Stakeholders Taking Ownership

This podcast episode is part of our Impact Series, featuring Elevate customers implementing transformative change. Kunoor Chopra, Vice President of Legal Services at Elevate, and Tashmin Ali, a Senior Commercial Attorney with Elevate’s Contract Services Business, talk with Elizabeth Miller, Head of Legal Operations at Dolby Laboratories.

  • [01:00] – With inconsistent coordination and communication between stakeholders – Dolby needed to implement change.
  • [03:39] – Giving the stakeholders a voice in the process.
  • [05:55] – Outcomes, value, and results
  • [08:23] – A dedicated team, teamwork, and collaboration lead to widespread adoption.
  • [12:56] – The process continues to be enhanced.
  • [14:50] – The expected long-term impact of change – scalability, improved coordination, and knowledge management.
  • [17:06] – Stakeholders involved from the beginning have a sense of ownership.
  • [18:05] – A focus on engagement can go a long way.


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Podcast Transcript

Note: This transcript has been adjusted to improve readability. Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human transcribers. The context and more than 95% of the actual transcript have been preserved. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio file.


Nicole Giantonio: Hello, this is Nicole Giantonio, the Head of Global Marketing at Elevate. The podcast episode you’re about to hear is part of our Impact Series, featuring Elevate customers implementing transformative change. Kunoor Chopra, Vice President of Legal Services at Elevate, and Tashmin Ali, a Senior Commercial Attorney with Elevate’s Contract Services Business, talk with Elizabeth Miller, Head of Legal Operations at Dolby Laboratories. Listen in as they discuss true collaboration and the importance and effect of engaging a broad group of stakeholders when implementing change.

Kunoor Chopra: Thank you so much for joining us, Tashmin and Elizabeth, so great to have you. You both are involved in some fabulous change initiatives at Dolby. Why did Dolby need to implement change?

Elizabeth Miller: We had a few reasons. We had a good process set up on the revenue-generating agreement side. But for our non-revenue-generating agreements, we didn’t have a process that everyone was following. We had legal and corporate policies, but they weren’t necessarily known to the organization, and they weren’t being followed consistently. Agreements were not sent to legal or procurement, or finance for review. Employees might have been signing beyond their spend authorities, and we had little visibility to the volume, risk, or commitments made on the company’s behalf. It was just inconsistent coordination and communication between the different stakeholders. In many cases, the stakeholders didn’t have any visibility into signed agreements.

KC: Thank you. Often, companies will start to implement change without seriously thinking about the problem they’re trying to address. It sounds like you went into this in a more structured way. What was the problem you needed to address or the improvement that you were looking to make?

EM: Primarily, it would be a lack of awareness of our policies and a lack of our ability to enforce our policies. Those were the main things. On top of that, the agreements coming to the legal department for review weren’t stored consistently. We have a repository, but it wasn’t being used. Also, the review process for agreements wasn’t standardized; there were many email exchanges and a time-consuming and inconsistent process for each one.

Tashmin Ali: And to add to that, from Elevate’s perspective, a world-class organization like Dolby should have copies of its contracts in one place. While there was a repository, it wasn’t used often or properly, or consistently. We wanted to make it easier and clearer for folks within the legal team to store executed contracts in one place. And we wanted to make it easier for business users by establishing a consistent process, an intake form for them to have all their information regarding the deal or a transaction in one place. It is also easier for the reviewers to get automated notifications and review information in one place. Another issue was optimizing the use of legal resources. Dolby is fairly leanly-staffed, and the team needed to spend their time on higher-complexity matters. Without a system in place, there is little understanding of the various non-revenue contract policies and risk profiles associated with engagement; there wasn’t an appropriate assignment system. One of the issues we set out to address was to get an appropriate system in place so that Dolby resources were spending their time on matters that truly required their attention.

KC:  This sounds like the right person, right task, right location, the right technology, and right process type of solution. An important innovation. When people talk about innovation, they often talk about big-I innovation, some big, shiny object, a massive change. When I think about it, it is about making those changes that will improve how you’re working. It sounds like this focused on improving and optimizing the setup of these workstreams. How did you go about implementing change? What did the process and design look like?

