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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.