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Demystifying Digital Transformation for Legal Teams

Watch the recording to learn how legal leaders from The New York Times, Airbnb, and Pfizer approach org-wide digital transformation projects.

You’ll get as many variations to the question “What is digital transformation?” as the number of people you ask. Some will claim that it looks like new software integration or process automation. Others claim that it looks more like an org-wide shift towards a new product development approach. But what is it, really? What implications could it have for a legal team, and does yours need it?

If you don’t have the answers, you’re not alone. So our Chief Community Officer, Mary O’Carroll, sat down with legal leaders from the New York Times, Airbnb, and Pfizer to demystify what digital transformation looks like for legal teams and how it has them more strategic business partners. The panelists also shared advice on how to approach org-wide digital transformation projects from a legal team’s perspective.

Key Takeaways

  • The push for digital transformation can come from any direction. Sometimes it can come from the top, with executive leadership or a board of directors urging the organization to make large paradigm shifts to keep pace with the rest of the industry. Other pushes are more grassroots in nature, with teams recognizing that tool sprawl has lead to inefficiency or that new, helpful tech has arrived on the scene–like AI–and simply cannot be ignored. 
  • Digitization does not equal digital transformation. It’s important to know the difference between the two, especially when it comes to making large shifts in both thinking and process. Digitization tends to replicate an existing process in a digital form, while digital transformation rethinks the process itself. If all the contracts that used to live in boxes now live on a hard-drive but still get emailed back and forth and manually saved on desktops, for example, that’s only removed some of the problem. On the other hand, implementing a new system to manage approvals, back and forth, storage, etc. and completely revamping the contract negotiation process – that’s transformation. 
  • The more ops, the better. Because digital transformation projects can be massive undertakings, it’s important to have an operations role or even better, a small team, dedicated entirely to their oversight. This concentration helps makes decisions faster, establish clear swimlanes, and drive thoughtful implementation without the distraction of other major responsibilities. And, if you have a team, they can both serve as initiative drivers and the first test group to take changes out for a test drive.
  • Have a growth mindset. When teams have a willingness to experiment, to fail fast, to step back and really look at what needs changing, they’re far more likely to succeed in their attempts at digital transformation. Failed projects are often the result of lukewarm buy-in, lack of prioritization, or a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. And while there is a time and place for that line of thinking, the edge of innovation is not it.
  • Capitalize on the news cycle. As new, innovative tech filters in and out of the media spotlight, keep tabs on what has people buzzing, and what tech seems to have longevity in that spotlight. The longer it stays, the more your stakeholders’ general awareness is likely to grow, morphing into curiosity and excitement as they get more comfortable with the concept. Use this comfort as a starting off point to gather buy-in to kick off a transformation project related to that new tech. A perfect recent example is the proliferation of AI tech. It exploded onto the scene in early 2023 and has maintained relevance across business, pop culture, tech, and political headlines. As a result, people are starting to think about tech and automation in their daily lives just a little bit more, and AI-touting businesses have flourished.
  • For legal-led digital transformation, commercial contracting is a great place to start. Sales and commercial contracting are one of the few areas where you can find actual metrics and KPIs in volume, so they’re the easiest places to start showing the efficacy of a digital transformation project in dollars and cents. And the more you can demonstrate small wins–with numbers–the more trust,  buy-in, and investment you’ll get.


Interested in seeing how Ironclad can help you drive digital transformation at your organization? Talk to one of our digital contracting specialists and get a custom demo.

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