EM: I think one of the most successful things that we did was create a cross-functional task force early on, where we involved all the key stakeholders and brought them into the process instead of telling them what the process would be. A lot of us had the same goals. Other departments had policies that they should be reviewing agreements that weren’t getting to their desks. Letting them into the process and making them a part of the team helped implement things that they wanted that we might not have been thinking about; it helped with engagement. Even in terms of the people who would be submitting the agreements, bringing them in and saying, “Yes, we’re interested in your engagement, and we wanna hear how to make this easier for you.” Giving them a voice to help build the process around their needs.   We created a lot of engagement where there could have been more resistance to following a new process that didn’t exist before.

TA: That also helped from a compliance perspective, getting the key people involved, helping build the process, and ensuring it is followed. When planning for this change, we came up with a comprehensive rollout plan, with a set of requirements and communications by geography. We started in the US with fairly friendly business units that we worked well with and were already starting to establish a contract process. Such groups like Maintenance, the DEWS group, the Human Resources group. Then we slowly rolled out beyond the US to additional regions, going from the US to EMEA, and then APAC to take our shared learnings and early lessons across the geographies and business groups.

KC: It seems like you thought about change management as you were designing out this process. As we all know, the success of any initiative does rely on change management. In terms of this initiative’s outcomes and value, what are some results that you’ve seen today?

EM: The main result is we have a clear, well-adopted process used globally. By well-adopted, I mean there are no loopholes, remarkably. We had gone from a place where we were only receiving a handful of non-revenue agreements, coming to the legal department for review or approval, initially, per month. It’s now up to 250 requests a month that don’t all need legal review, but they go through the process. Now it’s an established process, and all of the stakeholder departments agree on this, and they don’t let anybody circumvent the workflow. That in itself increased compliance with our compliance policies, legal policies, IT security policies, and procurement policies.  All are being followed.

All of the agreements are housed in a central repository where they’re searchable. We could use that data for future agreements, metrics, and benchmarking, seeing what our activities are, and being able to more thoughtful and decide, “What level of risk do we want to take?” Having visibility into, “Where are we spending time and money and committing our resources?” knowing that we can now review, “Is this where we want to be doing those things?” Another huge benefit of these workflow projects is reduced turnaround time, getting completed contracts quicker. It’s better for the requester; it’s better for the legal resource, helping get work done more quickly and more effectively.

“All of the agreements are housed in a central repository where they’re searchable. We could use that data for future agreements, metrics, and benchmarking, seeing what our activities are, and being able to more thoughtful and decide, ‘What level of risk do we want to take?'”

– Elizabeth Miller

TA: We now have several years of data surrounding non-revenue spending and additional types of spend and things like equipment loans and marketing agreements. We’ve got a really good sense of the types of contracts that users are entering into on behalf of Dolby, how much they cost the company, what the request’s general volume looks like, and how they’re broken down business units and by geographies. And as Elizabeth pointed out, how long they take to close. Similar data is collected on NDAs and other agreements where we didn’t have even a baseline before; we now have comprehensive data and metrics and benchmarks to measure against.

KC: One of the keys, it sounds like, it’s just a collaboration amongst the team. How has that led to the success of the engagement?

EM: It’s been a huge factor because we’re not getting a lot of resistance from people trying to implement these new processes.  Previously, the department was more siloed in how we were operating, managing our requirements, or trying to manage our requirements, maybe not always successfully. The cross-functional collaboration, not only from gathering the engagement as I had mentioned before, but helping everybody feel like we are one company and heading in the same direction, we have similar goals. It’s had a ripple effect, not just from one workflow to the next, which it has, we’ve had many different workflows come out of this first process, and there’s more of just a general willingness to collaborate on other unrelated projects. We now have a better partnership with those other teams, and we have better relationships. We all know that we can work together effectively and that we’re willing to help each other.

