In their own words...
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[00:23] Shay O'Connor (FlowForma): Hi everybody. Welcome to today's session, with FlowForma and McKinley Irvin - a law firm over from the West Coast. Today we have myself, Shay O'Connor, Head of Solutions with FlowForma and I'm happy to introduce Dustin Ray, who's a Business Process Analyst with McKinley Irvin.
[00:46] Dustin Ray (McKinley Irvin): Shay, how you doing?
[00:47] Shay: Hey, how are things going?
[00:49] Dustin: Going very well.
[00:50] Shay: Good, good. So we've asked Dustin to come along because McKinley Irvin, in the stewardship of Dustin, have been going through a Digital Transformation in the organization and we just felt that Dustin's experience with going from manual to digital automation would be beneficial to some of our interested listeners. So what I'm going to do today is just kickoff with a few questions for you, Dustin. I mean, good place to start is at the beginning. Can you just tell us a little bit about McKinley Irvin and your role there?
[01:33] Dustin: Yeah, absolutely. So McKinley Irvin are a 120 person organization. We've got six offices up and down the Pacific Northwest, in the United States here. We're one of the largest family law firms in the United States and, as far as my role here goes, the law in the U.S has traditionally been really behind the times when it comes to being on the cutting edge of technology. The industry hasn't previously really been forced into that world yet, so they've kind of come kicking and screaming. I've been really tasked with the job of how do we take the current talent that we have and how do we really optimize it via automation and technological advancement. And of course all of that is with the goal of furthering growth and profitability because that's, you know, that's always going to be the goal.
[02:30] Shay: Very good. A nice daunting task, right? Obviously the reason you started venturing into digital requirements and looking at technologies is that you faced challenges. So, what were the challenges that you were facing when you started looking at automating?
[02:56] Dustin: Yeah, we were running into a few. One of kind of classic items is that, you know, are our people are always requiring items from, you know, the next department over. So we're all familiar with sending an email and you know, desperately asking for something that you need that day, but how do you make sure that your request is actually being viewed by the person that needs to see it? How do you make sure that it's getting treated with the, you know, the appropriate priority and how do we make sure that things just don't get lost in these vast inboxes that folks might otherwise have sort of unattended.
[03:30] Shay: If your source of the truth was your inbox, you have to address something.
[03:38] Dustin: Exactly. And you know, and who hasn't seen at least certain folks in an organization that have, you know, a few thousand items in their inbox. And of course all these side projects are taking away from the core goal of serving your clients, you know, trying to get that, depending on the industry, close that next sale. So, how do we take these little functions and make sure that we're streamlining them and we're not losing them. Reducing errors and you know, making sure that you can just get the business humming.
[04:08] Shay: Yeah, so presumably you already have some specific software for your industry that you would operate out of. So, we would find that quite commonly where an organization like yourselves would have a core product, managing things. But as you were describing there, when you're looking at a thousand items in your inbox, you basically need something to manage, to fill the cracks, or the possible cracks, that could be in the transferring of information, and the steps in processes within your organization. 99% accurate is not really good enough in your business.
[04:55] Dustin: No, it's not, you know, errors are costly in any organization. And in the field of law, you know, it's something you really want to avoid it at all possible costs and every chance you have to reduce a mistake of some kind is really going to pay dividends for you. So that really is the goal. How do you get down to zero mistakes?
[05:17] Shay: Did you ever look at a particular sort of motivation? So, was there a main challenge? Was there something that just said, listen, this is too much, we need to address this? Or was it just a general, okay, this is mounting too high. We're trying to expand and work as hard as we ever could.
[05:36] Dustin: Yeah, there were a couple of workflows, one of which I'll speak to in a minute here, and you can see that, you know, when people go from emailing then to wandering over to the other person's desk in frustration, because they're at their wits' end. That's a good motivator for the industry and you can clearly see where the frustration and items might start to break down more than they should. You've still got the flow of information going, but everyone would agree that it's more painful than it should be. So how can you go from there to a smooth running operation. I think that provided some excellent motivation
[06:14] Shay: And that sort of brings me on to the next point. So when you sort of got to that point, how was the tool, how was FlowForma Process Automation? How was that implemented to address your challenges?
[06:25] Dustin: Yeah, so we've got a couple of workflows that just immediately sort of screamed the need for automation and these were the first couple that we started with.
