Ashley Bolender believes in technology. That’s unique for an attorney – but she also believes that, for her profession to move forward, technology must be an integral part of its future.
“Modern customers are expecting [lawyers] to think differently and more efficiently,” said Bolender. “We always say we’re trying to future-proof the practice of law.”
When Bolender joined General Electric (GE) as the channel contracts leader in shared services, her goal was to help centralize, standardize and simplify the back office administrative work for commercial contracting. That’s a tall order for a team that sees thousands of contracts each year, and Bolender saw an opportunity to streamline the contracting process.
"For every agreement we generate in Conga Collaborate, we save an hour and 20 minutes of draft time. Since implementation, we've executed 1,000 digital contracts, and reduced our overall cycle time by 70 percent."
Ashley Bolender | Channel Contracting Leader
“We were manually drafting a lot of high-volume, low-value contracts,” she said. As legal professionals, “the team was ready for a solution that would minimize administrative tasks so that they could apply their core skill sets on a daily basis.” Bolender’s team drafted transactional legal documents using a Microsoft Word®template, negotiated those contracts via email, and secured executed copies via FedEx®. The process was more than just inefficient: it was also a waste of time for professionals who view time as the most important resource they have.
After identifying an opportunity to streamline their contract workflow, Bolender decided to implement Conga Collaborate. Collaborate’s capabilities aligned perfectly with Bolender’s mission, providing Unified Document Workflows, contract automation, a searchable repository, and contract lifecycle management. “GE Ventures made a smart investment in a startup called Collaborate,” Bolender said. “I thought, ‘Let’s just do it. Let’s try it.’ We were sold. We wanted to get Conga Collaborate up and running.”
Since then, Conga and Bolender have worked together to nail down the true pain points of GE legal teams. “We just assumed that the teams would have an appetite for relieving themselves of drafting transactional legal work, and they do,” Bolender said. “But it wasn’t that they cared to use Word documents – it was more about, ‘We can’t find our contracts’ and ‘Where do we store them?’ and ‘Is this contract expired?’”
After identifying these basic pain points, the primary focus shifted from Collaborate’s contract automation feature to its content repository and contract lifecycle management (CLM) features. “It immediately became apparent that the repository and CLM were extremely important if we were going to have success [with Collaborate] across the rest of the legal users at GE,” Bolender said. Once the contracts’ locations are centralized, Ashley and her team can ask what other types of centrally stored agreements would make sense to generate through automation in Conga Collaborate.
“It’s a gradual approach that makes sense, because it’s not a head-on attack on how legal teams were doing things in the past,” said Bolender. “Once those teams are in Collaborate and they’re comfortable, they’re going to say, ‘What else can I do with this?’”
Conga Collaborate has served Bolender and her team well. After implementation, the contracting team is saving valuable time and increasing productivity. “For every agreement we generate in Collaborate, we save an hour and 20 minutes of draft time,” Bolender said. As of January 2018, the Global Operations team has executed 1,000 contracts with Collaborate, and their time savings has resulted in a 70 percent reduction in overall cycle time.
In an evolving legal landscape that’s starting to break the mold using technology, Bolender said lawyers are starting to change the way they think about the practice of law. The process undoubtedly requires a lot of trial-and-error, exploration and patience, but Bolender firmly believes in the potential that lies in merging technology and law – because of the team at Conga. It’s a partnership Bolender plans to continue.
“I truly love Conga. What makes it different and unique is that it has the human element. I can really feel the people on the other side,” she said. “I think legal teams are changing the way they think about the practice of law, and [Conga] is brave enough to walk with us along that journey and to hang in there with us.”
GE’s customers are expressing love for Conga Collaborate as well, if indirectly. Customer surveys are showing a 95 percent positive response rate to the digital and mobile contracting experience. Conga is helping GE ensure speed and accuracy in their legal document delivery—something their customers have come to love and expect.