Businesses And Government Organizations Go For Case Management Legal Systems To Beat Service Cuts

All workplaces go through times when the amount of work increases, but with legal work, whether its with large businesses or government departments, it’s also decidedly complex. When times are difficult economically, people generally want more help, not less and yet the funds available to help them are frequently reduced. Organizations struggle to match demand with provision. Often a lot of organizations cut staff in order to make ends meet. This creates new difficulties as there are still many people to help but with less funding available. Working practice reform or enhancements offer a way out.

Living standards of many people around the world have degenerated over the last few years. World-wide economics have an effect all of us. All commercial, governmental and charitable organizations are affected. Efficiency savings have to be found.

Lawyers, legal workers and other professionals will all tell you how complex the work they handle can be. Legal knowledge is hard come by, needs to be regularly updated and requires dexterity of thought to use effectively. Handling even a small number of cases can be very difficult. Among other things, getting the documentation organized easily and effectively will greatly help such busy professionals.

When documentation is done by more traditional methods, using standard software, or worse still, by hand, man hours are lost and funding must be found to pay for the necessary staff time.

One means to accomplish an increase in productivity and a decrease in the need for additional staff is the implementation of case management software in legal firms, as well as legal departments in governmental or corporate offices.

Any lawyers’ office or legal department will handle large volumes of work on occasion. It can also take a great many people to handle just one case. Case management systems allow the paperwork and notifications to be dealt with efficiently without spending long hours doing so.

This type of software not only allows you to keep all the details about a case in one central position, it also enables you to create and disseminate documents, and stores email communications along side all other paperwork. The diary module keeps everyone up-to-date with key dates so that they are never missed. What’s more, you can also keep tabs on the hours worked which helps when it comes to billing clients or customers.

The use of case management software has been proven to be a money saving factor in nearly all aspects of the operations of a legal firm, corporate body or local government legal department, saving time and man hours in all facets of the practice of law in these environments. Some organizations who successfully installed case management software report dramatic time savings in terms of just the paperwork. One of them reported savings of £4000 per quarter!

The software allows all of those who are closely involved in the case to be updated via email or other electronic means, as well as to update supervisory or management personnel on the progression of the case. Check out the reporting features in the software. It helps key staff and managers if these are configurable and can be set to run regularly or can be created at the touch of a button.

Increases of productivity up to 25% have been reported in a whole range of organisations from local authority services to corporate enterprise to law firms. These types of savings make case management software a real boon to the organizations the adopt it.

Implementing a Superior Investment Review and Governance Process

The work that we do in this particular part of the Wachovia Corporation is to look across the enterprise at the multiple portfolios that we have in 10 strategic business units; each with their own P&L, each with the delivery model for driving success and valuing shareholder return. So a couple of years ago we began to do some comparisons with the amount of money that we were investing in the initiatives; whether they be Lean or Six Sigma, Process Improvement, Project Management, whatever that may be, we looked across multiple initiatives, and when we compared against the industry we found that we were spending up to two-thirds more in initiatives than other major corporations of the same size. The return on investment it was not as optimal as it could be.

So we began down a path to really optimize our capital investment portfolio. This was a bit of a challenge, given that each of the 10 separate strategic business units had their own model for how they wanted to look at the portfolio, the initiatives, the process improvement, the programs, the projects, whatever they may be, and make their own decisions. It was truly a collaborative effort to gain the buy in and the support and begin to look at a process that was governance related, but more of an influence model in how we were going to, as a financial institution, really drive home the need for better investment and the right projects, the right initiatives.

Think about for a moment how many of you have pet projects and things that you would really like to see up and running, you would like to have unlimited resources to get the job done. How many of you have unlimited resources to get the job done? I do not know about you but for us it’s a challenge. We always have more heart and more energy than we have people or time to get the work done.

We really started to look at what would be a value capture. How could we begin to have kind of a pull mentality as opposed to a push strategy.

This really falls into four buckets of categories that we want to focus on. One was spend effectiveness. We wanted to reduce our capital commitment substantially while improving return on capital deployed, and we also wanted to better align those investments.

