to build Rome in one day – have a strategic rollout plan and adopt a phased approach.
- Understand the 80/20 rule – there are diminishing returns. For example, you will go mad if you try automating all the way to 100% of edge cases. In some cases, document automation can generate a very good first draft in no time, which the expert lawyer can then add their bespoke drafting.
Here’s a strange comparison for you: contracts are like concrete. But what do legal agreements have to do with building materials?
Think about a concrete foundation. If a foundation isn’t rock solid, whatever is constructed on top of it could collapse without warning-the same is true about any company. A business is only as strong as the contracts it’s built upon and its ability to fully understand and comply with those contracts. Things like weak liability and intellectual property protections, missed contractual milestones, inadvertent breaches, and misunderstood termination for convenience clauses are all recipes for disaster.
What if your company could eliminate that unpredictability and achieve total certainty over what’s inside 100% of its contracts? At Exari, we see this as a simple three-step process.
Step 1: Gain visibility into your existing portfolio of contracts.
Whether your company has dozens of contracts or thousands of them, it can be nearly impossible to keep track of every single requirement, restriction, and deadline. When your company’s revenue and reputation are on the line, staying ahead of your obligations and out of breach is imperative. But how could you do this without having to read every clause in every contract?
The answer is simple: Turn your documents into data. When contracts are imported into the Exari system, the most important clauses and information are pulled from the document, allowing business users to visualize and analyze this data in seconds with the help of dozens of standard reports.
Step 2: Gain visibility into your contractual risk.
Every contract contains several important risk factors…termination clauses, IP protections, payment terms, liability limitations, etc. Could you assess precisely how much risk is contained in a particular contract? How about the risk contained in your entire contract portfolio? Unfortunately, for many companies the answer is “no.”
That’s why Exari created a revolutionary algorithm that analyzes more than 20 specific contractual data points, determines the contract’s risk to your organization, and assigns it a simple risk score. And since these scores are based on a uniform set of data, you can compare apples-to-apples and fully understand the risk (or lack thereof) across your entire enterprise.
Step 3: Gain visibility into your contracting practices.
The easiest way to make sure that your company is creating low-risk agreements is to develop a standard procedure that promotes good contracting practices and prevents so-called “rogue contracting”. The question then becomes, how do you both tightly control your contracts while still providing the flexibility necessary to prevent legal department bottlenecks?
Exari’s DocGen™ allows all business users to do just that with an innovative and streamlined document automation system. Using a simple question and answer “Wizard” interview, DocGen™ lets any user create pre-approved, ironclad contracts, while integrated workflows loop-in the correct people, as needed.
Achieving 100% Contract Certainty™ has never been easier for businesses large and small. Think of it as reinforcing your wobbly foundation. You’ll be glad you did.
And since a picture’s worth a thousand words, please take a couple minutes to enjoy our newest video “100% Contract Certainty.”
From Body Parts to Nuclear Reactors – How Document Generation is Helping Lloyd’s Reshape Risk Management
For over 300 years the Lloyd’s market has been one of the most innovative sources for risk management solutions. From body parts to nuclear reactors, Lloyd’s is a one stop shop for the world’s specialty insurance and reinsurance needs. It’s an ecosystem where close personal relationships, proximity of brokers and underwriters and actual paper policies still matter – and for those willing to work within the square mile of the City of London, it’s incredibly efficient.
There is, however, a very clear and challenging problem that is facing the London insurance market. In the race to expand business and diversify revenue streams there’s an increasing need to tap into technology to connect producers to brokers and ultimately the underwriters of risk.
Although the high touch of the Lloyd’s market works well for underwriting vast amounts of risk for large companies, it isn’t as practical for higher volume, lower value business. With the growing need to tap into these markets, but lacking resources, it is clear that a more automated document generation approach will help to drive productivity, resulting in innovation and growth.
Steve Jobs once told Wired Magazine that, “Creativity is just connecting things.” If that’s the case, then Lloyd’s brokers and, indeed underwriters, are getting creative. If the world is getting smaller it’s technology that’s driving us forward.
This is why we at Exari have created our Submit, Quote, Bind solution, for agents, brokers and underwriters.
Using DocGen™ , Exari’s document generation software, agents are now able to quickly and accurately capture risk information to help generate quote and policy documents. We removed the operational barriers and increased efficiency to make the job easier, reducing time, cost and risk.
This solution is as easy as 1, 2, 3 – with the help of the most advanced document generation software on the market.