TA: From the Elevate-Dolby collaboration perspective, I think that was critical for the success of these initiatives. Elizabeth and I both, and hopefully, Elizabeth, you can testify to this; we worked as a cohesive team, left arm, right arm. I identified problem areas, stakeholders that needed an extra nudge or internal communication, and Elizabeth quickly and effectively implemented the suggestions I had. She would follow up with them, set meetings, follow up with managers, find inroads into different business units that were a little bit more challenging for us to implement change within. We did work as a team, me targeting folks and Elizabeth taking follow up with those folks. What was critical to the business users is that we were part of a joint legal portals team that wasn’t solely Dolby and Elevate. It was one team working cohesively and trying to implement change.  I think that a unified voice helped make our message stronger and more impactful.

EM: Absolutely. Tashmin and the other Elevate resources have always been an extension of our team. I think some of the other departments involved in these processes, maybe a little bit less closely. They probably don’t know that the Elevate resources are not Dolby employees.  I still get emails saying, “Oh, this person on your team,” if someone is trying to contact an Elevate resource. They have no way of knowing that they’re not a part of the legal department. The way that we’ve operated on these projects was exactly in line with that. One benefit the relationship has had is that Tashmin handled most project management on the workflows that we’ve rolled out.   This is great because there are things that my team members aren’t necessarily either good at or don’t have the time to do or just aren’t prioritizing. Having dedicated resources to take on these roles and make sure we’re not skimping on the communications and the change management helped us because it gave us a complete process, and there weren’t pieces falling through the cracks. That likely would have happened without Elevate’s support.

“Having dedicated resources to take on these roles and make sure we’re not skimping on the communications and the change management helped us because it gave us a complete process, and there weren’t pieces falling through the cracks.'”

– Elizabeth Miller

KC: It’s great to hear that the one team concept extended to that broader partnership, Dolby and Elevate. I’m assuming the Dolby stakeholders are happy. You’ve seen a lot of great results. Do you get any feedback from them on these initiatives?

EM: It depends on which process it is.  For some, there was no process before. People didn’t have to get anything approved by legal or IT or procurement or finance. They were signing their contracts, and that was done. It is an added step for people who weren’t following those policies, a large number. They weren’t aware that they weren’t following the policies. Now, they are doing things in a standardized way, whereas they could have just signed an email before.  I’m sure there is a little bit of aggravation on that part of having to do something that didn’t require before. There is also the acknowledgment that we’re building this process for them, and we’re trying to make it as easy as possible. We’re incorporating all the feedback that we receive – as much as possible.  I think just the attitude of us being open to feedback and embracing the engagement, whether positive or negative and building that into improvements have gone a long way.

EM: We churned out a handful of workflows, and they’ve all been in a constant improvement stage ever since. Every month, we have tons of enhancements that we build to all of our workflows, anything that will reduce time, reduce clicks, make the process easier. Other departments have jumped on board, wanting us to collect more data they might need or ask more questions or incorporate some of their initiatives as well.  From the other departments who might be reviewing agreements or trying to help implement the process, I would say very positive feedback, for the most part. For the users, it’s more mixed in terms of, “Oh, now, I have to follow this process.” But there is an appreciation that we are incorporating their feedback; we’re trying to make it as easy as possible. Now, there is a standard process, and they know what to do; it’s not just searching aimlessly for, “Who do I go to? And what’s the next step?”

TA: Our continuing change management policy and the process takes user feedback and incorporates it into continued improvements, giving lots of different opportunities to share experiences, perspectives, and enhancements that we want to see. That goes from the business users to departments like procurement that initially saw this as, “This is another process that I have to follow.” They are now giving us ideas for tracking additional questions that would be useful for their department, data around renewals, contracts coming up for expiration, and how our portal might support other supplier initiatives. It’s become a platform for that inner department collaboration. In the beginning, it was an additional process or a new process where there was none. It’s gone from a barrier to a platform,  that’s been rewarding to see that transformation.

