Implementing a new business process can be a complicated endeavor and ensuring continuous process improvement is an ever-evolving task. One way to determine how well a process has been implemented and how sophisticated a business is in tackling a particular task is through the use of a maturity model.
A “maturity model is a measurement of the ability of an organization for continuous improvement in a particular discipline. The higher the maturity, the higher will be the chances that incidents or errors will lead to improvements either in the quality or in the use of the resources of the discipline as implemented by the organization.”
Maturity models can—and should—be used in legal operations.
On a recent episode of the Technically Legal Podcast, Peter Eilhauer explained that to him a maturity model is “a plan on a page and it explains where [an organization is] today and where [it] should be in the future.”
Although maturity models may be used to track process improvement for many legal tasks, Peter discussed how maturity models are used to measure data analytics processes, and specifically, for legal spend management. (Peter knows his stuff about legal spend management–he’s been working in and around it for 16 years. He started as a consultant helping law firms manage costs and then jumped ship to help corporate legal departments manage their legal spend. He is currently with EPIQ.)
Peter’s maturity model is set up like a grid. Columns at the top describe different levels of maturity, starting from reactive to developing to proactive and finally to predictive. The rows on the left track where people, processes, and technology fit within the stages of maturity.
Using a data analytics maturity model, the maturity levels of people, processes, and technology can be explained as follows.
At the first level in most maturity models, an organization in an immature stage is reactive. Using data analysis as an example, a legal department has no dedicated staff to engage in data analysis. Any analysis is episodic, and usually, in response to a specific request.
In the next stage of maturity, the developing stage, a corporate legal department designates specific staff to handle data analytics on a scheduled basis.
In the mature stage, not only is there designated staff analyzing legal spend, goals are set.
Finally, in the predictive stage of the maturity model, people are not only designated to analyze data, but also present it to management so that it may inform business decisions.
In the first, reactive stage, there is likely no process for analyzing data at all (other than in response to ad hoc requests).
In the developing stage, the legal department establishes schedules and protocols to review data and reports.
The mature stage usually involves members of the in-house team interacting with each other and with other employees through a dashboard.
Finally, in the predictive stage, the focus of the process is not simply data analysis, but on figuring out how to address problems before they arise.
In the reactive and developing stages of the technology maturity model, data analysis is probably limited to spreadsheets and native analytics in the software from which data is gathered.
When a legal department moves to the mature technology state of the maturity model, dashboards are used to present data rather than just spreadsheets.
In the final, “best in class” predictive stage, advanced analytics and data preparation tools are involved, and data is “pulled” rather than “pushed.” That is the process of collecting data is automated via API calls and integrations between software used in the process.
Maturity models are not limited to data analysis and legal spend analytics. The models may be applied to all kinds of tasks legal operations perform. In fact, the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Legal Operations Section has a great legal ops maturity model resource that covers several legal functions such as contract management, e-discovery, and intellectual property management.
Implementing maturity models can have a profound, and maybe even a transformational, impact on a corporate legal department. As seen above, a mature legal department will have mastered their own unique process and, as Peter mentions in the podcast, lawyers will therefore be able to set benchmarks and be able to help steer the overall company in a unified and coherent direction.