An Interview with Andrew Kidd, Legal Director, Corporate, Specsavers

As part of a report, in partnership with Clarilis, we asked Andrew Kidd, Legal Director, Corporate, at Specsavers to share his experiences of automation.

Buy-in from across the business is essential

Andrew explained that it was the legal team that drove the automation process, but it was only possible to do this with the support of the other functions – and people – within the business. It wasn’t because they felt they needed to ‘automate’ for its own sake, but because they wanted to work smarter, improve efficiency and be more consistent.

“The legal team handles a huge caseload of documents, most of which were being produced individually by hand. Our drive to adopt automated systems came from a need to do more with less, to keep pace with an ever-growing business. We wanted to improve our processes and look for systems and applications that could help us do that.”

Understand your ‘why’

At a basic level, the aim of automation is to be able to do more with less: less time, less effort, less resource. But to get real buy-in across the business, you need to go deeper than that, explained Andrew, to truly understand, in practical terms, why you are taking the automation route, and be able to communicate this decision in business language, not legal language.

“What are the tangible benefits to the business in investing in automation? Answer the how and what questions. Our ‘why’ was that we couldn’t recruit more because of budgetary constraints, but the business was continuing to grow and we had to keep pace with that growth.”

Start small and build on it

People can be uncomfortable with change, particularly when it costs money. And big changes cause more disruption than small changes. Andrew says that at Specsavers, they started with small automation projects – e-signatures and contract workflows – and only moved on to bigger solutions once they had been successfully implemented.

“Start small – pick on something that you can bring in fairly easily. If it doesn’t need any IT integration, even better. For us, it was electronic signatures. Once people had seen that it worked, it was safe, it was low risk and, crucially, it significantly speeded up the process, it was easier to get buy-in for further solutions, like a contracts system.”

Time is money

He says that instead of a lease taking three weeks to sign, it could now be signed in three hours with all the necessary workflow approvals and all the required signatures. That meant contracts could be completed quicker and new stores could be opened earlier, demonstrating clear added value to the business.

“Everything could now be done electronically. So, there was an immediate cost saving, but also a time saving, and that more than paid for itself. We found lots of other parts of the business were suddenly wanting to adopt this piece of software, too.”

Be led by the task you need doing, not the functionality of the software

The priority for Andrew and his team was contract management. The legal team is spread over six countries and uses three different platforms. It needed a single central system to provide greater visibility and consistency of contracts.

“We decided very early on that we didn’t want something that tried to do everything. So rather than getting distracted and saying we’re also going to put something in to try and manage the entire contract lifecycle, we focused on identifying a solution that would deliver our core priority – a central, global contracts database.”

Create a coalition of the willing

When exploring the possibility for e-signatures and contract automation, Andrew reached out to other parts of the business to share his thoughts. It quickly became clear that other functions could see the benefit and were keen to join the automation process.

“We reached out to our property team, our HR and people team, our procurement team, our supply chain product teams… It enabled us to create a coalition of the willing, which gave us a louder voice at the table when trying to influence the board as to whether we should do this.”

Risk mitigation — more than efficiency savings

“It is more about thinking how you can work more efficiently, how you can improve your processes, become more consistent in what you do and manage your risks. If you go through that process, it inevitably leads to one obvious solution – automation.”

Demonstrating ROI

Demonstrating return on investment for complex legal function automation solutions isn’t always easy, particularly in a business as large or as complex as Specsavers. For Andrew, however, and perhaps, more importantly, for his colleagues across the business, the savings were clear to see from the very outset.

“For us, it was really simple to show we were saving money immediately. Processes that previously took weeks now took a few days, even hours. It adds up to a huge time and labour saving.”

Read the full report here.