- Submit: Using a web based interview the broker can gather all risk information and with the push of a button, create the submission document
- Quote: Carrier can create a quote or decline to quote using the automated system
- Bind: Once the quote is accepted it is set to bind! The underwriter can automatically create the documentation and the invoice.
Exari’s SQB solution is empowering Lloyd’s Syndicates with a source of new business, enabling Agents to quote and bind business locally, with compliant and pre-approved documents from the Insurer, who ultimately accepts the risk. Now, reporting and audit is fully transparent with unprecedented visibility into all data.
SQB is already being adopted by the US, Asia-Pacific and Nordic regions as all insurers are seeking more business in the most efficient way they can. To learn more check out Exari’s Submit, Quote, Bind webpage.
Even after eight years since the financial crisis, we are still seeing firms continue to recover and take critical steps to put strategies in place for improvement. Firms are focusing on reducing their costs, while increasing their ability to respond to the changing regulations around ensuring financial health.
In particular, our largest global financial institutions are required to implement Living Wills with Recovery and Resolution Plans to ensure visibility under extreme financial or market pressures, and worst case, regulatory plans should the institution actually fail. While today we see how this only impacts the defined Global 20, it’s critical for these and other institutions to understand their contractual obligations and risks under all scenarios. The work to gain this understanding and visibility can be complex, time consuming, and costly.
Additionally, firms are having to respond to changes in the reporting of OTC derivatives going into effect this year. In fact, one of my global clients is looking at ways to unwind their current contract data to parse out the required details for measurement, reporting and re-papering of OTC derivatives alone. It’s a big job for many of our clients that is just getting started.
However, the well considered and industry-tested Universal Data Model delivered by Exari will significantly accelerate these institution’s view into their risks and minimize costs to analyze and respond. Assets Managers can easily reduce the time it takes to capture and analyze trading agreements, IMA’s, CSA’s and side letters from months to just hours. The Model is already enabling our customers, like the one mentioned earlier, to significantly save time and money by managing this in house, rather than relying on outside legal resources.
The Exari Universal Contract Data Model for Financial Services is a game changer and is already being adopted by the industry leaders who want to accelerate the compliance process, minimize risks, and keep costs under control.
For more information on how Exari’s Contract Data Model, please visit our products page
Are you still drafting thousands of contracts manually? In Word? Or storing multiple versions of paper contracts in a filing cabinet? Well, you’re not alone.
Exari recently surveyed 92 Corporate Counsel and compliance professionals about their habits and challenges for contract creation, storage and legal technology. More than 75% reported that they were still creating contracts in Microsoft Word, using some form of “copy and paste” template, while only 1 out of 10 currently use a document generation software to streamline the process. Half of the participants (47%) said they were still using paper filing systems to house corporate contracts. Their top pain points included:
- Slow contract approval processes (59%)
- Little or non-existent insight into risk (39%)
- Missing key milestones (27%)
- Difficulty with internal collaboration (25%)
- Risk of error (23%)
With outdated practices for generating and storing contracts, you’ll lack complete visibility into all of your agreements, increasing your risks such as liability, being underpaid or overcharged and missing key milestones. By implementing an efficient contracting process, you won’t miss a step. Not to mention you’ll be able to pull information during a crisis in minutes, rather than taking hours to dig up and sift through multiple paper copies. Avoid missing renewal rates, reduce the length of sales cycles, streamline negotiations and increase internal collaboration.
Doesn’t that sound better than the ol’ “copy and paste”?
Today we announced DocGen 7.0, a major release in the history of this market-leading product. For those of you who are new to Exari, we were the first XML-based document assembly product on the market nearly 15 years ago. Today, our DocGen engine powers thousands of documents and contracts for hundreds of thousands of users worldwide.
What makes this release so great? It’s simple. It’s easy to use, and it is designed to be responsive, which means that no matter what device you use it on, be it phone, tablet, laptop or desktop, the application automatically resizes itself so it is as usable on a phone as it is on a 27” monitor. That’s cool.
We’ve also dramatically improved its authoring capabilities and greatly increased the ease with which you can integrate DocGen with other enterprise applications. That’s important because more and more, contracts are becoming living, breathing things. If you have consistency in your contracts, you protect yourself from risks like uncapped liabilities, bad termination language and potentially costly exposures.
For some customers, the risks are real. One prospect told us that a Word template had been modified and the limitations of liability clause removed and that template was then used hundreds of times. The risk is real.
Come check out DocGen 7.0. It’s the next great thing in contract management.
Bill Hewitt is Exari’s CEO. Reach out in the comments or @billhewittCEO.
We’ve listened. We’ve taken your feedback – and the changing landscape – into account. This fall, we’ll release a new responsive interface in our 7.0 release of Exari DocGen™.
Many of you reading this will be on a smartphone or tablet, or have one within reach. In fact, nearly 20% of visitors to our (responsive design) website come to us on a mobile device.
What’s responsive web design and why should I care, you ask? More and more business users are accessing web sites and web applications via small-screen devices. According to a recent study, mobile devices account for over half of all internet usage, as opposed to 42% on a desktop or laptop computer.
A responsive web application means that the interface you interact with changes dynamically based on the device you are using in order to provide a better user experience. We have redesigned the Exari interview with a “mobile first” approach. The result? Dramatically improved interface and usability for users on smart touchscreen devices.
As a responsive design application, Exari DocGen 7.0 allows you to be more responsive to your clients. It means you can fill in data directly in client meetings or on the road and send through a completed contract before you get to the office.
Drafting, completing and managing contracts with ease, insight and certainty. That’s what we’re all about.
Peter Wilson is Exari’s UI/UX Developer. Peter has been developing websites for almost two decades; he has provided coding and web management services for some of Australia’s largest companies. Peter regularly speaks at meetups and conferences. You can reach Peter @pwcc, email@example.com, in the comments below or on his personal website.
What’s this got to do with business processes you ask? Simple: your processes should be more like fast food than home cooking. You’re not trying to satisfy your in-laws, you’re striving for consistency, quality and repeatability – uncontrolled variation between steps is undesirable as it inevitably exposes risk. These ideas are articulated in George Ritzer’s book, “The McDonaldization of Society.” Ritzer’s premise is that society is becoming more and more rationalized. The four essential components of McDonaldization apply equally to what we strive to achieve with our contracts:
- Efficiency – the optimal way to get the job done. For fast food chains, this is getting customers from hungry to satisfied as rapidly as possible and then moving them on. For business processes, efficiency means minimizing the time spent on each step.
- Quantification – knowing how long things take and how much they cost. It’s hard to improve your processes without something measurable. Fast food chains know exactly how long every step in their processes takes – usually to the second. Every step in the process life-cycle needs to be understood and quantified in order to improve and rate its efficiency. The concept of a contract risk score that can be tracked across your entire portfolio over time takes this to the next level.
- Control – having strong, well established processes and using technology over manual labor wherever and whenever possible. There is no place for originality or creativity for common orders.
- Predictability – achieving the same quality product every single time. Automation facilitates predictability both for fast food and business processes.
So while in some areas of life – such as the dinner table – variation and uniqueness are important, business process is not one of them.
So how do your business processes compare to fast food? What about your contract processes? Are they consistent and up to date or are they more like a home made souffle – they sometimes flop?
I’d love to hear from you at @liptonj or leave a note in the comments.
Justin Lipton is CFO and Co-Founder at Exari
You’ve realized you need a Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) solution. You’ve also made the decision whether to build your own solution or buy from a CLM vendor. The benefits you’ll see are clear: complete and meaningful insight into contract data, increased ability to collaborate, time and cost savings, and better decision making through reduced risk. However, the path to reach these benefits can be less clear. The “best” way forward differs by company, of course, but a lot can be learned from those who have faced similar challenges.
In a recent webinar entitled “Ask The Expert – Key learnings from contract lifecycle management software implementations” presented by IACCM, Paul Branch of BT and Tom Haman of W.W. Granger, Inc. gave insight into their own diverse experiences implementing CLM tools in their respective organizations. As both underwent unique CLM implementations, differing in scope and scale, we find their combined perspective particularly helpful for those on the brink of embarking on their own CLM implementation project.
The legal profession is steeped in tradition and history. In fact, the law itself tends to respond to contemporary problems by looking back, and legal professionals are no different. If we should believe stereotype – and many firsthand accounts – lawyers tend to resist change tooth and nail. After all, they were bred – and are handsomely remunerated – in an age-old institution that lauds ethics and intellect, not innovation and reinvention.
A recent Law Practice Magazine article, Why Do Law Firms Resist Innovation? 10 Reasons, observes, “What passes for a radical change in a law practice—a new training program, some alternative billing, an extranet—is old hat in other markets.” As a profession that sticks to the beaten path, with a generation of young lawyers that has come to expect a few years of filing, drafting and proofing before they begin to tackle stimulating legal challenges, it is no wonder so many legal teams are hesitant to embrace legal technology.