Redefining Legal Department Operations: One App at a Time

Monday, January 26, 2015 - 10:24

Enterprise Apps bring increased efficiency and transparency

MCC interviews Eric M. Elfman, co-founder and CEO of Onit.

MCC: What is an enterprise app?

Elfman: Forrester refers to them as Smart Process Apps for the enterprise and describes them as follows: 

These industry-specific apps are easy for people to use, help them collaborate more effectively, and yet are adaptable to the rapid pace of change required by today’s dynamic business demands. They do this by automating structured and unstructured work activities in support of collaborative processes. 

From our perspective, we think about enterprise apps as helping people get work done by addressing the simple, almost invisible processes that consume inordinate amounts of time, supporting all points of interactions between knowledge workers, and getting transactions out of email and into apps that provide transparency and support the way people really work.

MCC: Is there a particular type of organization that benefits from using Onit Apps?

Elfman: Our customers vary from very small to Fortune 30. We have helped our customers with a broad range of Apps that include contract review and administration, NDA negotiation and execution, lease administration, e-billing and matter and spend management. Given our background, we of course have a core capability in supporting legal operations with our Apps.

Onit’s primary mission is to help lawyers get their work done better, faster and more efficiently by replacing email as the primary way lawyers get work and get work done. We provide automation of any law department process in ways that remove redundant data entry by lawyers and staff. In the context of the above mission, Onit’s contract, matter management, e-billing and other Apps help law departments provide better service to their businesses and improve operational efficiency – all consistent with Gartner’s view that:

In addition to the responsibility of managing documents, e-billing, matters, and outside counsel, it's equally important for corporate legal departments to be involved in business processes and continuously optimize the organization's processes to improve business performance against goals and objectives. In an enterprise legal management context, business process management (BPM) includes the automation of manual processes through methods such as workflow and collaboration functionality. Examples include the distribution and approval of legal documents, assignment of tasks and legal resources, as well as the monitoring of alternative fee agreements.

MCC: There is a lot of technology available to legal departments; how does Onit fit into the landscape?

Elfman: Customers tell us and industry surveys and experts support the view that traditional enterprise legal management (ELM) systems of record built on decades-old technology platforms don’t begin to address the primary problem corporate counsel (and knowledge workers generally) deal with – complex, collaborative business processes that require a high degree of collaboration and organizational transparency. Onit Apps by contrast are built from the ground-up to help legal department staff be more effective and to collaborate with internal and external business partners.

Our customers benefit from the most innovative, simple-to-configure and easy-to-deploy capabilities that enable them to truly transform their legal operations and extend those capabilities to provide world-class service to the broader businesses they serve. By focusing on process, we help our customers drive tremendous gains in efficiency, accelerate transaction velocity and reduce costs.

MCC: Are Onit Apps a replacement for existing systems?

Elfman: In some cases yes, we’ve replaced other systems. However, in just as many cases, Onit Apps are integrated with existing systems – contract management systems, procurement systems, matter management systems, and CRM systems. In cases where customers have a large investment in existing systems, but require a collaborative workflow capability, it’s often simpler, faster and more effective to implement an Onit App than to reconfigure their existing system.

For example, our NDA App and Contract Review & Approval App are often implemented to provide an intake and self-service capability. Integrated with a matter management system, we can assign requests, ensure that all the appropriate data is collected, model workflow and create/update data in the matter management system. Legal department staff are notified as requests are initiated by the business, and they can manage the process of any transaction at the appropriate level.

It’s a straightforward exercise for customers to configure forms that eliminate emails and phone calls as the intake form. Additionally, Onit Apps eliminate the need for Word or Excel-based data collection and transaction tracking. Everyone involved in a transaction can easily add information to keep it moving, nudge other participants to stay on deadline and keep all the “chatter” about a transaction in one place. It’s this kind of transparency around transactions that is giving our customers a better delivery capability and driving measurable business process improvements.

MCC: What’s the implementation process like – how long is a typical deployment?