Across these 10 strategic business units there were things that were done that made sense for a particular business unit. Perhaps we could create a forum or a community of practice where there was opportunity to look across the enterprise and ask the question, “Does it make sense for several of these business units to engage with each other and collaborate so that we get more synergy, more effectiveness and more efficiency out of a particular initiative?”

That also meant working with our program offices to look at the portfolios-the portfolios of Six Sigma initiatives, Lean initiatives that were taking place, Project initiatives that were taking place-and begin to balance the execution capacity and really look at the risk management. What we found within many of these initiatives is some of the cost that was not being optimized and we were not managing the risk in the business as well as we could.

Risk management became an important partner sitting at the table with us as we began to look at end-to-end processes and began to do enhancement.

The next one was around process efficiency, and this was around freeing up resources from those pet projects and really allocating them to specific initiatives where we could focus and have the most optimal impact.

The last area was performance accountability. There became a strong reemphasis on the validation process to ensure that we were maximizing and optimizing the return on investment.

We took a look at some of the elements for implementing the plan. We started with a very simple framework-Where are we today? How do we want to get there? Where do we need to go? and What support will be available to get this work done?

The implementation of what we call an investment rationalization process across these multiple business units included a syndication process, where we invited each of those key principles or key stakeholders to the table to become an active member of a community that would be decision makers, drivers and activists for the company in making decisions that would make an impact.

We began a diagnostic process. We wanted to understand where we are today, what does it look like and how we are spending money. What was interesting about this is if you sit down and have a conversation with each of these lines of business, the portfolio they are working on and their special projects, each of them would tell you, “Oh, I cannot do that with this other line of business because we are special.”

However, what we found is about 80 percent of what we do is common. It wasn’t until we really sat down and dissected it and started to look at each of the individual components and compartments that we found common ground for each of these organizations to work on. We told them upfront, “We recognize each of you are special and you will need some customized areas, but let us focus on what is common first, and then absolutely, each of you can customize the program after we have got a common platform on which we can work.” So we got great buy in and support to do that, and we worked through the diagnostic process.

End-to-end, the implementation of the investment rationalization process for us took a year. We started this process three years ago; we are into out third year now.

The initial diagnostic evaluation took us about six weeks. We asked: Where are you? Who are we? Who are you? How do we show up with each other? What does that look like? What are the common elements? Then we put together a plan for action that said how we would partner together.

Next, we wanted to look at the design element: How do we get there? So what does that look like? What is in it for you? What is in it for me? What is in it for us collectively as we work together? That process took about two-and-a-half months.

Then we began to look at beta initiatives: Where do we need to go? We identified some common elements of enterprise initiatives that would span all 10 of the business and we picked one. Let us just start with that, let us do a pilot, let us do a design element, let us see if this works end-to-end, let us walk it through.

As we worked through that process what we found was that 95 percent of all the elements were on a common platform, and only 5 percent needed to be customized for each of those strategic business units in order for them to be able to deliver to the customer and to the market based on where they were.

So as an example, in financial services our investment bank needed to show up a little bit differently with a large customer than the general bank who might interact with you or I in our personal banking account, so certainly we can understand that.

But how we got there was based on a common platform and common elements from an end-to-end perspective that could be applied towards that specific customer.

We are in the process now of working through the last element, which we call institutionalization or available support. As we look across each of these 10 business units we have aligned portfolio offices for each of the individual units. This allows them to truly look at how much money we are investing in capital allocation today from improvements in our business, what is the anticipated return on investment, what is the actual return on investment and how we matched back against the expectations.

From a corporate perspective or a governance perspective, a financial organization gave limited dollars back to each of the lines of business in order to spend. We didn’t tell them how to spend the money, just that they had certain amount that they could spend. It was up to each of the lines of business to then determine their strategic plan, initiatives that support that, and how those things line up so that they could feel like were empowered to make their own decisions on what was most important to them.

