Freelance General Counsel and Legal influencer.
I recently caught up with Executive General Counsel, Gavin Carney, to learn about his experience with securing budget for legal technology.
It’s a Monday morning in Adelaide and Melbourne, respectively. Gavin’s passion for the rail industry shines through my laptop screen. Rail is a game changer – it keeps Australia moving, he says.
Gavin and his team commenced their tech journey in 2018. What started as a pilot across 40 users at Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is today a “beautifully entrenched” business platform being used by 500 users Australia-wide. It’s integral to the way Gavin manages his full portfolio of legal, corporate risk, internal audit, integrity and the secretariat office.
In Gavin’s mind, while there are no silver bullets, small steps in the journey have equalled big wins for the legal team. For example, the team didn’t rush the change management piece. It leveraged its business users as champions to garner further investment. Communication continues to be central to the transformation journey, and the timing of COVID-19 had a role to play too.
“At a railway, legal is probably at the end of the list when it comes to technology investment”.
Before the legal team presented to the company’s then Tech Investments Committee, it spent considerable time in due diligence - understanding the platform’s capability, as well as being strategic about which workflow and which business team with which to collaborate. They settled on a pilot program of some 40 users with the property team in relation to one of its workflows.
“My two graduate lawyers stepped up to project manage the pitch and roll out. They were awesome. They understood the audience and more importantly the product - they became real experts in it [Plexus]. They knew it inside out.”
The pitch to the Committee was a team effort: Gavin and his two lawyers, members of the company’s property team together with Plexus on the line.
“The message to the Committee was that this was going to vastly change the way the legal team can service the business, including the agility that the technology brings - risk management, triage, centralisation, improved turnaround times, correct utilisation of templates”.
The initial investment was approved.
The pilot was a success, and the (positive) feedback was well documented.
Knowing the importance of this second pitch, which would make Plexus Gateway a permanent fixture of ARTC’s tech stack, the legal team leaned on its business champions and early adopters in the property team when presenting to the Business Investments Committee.
“We really got the business to sing the praises of the system - so it was not coming from the lawyers.”
With the Committee convinced of the value, the platform was rolled out across the Environment team, Procurement and then the Major Projects team (including the iconic Inland Rail project; the biggest rail project yet for Australia), as well as all 14 lawyers in Gavin’s legal team.
According to Gavin, part of the GC role is to regularly promote what the team does. “I’m pretty good at that”, he proudly shares with me with a lot of soul. In his mind, communication and conviction have been key to the entire journey, but particularly to keep the business engaged in using the platform on an ongoing basis.
“When COVID hit, the business had to use Plexus overnight and that was a massive win for us.” The platform went viral [excuse the pun].
Nothing like a crisis being a catalyst for some permanent and positive change: “moving to Plexus helped us overcome the challenges of COVID. Plexus has been critical in creating efficiency gains and enabling the team to meet the needs of the business in a difficult environment. Today I’ve got the budget secured now sitting in my Legal P&L for the next five years for Plexus”.
Even with that budget security, each month Gavin has a 1:1 with his boss and CEO during which he presents on all governance matters including the aggregated data from the Plexus platform. In addition, he circulates a monthly legal report to the Executive in which there is a “Plexus section - what we are doing, who is using it, the efficiency and governance benefits”.
“I really love Plexus”, Gavin states, unsolicited. “It’s not one of those BS systems that purports to make your life easier; it actually does”.
And the platform’s 500 users, including ARTC’s CEO, are all on board.
As the global economy moves faster and becomes increasingly volatile, organisations must radically evolve their operating models to more dynamically identify and respond to opportunities and threats. Plexus helps leading GCs shift their organisational design, evolve their talent competencies and digitise their functions to deliver faster, most cost-effective and more agile legal support.
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