Eversheds could well be considered a stalwart of business process management (BPM) technology. The UK law firm has been using the software to streamline its operations since 2000, when the technology was in its infancy. Having built up its expertise using the software, the firm is pushing the boundaries of process management into areas where, traditionally, human expertise and decision-making ruled.
Eversheds first used BPM technology in its Legal Systems Group, which performs high volumes of standardised, low-margin work for clients, such as secure debt recovery or volume property services.
In such an environment, the pressure to reduce costs is intense; that in turn dictates that processes are streamlined and efficient. Using an array of BPM and case management tools, managers at Eversheds were able to standardise processes and track workflows.
Elsewhere in the firm, business processes are far more complex, limiting the degree to which they can be standardised. But with a BPM platform from Metastorm, the firm has begun to apply the same rigour to these processes.
The benefits of BPM stretch beyond simple cost efficiencies, says Paul Rogers, head of business solutions at Eversheds. “Although a lot of business cases for BPM are based on efficiency, there are spin-off benefits in terms of visibility and understanding the processes,” he says. “This helps us to ensure that the processes are complying with the way we want them to run, and to eliminate deficiencies.”
Applying BPM to the Legal Research function
In 2005, Eversheds initiated a project to bring some of these ‘spin-off’ benefits to a less standardised area of the business, the research department. Here, the process for lawyers and consultants to request research was done by email, making it opaque and difficult to manage.
“Research requests can come up from anywhere in the business, and they used to be passed around the organisation until they got to the researcher that deals with the right area,” Rogers says. “The difficulty of working in that kind of scheme is that it is difficult for researchers to keep track of what is most important and respond effectively.”
Applying BPM to the research function, which rests upon the knowledge of the employees to a greater degree than the volume work of Legal Systems, represents an evolution of the use of BPM in professional service firms, says Rogers.
“My view of a professional service firm is in various tiers,” he says. “At the bottom is the high volume, low margin work that can be easily systemised. But there is also a middle tier to which we are starting to apply BPM, because there is an opportunity to improve practices through supervision.”