That’s a critical point. There was a lot of what we call “noise” in the system, feedback while we were trying to work through this particular point. Initially there was a feeling that there was a top-down governance process that was not going to allow each of the business units to make their own decisions on how they invested their capital expenditures. That was not the case at all.

What it was was a pot of money that was given to them for investment purposes. They could make their own decisions on what they invested the money in; and then they were expected to make decisions based on what would give them the best return on investment. That worked very well.

There were two major work streams if you look across investment rationalization: the “what” and the “how.” What is it that we need to do, how are we going to get there? The “what” was a lot of the design elements. We took a look at how we could get agreement on elements of the next generation approach. In other words, could we get a collaborative effort going so that each of the different lines of business could come to an agreement as to how they would make decisions on 80 percent of the work that we do? It can be different portfolios in different offices, that’s fine, but the how they got there needs to have a common platform or consistent repeatable processes.

How would each of these organizations be in welcoming the change? We know change management is perhaps one of the hardest things we do when we are implementing an improvement, a process improvement, continuous improvement-that is where we get the greatest resistance to change. So it was very important that we engage each person that was involved in the decision making and the design elements to ensure that we had understanding of the current environment.

What the governance process and the “what” part of the diagnostic phase focused to is a future state being based on current state assessments and stakeholder feedback. Literally, what we did is we created a matrix around three buckets of work: What are the structures that you need in order to make this happen? What behaviors do we expect out of people as we go through this change, because that was a significant part of the change element? and What are the processes that you need in place so that they are consistent and repeatable for those common elements that we have? So structure, behavior and processes were the three common elements that we looked at from a governance perspective and from a process perspective to help them find end-to-end solutions.

We looked at enterprise-level capital allocation, giving them the authority to make the decisions without having to come before a review board to gain approval from the CFO of the company, the president of the company. They could literally make these decisions at a line-of-business level.

Now, this was a significant change. Previously, anytime more than $250,000 was going to be spent in an initiative it had to come before a former review committee, a former body, and it had to be approved by a group of about 50 leaders, top of the house. Not only was that time extensive, it was a drain on resource time at the top of the house.

This pushed the decision making out to each of those 10 lines of business so that they themselves could hold their own committee meeting and look at their portfolio. They could do the push and pull to prioritize the work that needed to get done in order to meet their customers needs.

It also went from a cycle time of 86 days to make a decision with 50 executives that convened once a month to review, and if you didn’t get approved you had to go back through the review cycle again, down to literally 72 hours. So from 86 days to 72 hours they could make a decision end-to-end, and they could gain approval by their executive team. So significant improvement there.

Investment screening. As I mentioned, it no longer came before this large body, it came before their line of business body. So in moving the decision making to the people who literally owned that P&L process they could take a look at their anticipated rate of return. They could take a look at how much money they had to invest and they could begin to prioritize their initiatives in a different way. This really helped them understand how they were going to use the very precious people resources that they had and dedicate those people to the right initiatives so that we no longer had project stalled or initiatives stalled or process improvement stalled.

I do not know if you have ever experienced running through a process improvement where you needed to engage a key stakeholder and the resource simply was not available or it was two or three weeks before you could get time on their calendar to make a decision, then you would have to hold an information discovery meeting only to come back and get a decision several weeks later.

Well, this process began to really make sure that the most critical resources were available for the most critical initiatives because we no longer were doing 175 initiatives adequately well; we were now doing 50 initiatives extremely well, and it made a big difference.

It got into the portfolio management. Then we put a process in place across the enterprise where there is a common system that each of the lines of business are putting their information into so we have transparency to look across each of the different lines of business to understand what is going on at the top of the house. Again, it is not a governance perspective but it is a knowledge-based perspective to understand the high risk impacts, high risk initiatives, how are we tracking, our resource availability, our capital expenditure and our rate of return. So it was a knowledge sharing across the top of the house with decision making at each of the lines of business.

