Author: Gloria Qiao, Founder & CEO of Trusli
1. When a deal begins, procurement and legal teams must collaborate efficiently and quickly to get the deal done
Having led large procurement teams at Zoox, Cruise, and Motional, one complaint I used to hear from the engineering teams or other internal customers is “procurement delayed me”. Ironically, this phrase can be interchangeable at any given point, and depending on the individual, with “legal delayed me”.
Many procurement managers are frustrated because for internal customers, it doesn’t matter whether procurement or legal is delaying them. They only care about one thing: to get their deal done and get what they want/need quickly. It’s silly for a procurement manager to go back to her engineering counterparty and explain that the reason the deal is not done yet is that legal still hasn’t been reviewed. The engineering counterparty doesn’t care.
Therefore, from this perspective, procurement and legal are almost the same entity. They must find a way to collaborate, align and work together effectively so that they can push out deals as fast as humanly possible. To point fingers at each other is neither productive nor professional and ultimately is a losing pursuit. As a team, they must figure it out.
2. To achieve this, legal and procurement must work together to align on standards, objectives, and processes to minimize transactional costs
As two different teams, procurement and legal may have entirely different objectives. For example, for legal, one of the key considerations is compliance and minimizing risk, thus the desire to control and monitor. At the end of the day, the legal team, ultimately the general counsel, is fully accountable if a legal contract term breaches the law or brings the company too much risk. So to argue that legal should loosen control or even totally give up control is neither practical nor reasonable.
Procurement teams may have similar objectives with respect to commercial terms and risks such as payment terms or even limitation of liability. But they are also under the gun to finish the deals quickly and efficiently to make their internal customers happy. Ultimately, they are the ones who have initiated the deals, and it’s almost on them to project manage and finalize the deals promptly.
Of course, the procurement and legal teams both want to maximize the company’s interests as a whole, both legal and commercial, as well as becoming “enablers” instead of “blockers”.
To achieve this, they must plan, strategize and align ahead of time. Procurement and legal need to each lay out their objectives and standards and agree to pre-defined parameters. Legal should allow procurement to operate quickly and independently within such parameters but is ready to take over quickly once the negotiation goes beyond the prefined scope. HOW the two teams collaborate, this way goes to processes and systems that will allow them to operate in both modes and change the modes of operation quickly depending on the circumstances.
3. Our solution is designed to enable the legal team to maintain control while allowing the procurement team to self-serve, maximizing execution speed while ensuring standardization
This all sounds great. But HOW to implement this?
First, we allow the legal team, with the collaboration of the procurement team, to come up with templates and one set of multiple sets of fallback provisions that they deem acceptable.
Once these parameters have been implemented in our system, then there is no more back and forth. Within these parameters, procurement teams are empowered to self-serve and push out markups quickly, having the confidence that all these have been pre-aligned and pre-approved by legal. Of course, if the pre-defined fallbacks are not sufficient, then that’s when they go to legal to ask for further guidance.
From the in-house legal counsel’s perspective, yes, it may take them some time and effort to come up with a playbook with templates and fallback provisions. We may be able to help there as well. More on this at a later date. But, once they make this investment, they know for sure that 1) no other changes are allowed except for the pre-defined ones, so they maintain full control; 2) within the legal teams, they can ensure a standardized practice, as opposed to each lawyer marking up documents at their whim; 3) this reduces the mundane and repetitive review they are most bored with and allow them to focus on the issues that are actually interesting and 4), the system will leave an audit trail so they have the assurance that everything has been done by their standard, and will track any outliners if any.
4. Who will take the lead in selecting and deploying our system?
Great, so we established that we serve both procurement and legal teams. So who makes the decision to select our solution and how to implement our solution?
The answer is still both. Procurement teams obviously have a vested interest in expediting deal negotiations and minimizing delays in the back and forth with legal. Similarly, the legal teams always want to maintain control, minimize manual work, ensure standardization and compliance, and ultimately change the reputation that they are the ones delaying the team. Having the Trusli legal playbook tool can effectively help both teams to achieve their respective goals.
This, in turn, means the two teams must collaborate closely in designing the playbook templates and fallback provisions and actively participate in the implementation so that both teams get what they need in the software and workflow. See my article re-implementation here.
5. Who will pay for the system?
The answer here is it depends. Each company does its organizational budgeting differently. For companies where each functional group has its own respective budget, maybe this is a joint budget between both procurement and legal teams. Some General Counsels are very intoned with legal tech innovation, so they may be the ones that are pushing for an automation solution like the Trusli Legal Playbook because, after all, this is a “Legal” playbook. In other companies, the chief procurement officers may be the ones advocating for our solution, per the pain points mentioned above.
Yet, in other bigger companies, a solution like ours may be considered a “technology innovation”, thus falling into the company-wide IT or innovation budget. Finally, if procurement reports to finance, the CFO may eventually be the one authorizing this spending.
Regardless, because of the clear advantages of improvising efficiency, reducing cycle time, and potentially legal headcount, our solution has a clear ROI that can easily convince any budget owner that this is a worthy investment.