The tech series – Hyper-automation and platformisation

Hyper-automation
02 Aug 2022

The funny thing about technology is that it is forever evolving, changing, and improving – a sort of wave of constant change.

Within this wave of constant change seems to lurk an intense pressure to keep up with everything. All of it. All the time. But that is simply not the case – we all know the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day”.

And if it can apply to the Roman Empire, it can apply to our tech solutions as well.

At AJS we believe that having a solid foundation on which you can build and expand on your software systems is key.

After all (and using a building analogy here), you can only build skyscrapers if the foundation of your building is strong enough to withstand the height.

It is a “building from the ground up” approach. Ensuring your starting point is solid before building upwards.

The same can be likened to building your legal tech systems – build from the ground up. Ensure that you have the correct foundational systems first before you attempt to incorporate every “tech trend” that comes your way. Take this all step-by-step.

Knowing where to begin can seem overwhelming. If even thinking about getting the basics started on the right track is daunting, then you need to look for the right tech partner to be on hand to guide and advise you from the ground up. Go for a company with a solid, long-standing history in your industry and check out their client references. This will make your task completely manageable.

Our mission, throughout this tech series, has been noticeably clear – to arm you with the knowledge of what is out there. What legal tech trends are making waves and what legal tech will make sense for you to adopt.

Bill Gates, who has been at the forefront of technological development since 1975, said that the advancement of technology “is based on making it fit in so that you don’t really even notice it, so it’s part of everyday life.”

And that’s really the point.

Innovative, forward-thinking, and cutting-edge technology are tools with which we can do everything we need to do within our workspace – promptly, more efficiently, more effectively, offering better security and at a reduced cost.

With the caveat that whatever legal tech you adopt, it fits into our practice without making it complicated. Fitting into your practice so that it becomes part of your everyday life.

We therefore hope that this last article in the Tech Series (for now) on Hyper-automation and Platformisation will introduce you to the concepts, shedding light on what they are and how they can benefit your practice.

Without further ado –

Hyper-automation

Let’s start off with the basics first – automation.

Automation allows for labour-intensive tasks to be completed more efficiently by providing a better, more effective way of completing them. The automation of work often involves using technology to automate repetitive, manual processes to streamline and systemise workflow, keeping track of each part of a process resulting in an increase to overall productivity.

The very purpose of automation is to free people up to concentrate on more knowledge-based, specialist tasks, where they can use their skills in a strategic way to outperform competitors.

And the use case for the automation of labour intensive tasks has been proven and supported to the point where – according to ZDNet – “Automation is at the heart of digital transformation. Businesses today are burdened by silos, multiple process automation tools, and disconnected systems. Research shows that employee satisfaction increases as a result of automation in the workplace. 80% of organisations will have hyper-automation on their technology roadmap by 2024”.

Now hyper-automation can sound intimidating, so let’s break it down a little. Starting with RPA.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Don’t be bamboozled. RPA is what we know as simple automation, including document automation and the automation of repetitive tasks.

According to Deloitte’s paper on Hyper-automation – The next frontier

RPA is a productivity tool that allows users to configure one or more scripts to activate specific keystrokes. These scripts overlay on one or more software applications and mimic actions within the well-established IT process. The actions could be manipulating data, exchanging data among applications, generating responses, etc. Generally, RPA is implemented as a non-invasive integration method to automate routine, repetitive, predictable tasks.

Process hyper-automation is an approach in which organisations identify, evaluate, and automate as many established processes as possible through standard approach”.

And this, inevitably leads us to –

Hyper-automation

According to the Gartner Glossary, hyper-automation is defined as –

a business-driven, disciplined approach that organisations use to rapidly identify, vet, and automate as many business and IT processes as possible. Hyper-automation involves the orchestrated use of multiple technologies, tools, or platforms, including:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Machine learning
  • Event-driven software architecture
  • Robotic process automation (RPA)

Essentially, hyper-automation is a combination of or orchestrated use of multiple complementary tools, technologies, and platforms – like RPA and AI – that can be integrated into functions and processes within an organisation to automate repetitive processes and increase machine learning.

According to Deloitte, this bringing together or “integrating of process automation, integrating tools and technologies amplifies the ability to automate business processes. Everything that can be automated will be automated. Market pressure to improve efficiencies and agility are pushing organisations to adopt such technologies.”

Starting with RPA at its core, hyper-automation expands the automation horizon with AI, process mining, analytics and other advanced, but integrated tools. The integration of these multiple technologies enables end-to-end process redesign, automation, and monitoring delivering greater value and impact.

On the face of it, it seems that hyper-automation is not just about products or services. It is a holistic approach to automation requiring support from the wider business team, including IT infrastructure, to design approaches, to processes and decision making.