We looked at the overall investment rationalization process flow: What will it look like? What are the roles and responsibilities now? If you are going to give decision making at the lowest level possibly you have got to make sure that there is clear governance and a charter, on roles, responsibilities, and the expectations when we come together as a body to make approvals for our line of business.

So again, we worked to be very clear on the roles and responsibilities of each of those members. We established three boards: One was called an IRB, an Investment Review Board, and within the line of business they identified the key people who need to be at the table to make a decision. It maybe shared service partners that they had out, such as maybe in the training organization and the HR organization, maybe in the IT organization, if within a revenue producing line of business they needed to make a decision where they would need support from those key partners. So key people were identified to sit on their board. They established regular meeting schedules so that they could work through making those decisions in a timely manner.

We also established an Investment Review Office, which did a screening, if you will, before things would go into the Investment Review Board. This was a program office that would take a look at the different artifacts that were coming in for the initiatives to make sure that the resources were available, the funding was available, and that it was prioritized at the right level in order to go before the committee for approval in the first place.

Then the partnership was with the program or portfolio management office to ensure that all the process improvement, continuous improvement or projects that were coming through were meaningful and hit the strategic plan at the top of the house.

Although that sounds like it might have generated a lot of incremental headcount, it didn’t at all. That was why it took a year for implementation. We really took a look at what the different roles are that we have out there today-who is doing what-and we reorganized in a way that did not require any additional headcount at all. It optimized the people that we had in place, provided clarity of role and expectation and it provided a framework for making decisions quicker, with higher impact to the bottom line.

We had to ask the right questions. We wanted to make sure that we had the right people with the right behaviors and that they had the right information to make those decisions.

This gives you a little bit of a backdrop on what the organizational structure looked like, but we really focused to making sure that there was measurement and matrix; what are the four key matrix that are critically important at the top of the house?

Now, when we went and started looking across the 10 major lines of business, we found more 150 matrixes that were measured at the company. By the way, some of them were the same matrix called different things, and they got there just a little differently. So while it was all fruit salad, it was apples, oranges, bananas, nectarines, white fruits, so have you. This became really important to say-at the top of the house there are four things we really want to know, and here is how we want them measured. There is the four things that we need for total transparency to make sure that we are having valid impact across the business.

So we established those measures and matrixes for success. We had a strong change management and communication plan in place to ensure that with literally hundreds of thousands of employees that have just cascaded out, there was a good communication plan in place and the appropriate type of communication and/or training took place based on the role and responsibility that people had in this process.

We worked with our training organization to provide training in the least invasive way and with the most impact. So for some individuals we had Web-based training where they came in, or we had leader led instruction, but that was really minimal. The majority of the training and communication that took place was by way of cascading information through the owners of each of these lines of business and their portfolio offices, holding small group sessions, town hall meetings, things of that nature and then addressing questions and concerns.

The head of each of the line of business or shared service organization aligned their Chief Financial Officers along with the PMO organization. As I mentioned earlier, we put in place an Investment Review Office where they would take a look at the prioritization of the projects and initiatives before they went before the Investment Review Board for that line of business, and the Chief Financial Officer for that organization was part of that decision making. So in the room you could literally have a well-informed, fact-based decision, based on if we were ready to move forward or not.

When we began this process we had anticipated that we would be able to improve our capital investment and return by 20 percent or more through effective implementation of the investment review and governance process. So if you had a hundred million as an investment pull and we reduce that by about 32 percent, reinvested some of that money back into the right type of initiatives that were going to either drive revenue or significantly reduce cost or significantly improve customer satisfaction, those were the three criteria, then the net result would be $79 million being spent and 21 percent improvement.

We reduced our spend by $1 billion in 2007. We reinvested a little bit over $500 million for a net return of nearly 40 percent. By the way, we are not perfect in resource allocation, but we have really enhanced our resource allocation processes, and as a result of that we have our most senior, seasoned people, working on the highest impact, highest risk, highest net return initiatives 85 percent of the time; previously it was 22 percent of the time.

