Legal operations professionals and legal teams looking to reduce risk while increasing productivity and efficiency often turn to workflows to standardize the way work is done in their systems. While developing standardized and automated workflows ultimately saves teams a lot of time and headache, we’ve noticed a few common mistakes clients make when developing a matter management workflows.
Before we cover these mistakes and the ways to avoid them, for a quick refresh on what workflows are and how to create them, check out our previous blog post What is a Workflow?
The three main mistakes we see when developing a new workflow are overcomplication, missing the obvious, and the changes resulting in unintended consequences. We’ll review what each of these look like and share some ideas on how you can avoid them in the first place.
Whenever we implement new workflows for a team, it’s clear that the workflow can become overly complicated. This often happens by trying to account for every edge case. When accounting for every circumstance, workflows can balloon very easily, going from a simple set of steps to a complicated web of if/then statements.To avoid over-complicating your workflows, start with a list of what must be done for the average matter to be completed. Then, consider common alternative steps when matters meet set criteria and set them aside. Finally, consider your most edge cases and what might be needed from them. Frequently, when you compare your workflow, the common alternatives, and your edge cases, you’ll see a lot of overlap. And, between your alternatives and edge cases, you’ll see some frequent places that all need the same kind of workflow flexibility.When we talk about flexibility in this context, what we’re talking about points in your workflow where the user can influence the end result.
This can be done in various ways:
a) Automation based on information input.
Need an alert sent at a specific point based on the type of agreement? The user can input this date, or a day range like “90 days prior to expiration date” to tell the system when complete an automated task.Need an extra approval for the usage of certain logos? The system can send through a specific approval process based on the logo selected.
b) User training
Sometimes, automation isn’t the answer because there are so many directions a particular matter can go. In this circumstance, staff training to utilize the system and its offerings best serve the team. The user will simply move the matter through the process as they desire.
Missing the Obvious
It’s not uncommon to get through an implementation and into workflow testing for a client to realize they missed something simple. Sometimes, a step is so habitual that you don’t even realize you are doing it.To ensure you don’t miss the habitual steps, once you have written down the process for your workflow, follow it to the letter and see if there’s something missing. It can also be helpful to ask a team member who doesn’t frequently do the task to move through the workflow as it is written. By trying to accomplish something, they may have questions, or it may come out incorrectly, and you’ll be able to pinpoint missed elements easily.
When you streamline your workflow, you need to make sure that it isn’t impacting someone else’s workflow. Matter management workflows typically impact finance or compliance workflows, but sometimes IT and other departments can be impacted as well. If there are communications, approvals, reports, or collaborations that include other departments, speak with them about your new workflows. Typically, by identifying a pain point for them in the process and helping resolve it in the new workflow, you can create a process that is better for everyone.