Earning the love by automating and interacting
Since its founding in 2009, enterprise data storage company Pure Storage has been growing by leaps and bounds. The company nearly doubled head count in the past year and announced in March 2018 that it had surpassed $1 billion in revenue. With such rapid growth and heated sales activity comes dramatically increased volume and types of agreements for review and negotiation, as well as new innovations to protect. The teams responsible for transactions, IP, and products within Pure Legal's 18-person department knew that they had to embrace automation—but they wanted to do it in a way that underscored their commitment to be accelerators of the business.
"We are here to help accelerate the business," says Gwen Harrison, Vice President and Associate General Counsel for Transactions. "It is our goal to be the most-loved legal team on the planet."
Licensing the Contract Express platform for processing contracts was just the first step, explains Joe Colliss, Director of Transactions. The team heavily customized the software to create an end-to-end solution that is so intuitive and easy to use that it lives up to its Founder's belief that Pure products "should never have an instruction manual bigger than a business card," he says. The platform works within Salesforce, which ties the contract to the appropriate customer or partner and pulls field data into the contract. It permits sales teams to process their own contract records, generating more than 7,000 NDAs, evaluations, and end user license agreements in FY2018 alone. The team estimates time saved at a whopping 3,500-person hours, equaling approximately $700,000 worth of sales and operations employee time.
"We mapped and modified the automated process through learning, but many users don't realize what is going on at the systems level. They just see that they get approvals quickly and their product gets shipped," Harrison says.
Michael Moore, Gwen Harrison, Joe Colliss, Joe FitzGerald, Sarah Matos, Joseph Kucera (not pictured Tarisa Wain and Alexandria Gartrell)
To resource matters and track progress, Pure Legal designed a workflow and implemented the Service Now request system, a first for a legal team on that platform. Essentially a ticketing system, it revs up client response time and provides clear tracking and accountability. The legal team uses it to allocate resources efficiently and report on metrics quickly. They processed more than 9,000 service requests during FY2018, yielding an estimated savings of 1,500 person-hours and approximately $300,000.
Having automated these critical processes, the legal team redirected their attention to intellectual property improvement efforts. Led by Michael Moore, Associate General Counsel for Products and Patents, the IP team adopted a highly collaborative team-based approach with engineers and outside counsel to overhaul the disclosure drafting process.
"In traditional organizations, it often takes hours for engineers to research and prepare invention disclosures," explains Moore, who holds 10 patents himself. "The process is impersonal and daunting. Plus, their time is a highly valuable commodity. All of that can be a deterrent to the patenting process."
At Pure, the IP team and outside counsel interview inventors over coffee, basically saying, "Tell us about your idea!" Outside counsel quickly draft a disclosure with input from in-house counsel, then the inventor reviews and submits it to Pure's internal patent review board. Fixed fees provide incentive to outside counsel to draft high-quality disclosures that can be reviewed and approved more quickly. Combined with data-driven predictive modeling, the fixed fees inform budget accuracy that came well under 1 percent of forecast in FY2018.
Patent filings went up by more than 160 percent in the same timeframe. Moore estimates that the new approach saved over 300 hours of engineering time, and notes that the resulting goodwill is immeasurable. "Engineers love talking about their ideas and take great pride in their creativity. They are comfortable and happy with the way they are now made a part of the process," he says.
Once the ideas are in, automation takes over. The Pure IP team eliminated underutilized software tools and renegotiated contracts for the ones that remained, cutting costs in half. A new, fully integrated set of IP portfolio management tools will help to drive savings of more than $250,000 over the life of the contracts.
A relatively young company, Pure embraces change, unhampered by "that's the way we've always done it" ethos that can pervade longer-established organizations. The legal team was embraced within the company from the very start, as a result of the partnership and leadership of the General Counsel, Joe FitzGerald, and its members take pride in the interpersonal connections they make.
"We put ourselves in the process; not by staying behind our desks. We walk the halls and put ourselves in front of clients. We earn their respect and time by engaging on things that matter to them," Moore says.
The department even offers a "Love Your Legal" guarantee, coined by one of the original Pure Legal members Michele Ardizzone, promising to make things right if clients are not satisfied.
From the Judges
"This submission demonstrates the importance of looking at process improvement and automation before adding headcount. The result was an intelligently designed workflow that was the equivalent of adding three people to the department."