So you get what you measure. If you put KPIs in place people pay attention to them, then they will show up in that way, and it’s the same thing here. We really have focus and attention on, we would like to invest in all pet projects, we cannot do that, what are the most impactful, and by the way, we are not making those decisions anymore, you are. You have ownership of that and here is a methodology to get you there. By the way, to make sure that we have agreement on that methodology we would like to invite who you would like to have at the table helping us to make the decisions.

Sounds simple, but it was complex. Each of our portfolio offices was at different levels of maturity; but they have now come together as a community. Previously they did not know who each other was, they now do. Not only do they know who each other are but they also know the people in the organizations, and so if there is an opportunity for a cross-functional implementation to take place they know who to call, who to have a conversation with, and they have an existing relationship today.

Bottled Water and Government Small Business Set Asides – A Marketing Opportunity

The Federal Government and many State and Local Government agencies offer a valuable contract preference to bottled water companies who qualify as small businesses.

This preference grew out of the desire of the Federal Government to help small businesses capture government contracts for drinking water and the small business preference for bottled water companies can be very relevant and very valuable.

The home and office bottled water delivery business is dominated by two large companies and one is foreign owned which gives small American companies an additional advantage. The first large bottled water company is Nestle, a Swiss company, that bottles and markets water under many brand names like Deer Park, Poland Springs and Arrow Head among others.

The second company is DS Waters, a large business owned by the investment firm Kelso & Co. that markets under many brand names including Crystal Springs and Sparkletts.

Neither Nestle nor DS Waters qualify as small businesses.

It is a fact that, in the government purchasing world, agencies prefer American companies that qualify as small businesses.

The small business preference means that, if an opportunity is designated a small business set aside, only small businesses can bid and win government contracts. Even though large companies are extremely aggressive and often predatory in their pricing, they are legally precluded from bidding on small business set aside contracts. This is good business for small bottled water companies.

Approximately 25% of all Federal government opportunities are set aside for small business. Remember this is 25% of the total business and specific industries like bottled water may be higher. State and local set asides are also a large percentage of total business.

The small business preference is especially valuable for water manufactures because the Federal small business rules classify a water manufacturer as a small business as having less than 500 employees. Both Nestle and DS Waters have more than 500 employees.

Therefore if you are a water manufacturer with less than 500 employees you can bid and win Federal, State and Local contracts.

In addition, since water is heavy and distribution costs are a large part of the price to the customer, a small business water manufacturer has a natural advantage in capturing business if they are located near government offices or installations. Of course, government marketing is different from the standard rules of commercial marketing but Federal, State and Local procurement regulations are well documented and establish a level playing field for all bidders.

So, if your company is a small manufacturer, you should pursue government business at all levels. It is profitable and the best part is that you don’t have to compete with Nestl√© or DS Waters!

The Effects of the Revolution on Business and Tourism in Egypt

From a tourist point of view, prior to January of 2011 there was a thriving Egypt Tourism business, it died instantly with the demonstrations and Government Travel Warnings. There are a few tourists returning, but most of the Travel Warnings are still in place even though demonstrations are not affecting the tourist sites. The inquiries start to build back up and as soon there is negative media again on the TV the inquiries drop and those in process cancel.

Many of the Tourism Business, Hotels, Nile Cruises, and even the camel vendors offering rides at the Pyramids have suffered drastically. Many not even able to feed their animals. Egypt was and is dependent to a large extent on the Tourism Business. It will return when Egypt stays out of the negative media, but for now it has devastated the industry completely.

The tourist industry hired a large % of the population and now these people are out of work, some have gone out of business, and many struggle to feed their families. Unemployment especially among the young people is the highest is has ever been, and people struggle daily just to feed their families. Egyptians in general are innovative, wonderful people, warm and hospitable, and it is sad to see them suffering.

Mubarak’s autocratic rule controlled everything including the media and TV, and the average person was living on less than $2 a day. There wasn’t a day go by when Mubaraks face wasn’t plastered in the papers and TV telling the population how wonderful (he thought) he was.