The first one is the new employee onboarding, you know, every organization deals with this, you've got new people coming in the door, growing economy, a lot of companies that are looking to expand, but bringing on a new employee is a costly endeavor. You've got, at least on our side, we've got a huge number of people that are touching that new employee even before they ever come in the door. We've got, of course, HR is handling their recruitment. And then there are significant data entry prior to coming on board. We've got their direct supervisors providing input. Then you've got the IT side prepping all of their accounts. And all of these groups are constantly sending little bits of information back and forth. Previously what you're seeing is again, another email like, ''oh, here's the email update from IT, here's the second email update from HR'' and at any step in there, you run the risk of running that flow into the ground if someone is ignoring that email.
And so the perfect example for FlowForma, where you can structure these items, first we're going to have HR work on their items and then we're going to have the Hiring Manager jump in with clear notifications along the way. That's where you at least have a chance of avoiding those roadblocks that you might otherwise do in a manual process. So that kind of process automation we've seen pay a lot of dividends. I'll jump over to the other item here.
The managing client funds, another very consistent item that we would see many times a day. So for us this is referencing items that we are spending on the client's behalf. So they're paying for a court fee of some kind or paying for an expert witness for example. And these processes are, you know, like many accounting departments, they're going to happen many times a day and they really all have to get out the door the day they come in. Again, this is a situation where misses in this category are going to be costly and to be avoided at all costs.
[08:45] Shay: When you deal with money, you have to keep an eye on everything, that's for sure.
[08:48] Dustin: Absolutely. Yeah. Not something you want to be careless with. It's people's money, other people's money. It's pretty essential. So here we took a step where we would have at least seven emails going out per transaction and we've now reduced that into a single FlowForma item that everyone involved in the process can look on, track, audit if need be, the accounting department is a big fan of that aspect, and provide a digital backups for us. So that's critical.
[09:29] Shay: Now, I don't want to put you on the spot now. And I'd like you to be honest on this one. Did you create any of the flows yourself?
[09:38] Dustin: I did, yeah. These were both able to be created just by myself. I certainly have a lot of support from our technology folks, and from your folks at FlowForma, which I appreciate, but one of the great aspects of FlowForma is that you really can place it in the hands of one business user, such as myself. And you can really start to implement these things on your own. It does not take a team of developers.
[10:07] Shay: Well I would imagine that's probably one of the primary things you want to control was the ability to edit your processes, create new ones etc. From a timing point of view, again, be honest as possible, but in your expectations, about the turnaround time for these processes, how did you find the time it took to get something up and running?
[10:34] Dustin: Yeah, I would say once you've got the system in place and you've had a little bit of training on it, I think roll-out time for a relatively straightforward process can easily be done in a week, especially if you're able to dedicate some time to that. That again speaks to the ability to do all the more. So, you know, the quicker you can get them out the door, the quicker you can get to the next one.
[10:57] Shay: But speaking of that, so obviously you've started off in a few very core processes. What sort of level of intensity and growth do you see going into process creation and automation now?
[11:14] Dustin: Yeah, we're only looking to see that in line a point upward right now. So we're currently at about a 15 flows at the moment and for the next year we're targeting even stronger growth. So the big goal really is to see if it is a standardized process, let's get that into some process automation, you can see the dividends pay off on these pretty quickly.
[11:45] Shay: That's an interesting point. we would've found that now with a lot of clients who have this idea at start that ''okay, I've got this problem, I just want to fix this''. So you would have had managing client forms or new employee onboarding. It's imperative that you need to box this off and get it running. Once you get comfortable you sort of go, 'okay, I don't really need a lot of these papers and spreadsheets knocking around in my office anymore'.You start chipping away at the rest of them. Would you find that clients who embrace process and digital transformation and process automation tend to start doing that and did you find that way? Just sort of said, 'hey, I can keep doing this'.
[12:24] Dustin: Yeah, and in fact I'm glad you brought up spreadsheets because I think that's another incredibly common item in the business world today. Each and every person and team is managing their own small host of spreadsheets, you know, functioning as a sort of low end database functionality. And for me that represents a great trigger. Whenever I hear anyone talking about personally managed spreadsheet with critical business information, that let's me flag that process of theirs as one for future FlowForma workflow, because usually that means that there's some fertile ground there for additional automation.
[12:59] Shay: Now that you sort of, I mean, you've described getting stuck in and creating your processes and moving on to the growth of creating processes to help your digital transformation. Did you see specific benefits to the company? I mean, it's all very well becoming automated and it sounds good. You know, 'I'm going to get more efficient'. But did you actually see benefits?
[13:24] Dustin: Yes. So that earlier problem where I mentioned where we had folks sort of storming the gates of other departments, we've seen that come way down, so much far fewer people frustrated that their particular request isn't getting addressed at the speed that they want to see. So that really speaks to improving the visibility and clearly the priority and the ability to manage those number of requests coming in the door has greatly improved with the implementation of these systems.