“It’s become a platform for that inner department collaboration. In the beginning, it was an additional process or a new process where there was none. It’s gone from a barrier to a platform, that’s been rewarding to see that transformation.”

– Tashmin Ali

KC: That’s great. The proof will be in the pudding, seeing how this change manifests over time. What are the expected long-term impacts of this change?

EM: One of them is scalability. We went from a process that wasn’t enforced to just flooding the legal department with requests. We had to build an easy and scalable process that would let our team manage the volume of requests that they suddenly started receiving. We have confidence in our risk levels, our policy compliance, and a broader comfort level that we know what’s out there. We know that our policies are being followed. We have built workflows that don’t allow for loopholes, and we’ve seen improved coordination between departments. The ripple effect of workflow automation – everything from content licenses to website requests – now follows standard processes, and we set up workflows for those. Then there is the knowledge management aspect. We now have a database that gives us awareness of, “What are our commitments? What types of agreements are we signing? Who are we engaging with?” We didn’t have that before.

KC: Great. As you were going through this process and this change and this transformation, did you uncover any surprises?

EM: Two main things caught my attention. One is how well the cross-functional teams have collaborated. It’s been an amazing partnership with all of the other departments we worked with on this. I can’t think of another project where everyone agreed comprehensively and fully supported the process. There was no, “We’ll do one or two outside of the system.” Having that collaboration and then improving those partnerships with those groups, that was the one main thing that was surprising to me.  How well our stakeholders jumped on board.   As I mentioned, the volume of ongoing enhancements and additional workflows requested and created, tweaks here and there, there’s been broad engagement throughout the company. It’s encouraging to see that people are interested, accepting the process, and willing to contribute to making it better.

TA: The sense of ownership that these cross-functional stakeholders have because they’ve been given opportunities from the very beginning to provide feedback. There’s a really strong sense of ownership and commitment to the process. Between legal, procurement, IT, finance, tax, you’ve got this big group of folks that isn’t going to let anything fall through the cracks or go through a loophole. I think it’s really powerful—the volume of actual agreements coming through surprised us. We weren’t sure whether it would be a trickle of water flowing fast with the first tool. It started with a trickle, and it turned into a much larger volume. We couldn’t have anticipated, over time, that we would be in a steady state of 200-250 non-revenue transactions being submitted each month, up from a much smaller number before. That has been surprising and encouraging.

KC: Many of our listeners are in the middle of change projects and looking to innovate. What advice would you give them to help ensure success in their initiatives?

EM: It sounds like we keep stressing this over and over again, but bringing all the key stakeholders in early, making them a part of the task force, gives them a seat at the table in helping design the process. Engage the subject matter experts early. Make sure that their concerns are being considered and built-in. Tashmin, in particular, is fantastic at working with all of the impacted departments, not just who would be on the receiving end but on the end that would be pushing out these requests—working with them, on language, communications, making sure that we’re in alignment with the team’s leadership on the messages that were being sent out, how they were being worded. Some of the teams care greatly about how messages are communicated and what exact words are used. I think that engagement went a long way, making sure that we’re tapping in all the groups. Things that we might not have considered otherwise, even down to the smallest notification messages, having their input on the system generate automated messages.

TA: Thinking carefully about crafting a message and getting everyone’s input on that message is more powerful than we realized. As Elizabeth mentioned, some folks will have small tweaks; other times, they’ll have massive changes.  But when they feel like they’ve been part of the process of crafting the message, it’s very helpful, and that proved useful and continues to be useful.

KC: It seems like it comes down to change management. Thank you so much for sharing the story of your innovation with us. A great conversation, thank you.

EM: Thank you for lending your team to us.

TA: Thanks, Elizabeth, for giving us the platform. It’s all about the partnership.

About the Author(s)

The host of this interview is Elevate’s Vice President of Legal Services, Kunoor Chopra,  talking with Elizabeth Miller, Head of Legal Operations at Dolby Laboratories, and Tashmin Ali, a Senior Commercial Attorney with Elevate’s Contract Services Business.

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