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Firing up legal efficiency for Powerco

Learn how General Counsel and Company Secretary, Jemma Stevenson drove technology adoption while working remotely during lockdown.

Powerco gateway onboarding launch

It’s not often you hear “pizza” and “legal technology” in the same sentence. But for New Zealand energy provider Powerco, pizza was the perfect vehicle for driving legal technology adoption while working remotely during lockdown.

Legal technology is not a new concept for Powerco. In fact, by most definitions, they’re veterans.

For over ten years Powerco managed its contracts via a platform custom-built by its IT team. But competing business priorities meant ongoing maintenance was deprioritised, and the platform became obsolete, unable to match Powerco's continued business growth. Finding the platform slow and difficult to use, business users typically contacted Legal directly instead.

The result?

A platform filled with unused templates, contracts left half done and a Legal team overwhelmed with low-risk support requests.

Building the foundations for efficiency

Powerco’s previous contract management platform contained templated, pre-approved contracts for different business departments to use when authoring agreements. However, the platform was not user-friendly, and many users struggled to find the template they needed.

Worse, when an agreement's terms varied from those set out in the approved templates, users would avoid the platform altogether and instead would go directly to Legal for assistance.

According to Jemma Stevenson, General Counsel and Company Secretary, this meant the Legal team was wasting time trying to manage and prioritise support requests coming from all angles.

“We are time poor and there is always more work than we have capacity to do,” Jemma explained.

“It is a constant juggle of priorities and trying to get rid of the noise in the lower-level stuff and focus our attention where it's most valuable.”

Many users also struggled with how manual parts of the old system were for approval, signature and storage. This often resulted in missed steps, unreliable or incomplete contract data and growing frustrations at the time required to complete the contract process end to end.

Starting the hunt for an alternative, Jemma recognised that partnering with a SaaS provider would mean Powerco would benefit from today’s offering, along with the continual R&D, maintenance and enhancements from the vendor into the future.

She identified Powerco's key requirements from a fit-for-purpose legal automation platform. The platform needed to:

The solution was Plexus Gateway, the world’s most advanced legal operating system. Plexus Gateway offered Powerco legal automation, matter management and contract management in one integrated platform.

Rolling out to the business

Selecting the right system was only half of the process. Now, the Legal team needed to drive adoption.

Although use of Powerco’s previous contract management platform was mandated for the business, more than half of the company was circumventing the existing process.

This presented the team with a unique set of opportunities and challenges when adopting Plexus Gateway: they had to turn existing business users into advocates of the new system, while convincing the remainder of the business to start using legal technology for the first time.

Jemma and her team knew that if they were successful with the former, the latter would be a breeze.

They decided to trial a team of ‘super-users’ before the broader rollout, helping the team understand in advance where the broader business might might need extra context or training.

Then, COVID-19 happened.

Introducing a new technology platform into a business is one thing; implementing a platform during the uncertainty of a global pandemic is a whole new challenge.

As with most businesses, Powerco’s employees were forced to transition into remote work during the strict lockdown. This put huge pressure on the team to find an effective way to communicate the value of their new technology initiative virtually.

While Jemma championed Plexus Gateway at the executive level, she looked to Senior Legal Counsel Sharon Heighway and her team to create enthusiasm from end-users.

They decided on a highly personal approach, asking themselves what training had worked for them in the past, both as recipients and trainers.

“We kept coming back to ‘less is more’ and that it needed to be a bit of fun. We aren’t technology people, and neither are lots of our end-users,” said Sharon.

“Often when we’re giving legal advice we use an analogy to make it easier for people who aren’t familiar with it to understand.

“With Plexus Gateway we thought ‘what’s the process for creating a contract? It's like making a pizza!’ and we ran with it.”

Powerco Pizza video 1

The Legal team sent out emails with training materials and an unforgettable, light-hearted video using a pizza-making song to get the business excited about Plexus Gateway.

This was followed by interactive virtual workshops where people could try creating, approving and storing a demo contract.

By investing in training for their end users, Powerco nailed the adoption and change management process, and ensured people realised the value in the system.

"As easy as Pizza". Watch Powerco's training video:

 

“A breath of fresh air”

Since introducing Plexus Gateway, the change for Legal has been two-fold.

The Legal team has seen administration time cut dramatically. Previously, a team member was solely dedicated as an internal ‘help desk’. Now, their admin time is just 30 minutes a week while they spend most of their time providing higher value legal support.

Most importantly, rather than spending time on churn work, answering questions about a platform that wasn’t working and manually uploading signed contracts, the Legal team can focus on delivering exceptional legal insight and value to the business.

Sharon said that administration time has also become more productive.

“Our old system called for hours of manual contract uploads each week, leaving little time for any targeted reporting. Now Gateway does the heavy lifting so we can focus on users who might need extra help, or value-adding activities for the business using data-based insights ,” she said.

One of Powerco’s ‘super-users’ is Property Legal Executive Karissa Tooman. With a role that manages a huge volume of documentation, Karissa was given Gateway to use during lockdown when signing and witnessing physical documents wasn’t possible.

Because of how easy it was to get started, Karissa felt empowered to work with her Legal team to expand her Gateway usage to transform how she shares additional information relevant to her contracts.

“Previously if there was other documentation that came through, I would have to print it out and file it with our hard copy files. If someone else wanted a copy I would have to send it to them directly,” she explained.

“The Gateway drag and drop function is amazing. I can record extra information just like that for other people to see in the context and people who need to know are empowered to find the information themselves.”

By streamlining these processes, Karissa has freed her inbox to focus less on administration and more on providing legal support.

“I can get back to someone the same day whereas before it would be two or three days.”

Another employee who experienced immediate benefits is Service Delivery Project Manager Craig Aplin. His role involves managing designers and contractors for builds, tendering new projects and visiting build sites for up to 45 projects at a time.

With a simple digital workflow, Gateway has saved Craig a huge amount of time managing contracts.

“Smaller contracts can be signed in half a day. Before Gateway that could take two to three weeks,” he said.

“It’s simple to upload a contract, track its progress, trace where it has been and who is due to sign next. You can see on the dashboard which contracts are due to expire, and if something gets stuck at any stage, you can send an automatic email to prompt the person to sign.”

“We couldn’t do this easily before. You’d have to go chasing, whereas now it’s the contract chasing you.”

"Really easy, and really cool"

Plexus Gateway has become a game changing enabler for Powerco. The business no longer needs to wait for Legal assistance before moving through their contract process; the self-serve platform includes all the templates required by the business and guides them through the entire lifecycle process.

Contract owners are now enthusiastically using Plexus Gateway, thrilled to have more autonomy over their contracts, and feeling empowered where they might not have been before.

“It’s a huge step that reflects our key philosophy - that the business owns their contracts and relationships, but it’s on us to offer a simple process and user friendly system that ensures a positive experience for all concerned” said Sharon.

Plexus Gateway has not only helped move contracts through their workflows faster, it’s also helped Powerco Legal become more connected with the business.

“It was surprising the number of people who have proactively gone out of their way to contact me or the other team members to say ‘hey, Gateway is really easy and really cool', and from some surprising parts of the business too!” Jemma said.

When Powerco reflects on their journey with legal technology and Plexus Gateway, the response is always said with a smile.

For Karissa it’s “a thing that’s changed my life,” while for Craig “it’s been a dream,” and for Sharon, “a breath of fresh air”.

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