You know, the moment you're not just struggling to figure out where your requests are and you can actually focus on accomplishing them, that's what's going to be pure efficiency gains right there. So that's a big one. And we have a great deal of requirements from the legal side, you know, being in the legal field ourselves. So ensuring that we are getting these essential pieces of information. You know, how many times have we had to email someone back because they didn't provide a critical piece of information. Now with the ability in FlowForma to just say that this is a required item that has to be filled out before allowing for submission. It can really cut down on just a simple mistake of folks just accidentally omitting something that's essential to get their request or process going.
[14:42] Shay: Yes, a bit like just tapping you on the shoulder and saying, by the way, you need to do this before we complete x, y, or z. So it's just that automated tap on the shoulder to make sure
[14:52] Dustin: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, and you know, and if left to our own devices and if we all have 10 things that we have to fill out, we're all probably going to forget one or two of them. So why not lay out that structure that is always reminding us of what is essential?
[15:11] Shay: It's funny, when you get users employed in using the processes, you really just looking to coordinate that the defined structures that you want are consistent, you know, that you have a method of operating and here's the way to do it. So there's no guesswork. We're just going to do it like this step by step and nothing gets omitted.
[15:30] Dustin: Yes, very true.
[15:34] Shay: But in one of the areas and just from a sort of an IT point of view, is the maximizing, so you've invested in IT, so you guys have invested in Office 365® and so now you had a chance to maximize the engine basically there.
[15:52] Dustin: Yeah, it's very true. So our existing Office365 licenses, give us access to the SharePoint platform and the fact that FlowForma is running out for the SharePoint platform for us represents not only a cost savings from not requiring any additional infrastructure, but also just an ease of use of really being pretty darn quick to plug and play and get it up and running, start setting up some very simple list databases and get out the door. Yeah. So that was a big win for us being able to do so.
[16:29] Shay: Okay. So I'm not a big fan of the phrase, but it sometimes it encapsulates the ability, obviously you were suggesting to the business, okay, we need to get with digital transformation, we need an automation tool. Was it good for you to have a quick win scenario, be it document generation or something that was visible to the business to say, 'oh yeah, okay. I can quickly see a benefit here'
[17:00] Dustin: In our case that was absolutely our payment system that we were talking about a little bit ago, so that was because that was the source of one of those things where the majority of the company's involved in it. So everyone is sort of touching that pain point. Yeah, and for other users out there, I would recommend finding something similar that is fairly broad based, a good number of people in the organization experience it and you know, of course we're always going to be focusing on the ones that have the most potential for a turnaround. So you know, that checked all the boxes for us: taking too much time, everyone used it and everyone is feeling sort of the drawbacks of the existing manual system. So the ability to turn that into an automated system and then let everyone see it and feel it, that does end up in a, in a good quick win.
[17:50] Shay: So, you get your quick win and we're looking here at the continuous improvements as well. Have you gone back into processes, so you put in Version 1 of your funds management process or your onboarding. Did you actually then put in any incremental improvements, did you make changes at any stage, or have you just left it like that?
[18:10] Dustin: So my experience has been here that once our users start seeing the system and they start understanding and even just a little bit of how it works and what it can do I've had no problem with feedback and requests for changes to these systems. So that's, you know, of course that's a little bit more work than just being able to set it and forget it, but I think continuous improvement is just going to be an essential part, you know, the long term plan. So we've got plenty of folks here who would love to see, you know like 'oh, go get my item in that workflow.' Like, 'oh, don't forget this component over here.' So it's good, you know, you want to see that kind of input.
[18:49] Shay: This is good for engaging everybody. Yeah, absolutely. The reason why you chose FlowForma for process automation. I know what you need is to do and I know we fit the bill, but why did you actually go 'No. Okay. I'm going with these guys.'?
[19:05] Dustin: Right, so we did look at a few process automation solutions and we found in the marketplace, first of all, some of them are very much not priced for midsize business. They felt that they were, I feel like it was looking at, you know, large enterprise pricing, so cost effective right out the gate and the fact that this was again based on infrastructure that was already in place, that this wasn't going to require an entire custom development team or a consulting gig for someone to come out and make happen. That's a big win so that we can get started up on our own with support from FlowForma. That was another solid, solid motivator for us there. And I would say in general, I personally, I feel that FlowForma is really well suited for our style of business. So, you know, an office style, workspace, the kind of functions that we were looking for. The features really seemed to be there.
[20:10] Shay: I was going to say, and you guys don't have or would prefer not to have people who are just skilled in doing, say, FlowForma or people who are just skilled in doing development tasks, where business users now can apply their processes into an automation tool now.
