Article originally published in the Digital Journal, featuring Agiloft CEO, Colin Earl
Many businesses are now more vulnerable to any mistakes that can affect compliance and legal processes. For this reason, many are turning to workflow automation to mitigate these impacts created by the current pandemic.
Workflow automation can assist organizations seeking to remain compliant during the pandemic; this goal can be delivered through digital solutions and sound planning. As to how workflow automation can help:
- Enabling secure, remote collaboration between staff, stakeholders and customers
- Allowing enterprises to create and manage contracts from end-to-end remotely, eliminating risk of human error
- Flagging contracts that are not compliant with policies, while monitoring compliance with service agreements
- Ensuring only authorized users can view/edit sensitive document
To discover more, Digital Journal caught up with Colin Earl, CEO of Agiloft
Digital Journal: How is the coronavirus pandemic affecting the world of business?
Colin Earl: The coronavirus pandemic has altered the ways in which organizations operate, forcing businesses to refocus on what is most important, including how to support employees and fulfill commitments to customers. Supply chains are being altered as organizations try to accommodate a constantly shifting environment. Simultaneously, many employees have transitioned to remote work. The pandemic has increased demand in technology that supports these new and changing needs as businesses must do more with less.
In today’s current economic climate, businesses are forced to re-evaluate strategy and what aspects are most integral to business continuity. Companies are faced with questions such as: How can we support our employees and their families’ health? How can we ensure we fulfill the promise we made to our customers? And how can we continue to manage these things in an uncertain world? These questions have forced organizations to look within for creative and compassionate solutions. While businesses cannot prevent these disruptions, increasing data visibility allows enterprises to track updates in real-time and react accordingly.
Looking for New Opportunities
During this time of uncertainty, it is crucial for businesses to make and execute decisions with foresight – developing intelligent IT strategies and applying critical adaptations that can lead to more effective practices and disaster preparation in the long run.
The companies remaining competitive at the end of this economic downturn will be the ones that tailor products to meet consumer needs. According to recent a Gartner marketing research report, “Companies that display confidence, accelerate investments in growth, protect innovation funding, and identify their future teams will be rewarded with sustained advantage over their competitors.”
With over 7.4 million cases worldwide and climbing, COVID-19 has driven companies to shift to a remote workforce and continues to drastically disrupt supply chains. To adjust to the rapidly evolving ecosystem, it is clear digital transformation is a necessity for businesses to gain a competitive edge. With personal computers, mobile phones, cloud vendors, ISPs, and the people operating them preventing total collapse of modern business, the real value of digital business technology is on display and all businesses will continue to digitize or become obsolete.
The Emergence of Enterprise AI
Research conducted by Tractica shows that global artificial intelligence (AI) software revenue is expected to grow from $10.1 billion in 2018 to $126 billion by 2025. As AI and machine learning technology continue to progress, more enterprises are beginning to adopt these solutions. Organizations within the legal industry, government, education, and healthcare are jumpstarting initiatives to incorporate AI software into applications to manage contracts and risk in supply chain and corporate law.
DJ: How are businesses seeking to manage the situation?
Earl: Businesses are developing creative solutions to support customers and employees and are more flexible in this uncertain time. The companies that are the most resilient—those addressing customer needs and forming a forward-looking continuity plan—will be the most successful once economic growth picks back up. Organizations can ensure business continuity by updating their IT Disaster Recovery Plan and investing in technology that empowers remote work and is resilient against supply chain disruptions. As businesses are functioning with less staff and IT operations are strapped for resources, many are turning to automation tools to meet regulatory compliance requirements, improve productivity, and move processes forward without the need for human intervention.
DJ: How important is workplace automation?
Earl: Designed to improve daily productivity, automation allows users to set up business policies and rules within a contract lifecycle management (CLM) system that dictates the flow of tasks, documents, and information across business processes, enabling commercial activity to move forward without the need for human intervention.
Workplace automation is a means of combining a series of simple, repetitive tasks to create a straightforward, streamlined flow of operations, without the risk of human error. This increases the speed, efficiency, and accuracy in performance of repetitive tasks, giving employees more time to work on tasks that cannot necessarily be automated, such as direct customer communication and other high-level- tasks. Automation can also identify workflow redundancies that can be eliminated, and the increased productivity reduces costs.
Legal departments can utilize workflow automation to automate client payment, new client information, and to manage contract renewals and deadlines. By implementing a contract management system, organizations operate using a single digital repository to store all legal documents as well as confidential customer and employee information. Today’s advanced systems use AI to import contracts, analyze the language in them, flag risks, manage contractual obligations, and more.
DJ: How can automation promote better collaboration between staff, stakeholders, and customers?
Earl: Automated workflows increase visibility into business practices, enabling better communication between parties. Automation keeps tasks organized, so staff can provide customers and employees with real-time information. With automation, employees have more time to focus on both customer needs and stakeholder concerns, allowing them to collaborate directly and more frequently with these parties. Between staff members, automation improves collaboration by providing more accountability for each member’s direct responsibilities, automatically tracking each step in a workflow.
DJ: What challenges are there with contract management and how can automation assist?
Earl: Managing contracts requires the organization and maintenance of a large body of contracts. It can be difficult to keep track of contract renewals while workers are remote, and many enterprises still have paper contracts stored in the office.
Automation can assist in the contract management process in a variety of ways:
One of the major challenges associated with contract management are missed expirations and renewals, which expose companies to liabilities. For example, licensing agreements often indicate definitive periods of time that data belonging to another party may be utilized. Operating outside of licensing terms is a surefire way to get sued. For the licensor, the same concern represents the potential loss of revenue if the contract expiration is missed and not renewed. Quality contract management software goes beyond repository-only functionality and includes the ability to track contracts and alert staff of upcoming expirations and renewals. By leveraging automation, organizations can identify dates and deadlines of clauses far before the expiration date. It can also be used to extract clauses from contracts and other documents and classify documents; it can be used to score the risk associated with potential contracts as well.
Ineffective Approval Workflow
Without the integration of workflow automation, contracts can take much longer than needed to get approved, causing unnecessary delays. The longer it takes for contracts to get approved, the higher the risk of losing potential customers. By implementing automation driven contract management, contracts are approved at a faster rate and human-caused delays are alleviated by automatically nudging, routing and escalating contract approval appropriately.
Elimination of Tedious Tasks
Workplace automation is especially useful when repetitive tasks, such as adding in mandatory clauses and highlighting signature boxes that need to be performed for a multitude of documents. Contract management software can be used to automate the initiation, execution and monitoring of contracts. This product decreases the amount of manual labor that employees would otherwise need to complete, allowing them to concentrate on their clients and perform other higher-skilled tasks. Automation models also allow companies to customize tools with their existing data so that their workplace automation system can perform the precise tasks required
DJ: Are there any security concerns with automation? If so, how can these be addressed?
Earl: The main concern with implementing automation practices is that, once a business’ data is located in a computerized system, the system can be hacked and information can be stolen. Similarly, employees may feel that they have lost control over the security of their personal data that is stored in an automated system. This can be addressed as follows: the system should be subject to regular third-party vulnerability assessments and the company certified by a security standard such as SOC2.
The system should enforce precise access controls so that users can only see the particular records, and the particular fields within those records, to which they need access. In addition, it should support tracking all actions such as logins, data access, edits, and changes to business rules, ideally with the ability to take automated actions in case of suspicious activity. Two-factor authentication should be supported and configurable so that it is required for individuals with high levels of access without burdening those who do not have access to sensitive information. And password controls such as minimum length and complexity should be configurable to the exact needs.