Corruption in Egypt was rampant, its still there but now most of the Ministers have gone it has become easier to open a business. Previously you basically paid under the counter for anything you wanted to do with the government. It’s not as prevalent as it was – previously to open a business and get the necessary licenses you had to know someone to get to the Minister and then needed to pay the Minister a large fee in order to get approval for the license, then pay under the counter down the line to get it processed and activated. Now many small businesses are popping up all over the place taking advantage of the fact that the old guard is gone and before any new rules come into place.

In the wake of the revolution we feel that Tourism will return as there is a pent up interest in Egypt, but it will take the halt of negative media to bring it back. Yes the demonstrations where awful with the hired thugs and security police attacking the peaceful demonstrators, but these where limited to specific areas in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, and in general the rest of Egypt moves on with everyday life. Those tourists who have returned are enjoying the uncrowded sites.

I am convinced that most of the situations like the attack on the Israeli Embassy, and the attacks on the Coptic Churches where staged events in an attempt by the old guard to create fear and bad relations and in order to have an excuse to bring back Marshall law, which they reinstated immediately after these events.

People forget that there are 18 million people in Cairo so even a 100,000 people in the square is still a small number in comparison. When you consider that Egypt has 80 million people restricted to areas along the Nile and coast away from the desert, and that it is only the size on one of the Provinces of Canada or one US State and when by comparison you consider that Canada has 33 million people across Canada it helps to put it in better perspective.

The elections although welcomed have been difficult as Political Parties were not allowed to form under the old regime, meaning that once the old regimen was overthrown they had little time to get organized into the necessary political groups to really put forth the proper programs and people they actually need to run the country efficiently. Once a new Civilian Government is in place it is generally felt that with time there is hope for the future and that business opportunities will start to come with foreign investments.

Basically Egypt has always had a dual monetary system, one price for Egyptians and another much higher price for foreigners. I understand in general that they need new money to come in to help them build, but imposing high taxes on foreign investors is not the way to build. Hopefully the new Government when in place will look at foreign investments as a way to help unemployment and opportunities for growth. Only time will tell.

Mass Retailing in South Africa and Government Concerns

When it comes to big box stores regardless of what nation, there is always a bit of fear with governments, small business, and consumers. MassMart is one of South Africa’s largest retailing big box store retailing chains, the third largest in fact. And as you’ve probably heard Walmart is seeking to purchase their entire chain of stores and distribution system. But now the South African Government is concerned, as I suppose any government might be when a foreign nation comes in to purchase a large mainstay business, which employs a huge number of folks.

Amongst the biggest concerns are that Walmart may not keep all the local suppliers and bring in products from other countries, and may not support the community and other small businesses to the same degree as it wouldn’t have the same loyalty factor. Now then is this fear justified? No probably not and let me explain why. Walmart obviously would buy locally because things cost less to produce in Africa than elsewhere in the world, and it might be a big boom as Walmart may purchase more from Africa in the future, selling their products in stores around the world, as Walmart is a huge international company.

Not long ago, I was discussing this with someone I happened to meet by chance once in my life. They told me that they felt as if Walmart was bringing in too much from China and hurting the US economy. However, I guess I disagree with some of the critique the company gets in the US, because I fully support Walmart. You see, Sam Walton was a great man. I am a pro-Walmart person. The company is probably amongst the top 5 greatest companies ever created in the history of mankind.

For those, who are upset because Walmart is a non-union company, well, I’d say that Sam had vision and Walmart should not be forced into union-labor extortion tactics as a criteria for operating in any city in the US or any other country for that matter. Further in the case of the South Africa MassMart potential acquisition, well, without free-markets – South Africa’s economy will eventually fail, and communism or a far-left leaning socialist government will come to power and thus, over time destroy all of their hard fought gains and recent rise to economic strength.

South Africa has made great headway over the years, and the way I see it, Walmart could become the best thing that ever happened to that continent, I assure you of that. So, I believe after analyzing this deal that the South African authorities may be misreading Walmart’s intentions and their fears are unjustified. Indeed, I hope you will please consider all this.