[20:32] Dustin: Very true, yeah. Personally we do not have full time developers on site so, so far we haven't had to bring in a single developer for FlowForma for any of the items that I've mentioned so far and yeah, that just gives us the independence and the flexibility to really work at our pace. And you know, we're seeing our cost of each implementation reduce, from a time perspective and from a value perspective, it keeps on improving.
[21:04] Shay: You guys in this case you don't have full time developers, etc. Now we do operate in organizations that have full time developers and it's funny, they initially see 'okay, it's a no code scenario', but the reality is you can, because of the no code, actually get through way more work in a far more efficient and faster fashion than if you had to code. So even if you had a coder, or somebody who was in technology, just a pure IT business analyst or SharePoint developer, etc. They turn around processes really fast, again because they usually have a list the length of their arm of requirements.
You're coming across organizations that are looking at digital transformation. It's like once you put it in the first couple of processes, you go, okay, now the list is getting really long. When you can turn that around and it's got a bit of familiarity, so it's great that you have business users that just apply themselves to the creation of processes. I guess the no code just helps that.
[22:24] Dustin: It does, it does, it really changes the tenor of the project when you can place this in the hands of other business user, sort of set them loose to start working, determine the needs and the requirements for the organization, turn around a product pretty quickly. And then of course you can always, as we were earlier discussing, you know, send it back for a round of improvements after a couple of weeks of the folks having a chance to, to run through it. And you very likely will get that feedback if you open yourself up to it.
[22:57] Shay: Yeah. So one of the benefits we always find with the no code is that you can turn around a prototype really fast so you can get feedback from users really quickly. So it's 'Oh, I don't, I don't want it this way, I want another way' Just on that, on the no code part. And I don't know if I ever asked you this before, but did you know that there were no code options in the marketplace? Like when you started searching?
[23:24] Dustin: I think that was probably the most pleasant surprise that when we really got into searching for process automation solution. So I knew about low code options that were out there that would require only minimal development work. But yeah that there were truly no code solutions out there and I attest that that is the case, is a big jump for those of us that are not particularly skilled in a given development language. So that really, really changed the ability, made them so much more accessible than it otherwise would have been.
[24:03] Shay: Thanks Dustin. The one week estimate. So earlier on, I remember you were saying about the process, how does this work with the change management tasks and comms to the business? So how do you get the lawyer/business services teams to accept the change they are being asked to do?
[24:24] Dustin: Yeah, that's a great one. So for me, I must admit that I feel pretty fortunate that most of my requirements come directly from the executive level team at McKinley Irvin here. So at least for the moment right now we have such demand that I am basically being fed these projects from the top. So in many ways this is the standard question of buy in. So making sure that you have critical personnel at your place of business that are excited about this kind of change. And in my case, actively saying like 'all right, here are our priorities for the quarter, you know, how many of these can we get rolled out?'
So in that case it makes it so that it's not just myself saying, let's use this system. You've got all of your big stakeholders saying, 'we were seeing problems with the manual, so we're going to push towards the digital'. If lacking that level of C-level buy in, I would recommend reaching out to the folks that are having those problems, so look around for those pain points. So instead of it being you trying to force a new system on people, really approach it as coming in and offering a solution. And if there are those pain points, I think you'll find that people are pretty willing to at least give a new system a try.
[25:49] Shay: And how long was the learning curve to fully adopt and start using FlowForma?
[25:55] Dustin: Yeah, well I would take a chance to recommend the services that you guys provide for onboarding. I signed up with the onboarding package and I was quite happy to do so. It gave us some dedicated support hours and that was a fantastic way for me to get my start there. There was no need to do any additional training besides some quick over the phone questions when I was at the start of my development process. So I would again say that this is, you know, if you dedicate yourself to getting your first workflow up and running, especially with some quick support from FlowForma, I think that's a week long process.
[26:34] Shay: Yeah. Okay. You're referring to our SureStart facility. So that is reduced rate onboarding option that is basically just to try and get you up and running quickly and using best practice.
So guys, I think we're just about out of time and I really want to thank you guys for listening today and especially want to thank Dustin for your input today, it's an early start for you, I know, we really appreciate that.
If anybody would like a trial, it's available on our website at www.flowforma.com/trial. You can go to our demo, there's a whole raft of information on our website, I have to say our marketing people are really intensive in keeping that up to date with irrelevant information, and really good case studies, etc. And so nice customer insights that will help. Do you guys have one up there? I think you do. [Dustin] Yeah, we do, yeah, [Shay] And we have from other industries as well. So if you need some late night reading, it's always good to look at a FlowForma case study. Okay guys, just want to thank everybody and again, thank you Dustin. Hope you have a pleasant day. Take care.