Canadian Lawyer

August 2019

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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LEGAL INNOVATION NOW FEATURE 16 www.canadianlawyermag.com "DON'T PAVE the cow path" — what a great saying! I came across this phrase in a Harvard Business Review article from last year about AI for the real world. So, obviously, I had to look up the phrase to understand its provenance. And, of course, there are conflicting stories about origins, truthiness and meandering cows that I could share here, but those aren't really the point of this column. Suffice it to say, those in IT use this phrase today to warn against taking existing processes and simply automating them without digging into whether they are efficient, useful or even needed. The 1990s brought a widespread focus on reengineering business processes and a radical restructuring of workflows within Fortune 500 companies across many different industries. Over the last couple of decades, technology has increased its influence in enabling these process improvement initiatives, from centralized databases of data to full "enterprise resource planning" systems that track and manage business resources, such as purchase orders, cash flow, payroll, stock levels, production capacity, supply chain management and HR data. These process improvement programs uncovered bottlenecks and potential cost savings across the enterprise. Process modelling as part of these programs identified redundancies and duplication, highlighting where optimization and reengineering could lead to greater business value. More recently, the role of technology in such exercises has been to look at how these business processes might be more fully automated with human oversight. Business process automation, robotic process automation and digital transformation are terms that all refer to this new focus for technology — enabled business processes. But why (oh, why) do these matter for legal? Artificial Intelligence, once you get the hype out of the way, is currently providing the most value by improving the numerous, and rather manual, business processes in the industry. Firms and legal departments are focusing on automating the back-office processes to prove some of the early wins for AI in the form Meandering paths of digital transformation Many law firms want to leap into process automation without fixing the underlying process in the first place of robotic process automation. As Arup Das, CEO of AlphaServe Technologies, describes it: "RPA is a solution that uses technology to enable computer software (referred to as robots or bots) to perform routine tasks by interacting with your existing applications. The bots capture and interpret data, manipulate it, use it to perform a task and convey the results to other digital systems." For the business of law, it is this pulling together of several systems to perform a single task, such as matter intake or initiating the onboarding of a new starter where process automation is finding its first foothold. Automatically sending out notifications to the multiple business units and systems involved with new starters creates time savings for busy staff, reduces duplication, data entry and risks of error in the system. But as the saying "don't pave the cow path" reminds us, such operational efficiencies are achieved only by fully analyzing the manual process and redesigning it for a digital world. It is not as easy as simply digitizing the offline process. It requires

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