Proservartner has set out that due to 82% of legal departments expecting workloads to increase in the years to come, there will be a greater need for automation of repetitive, labour-intensive tasks. Hyper-automation, as an inevitable outcome, has therefore become increasingly more essential to free up staff to deal with high-value matters where they are needed the most, rather than the tedious, repetitive, time-consuming ones.

What are the benefits?

Hyper-automation provides several benefits over other automation technologies –

  • automates processes at a rapid rate;
  • uses advanced analytics;
  • offers increased employee satisfaction and motivation;
  • assigns a workforce for value-added tasks;
  • shares accurate insights;
  • ensures enhanced compliance and reduced risk; and
  • enables greater productivity and increased team collaboration.

Is there a difference between automation and hyper-automation?

Simply put, hyper-automation can be seen as an all-encompassing approach to automation.

But to expand on that and according to AIMultiple

A traditional RPA automation software cannot understand context and learn by itself using unstructured data. It requires human “IT guys” to code rules-based tasks and interpret data, in order for the wider business to make decisions about automation processes.

Hyper-automation on the other hand, shifts the focus of simple automation to actual decision making and more complicated tasks. It also includes more focus on process simplification and a culture that enables automation.

It is the next step in the automation evolutionary process. And it is inevitable.

Platformisation

With all the discussion around legal tech that can be incorporated into your legal practice, there will most likely be an investment in software that will streamline your business and support your employees in a way that frees them up to do more complicated, value-added work.

You may adopt legal tech that creates templates via document automation processes. You may adopt technology that integrates chatbots and uses AI. Digital signatures? Sure. You may even embrace smart contracts and blockchain.

And all these platforms, when used together, will allow documents to be shared, reviewed, commented on and approved by colleagues. It will allow these documents to be shared and negotiated with counterparties and then signed by digital signature. Making processes more efficient, optimal and effective.

But there is one downside to the integration and adoption of innovative technology into your practice – the addition of more moving parts to a system that needs to have increased capacity to deal with the complex nature of the software that is being used.

This is where according to Allen Overymultiple separate technologies need to be combined into integrated end-to-end platforms”.

In the in-depth research article published in 2019 by Econstor on Platformisation, there are a myriad of definitions, one of which was contributed by Anne Helmond, where she describes platformisation as “penetration of platform extensions into the web, and the process in which third parties make their data platform-ready. Together, these computational infrastructures and informational resources afford institutional relationships that are at the root of a platform’s evolution and growth as platforms provide a technological framework for others to build on”.

In other words, as computational infrastructures work together and interact with one another; a platform of data is developed off which further systems can be developed.

This interaction of data and technology on one platform leads to an exchange of information or leveraging off other software. That concept of infrastructural learning and growth is what is known as “platformisation” – something BuiltIn believes makes systems seem simpler.

Why is platformisation important?

The one thing that has everyone a little spooked – cybersecurity.

With the increase of ransomware and hacking of law firm systems, storing and sharing data securely has become paramount. Because of the need to be “secure”, the addition of new apps or software add-ons creates a delay in the IT department, which needs to run months of testing to ensure that the myriad of coding that goes in to adding the new piece of software does not complicate security of the overall system.

But this is where platformisation comes in. By integrating all your software onto a single platform, the security of the overall system is increased as there is only “one point of entry” – so to speak.

How does platformisation work?

According to the above-mentioned Thomson Reuters article, “to access a platform, users log into their computer using their Active Directory (AD) credentials — normally their Windows login information. Once verified, users land on a customised page that knows them professionally, for example, as an IP litigator partner, working on five cases for three clients. Then the platforms gives users access to a bevy of resources. It is integrating activity streams, teams, search, documents, billing dashboards, and the interconnectivity of applications that can create workflow and enhance productivity and efficiency, all in a secure cloud-based platform.

Platformisation is all about integrating tech so that everything works seamlessly and securely. Together.

In closing

At the close of this Tech Series, we hope that we have been able to arm you with knowledge of new legal tech that is available today. Tech that is easily attainable and tech that is worthwhile incorporating into your everyday lives – making work-life easier.

Of course, there are many options to choose from. So, a word of caution – instead of going “all out”, we recommend you spend time analysing your business and your processes. Identify and prioritise your most pressing challenges and only then decide what technology will be right for you and your practice.

Whilst you are doing so, keep in mind that to achieve things like hyper-automation and platformisation, you need a solid foundation first. A solid foundation that comes from having reputable and reliable tech providers who are with you for the long haul – not just a quick buck.

If you have any queries regarding legal tech software or are interested in automation tools, please feel free to get in touch with AJS. We would be happy to address any concerns or queries you may have – always doing our utmost to keep abreast of and obtain the best solutions for our clients and potential clients. We have got your back – always!

See also:

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Alicia Koch

Alicia Koch is an admitted attorney with over 10 years PQE. She has worked in law firms, has had her own legal consulting company and has been an in-house legal... Read more about Alicia Koch

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