Elfman: As with most technology, the complexity of the business problem drives the implementation timeline. However, even our most complex implementations are typically completed in less than 90 days. Most are completed in four to six weeks, including testing and revision. For example, a Fortune 50 insurance company has a team dedicated to developing apps for their legal department. The average time to delivery for an app is 19 days. That’s 19 days from the time they first meet with a business user until the production app is delivered and includes process mapping, scope, configuration and testing activities.

Our ability to do so stems from a focus on configurability and taking an agile approach to implementation. Rather than requiring customers to think through every possible workflow, decision point or individual participant in a process, we configure flexibility into our Apps. If a new field needs to be added to an App, it’s only a couple minutes' work to do so. If a certain type of workflow is required in a small subset of transactions, or if a particular approval is required on only very specific transactions, we will build in simple ways for workflow or approvals to be revised by the owner of the transaction. This flexibility eliminates a huge amount of complex coding and configuration and means Apps are delivered quickly and customers achieve a dramatic time to value.

MCC: That all sounds great, but can you give me an example of the kind of business transformation Onit Apps make possible?

Elfman: Absolutely. I could give you a number of examples, but this one is representative: one of our customers negotiates and signs over 10,000 NDAs a year. The existing process was cumbersome and on average, if you needed an NDA as part of something you were trying to do in the business, it took 16 days. This customer had spent more than a year trying to make this work in one of the traditional tools available to the legal department and was about to abandon the project. We built a prototype to accommodate global submission, negotiation and electronic signature of NDAs. In the first month the Onit NDA App was in production, more than 1,000 NDAs were processed. Cycle time went down from 16 days to less than 24 hours for 90 percent of NDAs with virtually “no” lawyer involvement.

MCC: Tell me a little about your security.

Elfman: Onit Apps are hosted in the most secure commercial data centers on the planet. Our practices and methods have been scrutinized and vetted by a number of highly security conscious companies. We have passed each of these security reviews with the proverbial "flying colors,” and our customers can feel confident that their data is as secure and, in many cases, more secure than if it were hosted in their own environments.

MCC: How much IT support does an Onit App require – both to implement and to support?

Elfman: Very little IT support is required, and in many of our customers' experiences Apps are configured, deployed and supported with virtually no IT support. As a SaaS implementation, no hardware or software is required. Apps can be configured without requiring programming expertise. A new way vendors are beginning to talk about this capability is “low code.” At Onit, in many of our Apps we actually achieve a “no code” deployment. This means that business users can both configure and support Onit Apps without requiring IT assistance or support. This is another way we help our customers achieve dramatic time to value with Onit Apps.

MCC: Any last thoughts for our readers considering Onit Apps?

Elfman: Of course, the best way to evaluate whether we can help is to give us an opportunity to configure an app. With a small investment of time – typically 60 to 90 minutes – to help us understand the business process, we can configure an app. In doing so we’re able to give customers an opportunity to see for themselves how great Onit Apps are and how quickly they can drive meaningful business benefit and operational improvements. From matter and spend management, to contract review and approval, NDA and other business processes legal departments support, we've helped many organizations achieve their business goals. To see how our Apps work, contact us at smartapps@onit.com

Eric M. Elfman is the co-founder and CEO of Onit and is passionate about building great software companies. Eric is a serial entrepreneur founding four companies in the last 25 years, two of which have been software startups. At Onit, Eric is responsible for overseeing the company's overall strategic direction, planning and execution. 
 
About Onit

Onit was founded in 2011 by Eric M. Elfman and Eric Smith, who were instrumental in the last major innovation in legal operations technology – electronic billing and spend management. They find themselves once again at an important juncture – process management, collaboration and workflow capabilities. They’ve built into the Onit App Builder Platform and Onit Apps the capability to drive the next significant technology shift in legal operations technology and business process automation more generally.

Onit has a broad installed base of companies with complex business requirements, high transaction and global business operations. This is important because these companies help us drive important innovations – in legal operations technology. Onit capabilities help our legal department clients become more efficient, more responsive to the needs of their business units and more effective in the delivery of legal services to the company.

 

Please email the interviewee at eric.elfman@onit.com with questions about this interview.