Posted by: Adam Deane | 22/06/2011

Legal BPM

Legal BPMNearly everyone that has ever submitted a complaint to a Local Government Ombudsman, or a Bank’s Ombudsman find themselves dissatisfied with the outcome of their complaint.

A decision is wrong or unfair? You follow the normal complaint procedure expecting it to be resolved in your favour.
Even the Ombudsman’s own survey shows that nearly half the complainants are dissatisfied with the outcome.

Why is the experience so unsatisfactory? Simple.
The Ombudsman cannot query the merits of decisions, only the process by which they were taken.
In most cases the Ombudsman’s investigations show that the process had been properly carried out even if the decision is wrong or unfair.
It seems that the only way to get a positive outcome is to attack the bank’s business process, not the fairness of their decision.

The point I’d like to make is that sooner or later lawyers will start finding their way into the BPM industry.
The culture of legal actions for every pip is already here. Suing for “Errors of procedure” that led to a decision, “Mal-administration causing injustice” …
Add to that in the era of social media, once a complaint has become public the ombudsman will intervene so he won’t look totally useless.
Company business process decisions will be affected by the fear of legal action.
It’s just a matter of time when BPM teams will need to work with lawyers.

The BPM software won’t change. We already have audit trails, reports, process documentation and business rules.
No, the change won’t be in the software or the methodology. It will be in the players.

If you thought you had it tough working with business analysts, enterprise architects and projects managers…
Wait till the lawyers come on-board… Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!


  1. Here’s a good illustration of a process ‘taken to court’:
    It does happen and it will surely happen again.

  2. Adam, this is already reality. I am surprised that you haven’t been exposed to it more. Compliance is a key subject in terms of process managment. But as Thomas points out blind process AUTOMATION does not guarantee compliance. Audit trails, reports and process documentation are too late in the game.

    Each law and rule ought to be interpreted and applied by knowledgable people. Which is why process owners, managers and legal department member must be able to intervene in a process where necessary. Goal orientation, rules and delegation can be used to include legal ‘advice’ at certain checkpoints. Should the process be found to be in violation, it must be immediately correctable in current instance and template.

  3. Taking Max’ final point one step further: The ability to react implies an understanding not only of the effect/implication of a process but even more of the behaviour of its components. The internal mechanisms of a process are still a black box as we’re more concerned with the final output of the process itself. And as Max says, by then it’s far too late to change anything.

  4. I had a few happy years working at a large international law firm as a BPM developer. Frustrating at times, but no more than at other places I think.

    Saying that though, where I worked there was a very refreshing approach to law and the way it was applied with the clients. Everyone was encouraged to be innovative and challenge the process in which they operated.

    The fear of the “Tesco Law” coming in and the end of the “billable hour” culture encouraged this. Clients wanted visibility and predictability of where their matters were compared to cost. BPM allowed us to do that, and although adoption internally was slow, I think it proved that a shift in culture change towards a different way of thinking made a massive difference.

    There is definately a challenge in certain “traditional” industries to implement efficiency. Such as the Health Service, Local Government and in this case Law. After all, lets not forget, they have been working that way for many … MANY years. Some desks did actually have quills and scrolls on them! Asking them to create their matter with a cost estimation to be sent for approval by the client was an interesting topic to bring up with them 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: