Matter Management, Regulation, and Human Insights

by Harold Hambrose | Chief Strategy Officer

When business operations are subject to the critical gaze of regulators, workers may be viewed as a source of risk, training expense and policy enforcement. Taking a human-centered approach to meeting regulatory compliance offered a global investment bank an opportunity to deliver a better way of working, explore new operating models and make smarter platform purchasing and deployment decisions.

Design’s Perspective

Matter management is the process by which a wide variety of issues are managed through their lifecycle – from the first documentation of an issue to its resolution. Matters can range from simple customer complaints to large class action lawsuits. In the world of investment banking, regulators require a clear view into the manner in which matters are managed. In pharmaceuticals and consumer products, similar regulations encumber the tracking of customer complaints and the reporting of adverse effects.

When a designer hears the description of matter management, their first thought is of the highly variable chain of people involved in this work event – from the customer to the front office worker, to attorneys, paralegals, managers, outside counsel, other third parties and of course, the regulators. To make the most of the matter management process and platform deployment initiative, designers knew that the range of human actors in this business event would need to be understood fully and that human insights derived must be central to any go-forward strategy.

The Design Event

Partnered with domain experts, the designer plunged into the current matter management environment in order to understand the true nature of this work. Pulling up at the desks of lawyers and paralegals allowed for first-hand observation of how things were happening, and why. From this bottom-up perspective of professionals on the ground performing the discrete tasks of matter management, designers created a human-centered picture of work - from person to person, process step to process step.

Regulatory Goals vs. Business Goals

When the work of matter management was observed, two streams of effort were apparent. One set of activities represented the work of managing a matter – using the email system, calendar, word processor and a spreadsheet application for writing responses, scheduling activities, contacting other parties, essentially all of the activities involved in working a matter through a process. The second stream of work involved the use of the actual matter management system to record the status of a matter.

The work of matter management was double threaded – activities that served the business goals of managing matters and the additional effort of recording the status of matters in order to report – for the purposes of billing and regulatory compliance. In the future state, status would have to be the condition of any matter as it moves through the management process – and not a separate task carried out in a separate tool. In the optimal future state, the needs of the regulators and the needs of the business operators are intertwined, not separate. The work of matter management must be a surveyable event, the status of which is a condition of the current state of work – not a separate status and reporting activity.

Advice as Asset & Other Discoveries

People. Many different people and their respective roles participate across the matter management process. Without carefully planning for their individual and collective participation in the matter management event, time is wasted, costs increase, and data quality is negatively impacted. Future state platform strategies are an ideal opportunity to define the optimal participation of all the players in the management event.

Outlook. Current state matter management was observed to be an exercise in managing documents and correspondence within a complex set of Microsoft Outlook directories. Reading and filing email correspondence with their attached documents, and scheduling matter events in their respective calendars were primary work tasks. Professionals had grown extremely proficient at recalling where things were filed inside a complicated Outlook file structure. Document retrieval meant locating the folder for a particular matter and recalling the timing and characteristics of the email to which it had been attached when the document was received.

Workers were inappropriately attaching a great deal of value within the business operation to their management of the Outlook environment. Workers artfully gauged the maturity of a matter’s management according to the status of discourse among parties, scheduled calendar events, and the evolution of corresponding documents. In the future, workforce expertise must focus on the task of matter resolution, rather than document organization and matter statusing.

External Counsel: Spend and Repeat. While speaking with attorneys about the movement of matters through existing processes, the participation of external counsel in matter management was discussed and valuable discoveries were made. For instance, as matters are often similar in nature, much of the advice from outside counsel can be repetitive or strikingly similar from matter to matter and represent unnecessary cost. If advice purchased from external counsel could be tracked in a knowledge management system, expense can be reduced by managing advice as a reusable asset.

Disrupting the COTS Vendors

The marketplace is filled with specialized SaaS applications that support the most discrete functions of business operations. Matter management is no exception. While designers drew from a current state assessment the opportunities and expectations of future state strategies, they were also laying the groundwork for assessing commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) matter management systems. In addition to the typical functional and business requirements that traditionally guide the assessment of candidate systems, designers required platform vendors to allow their products to be evaluated against additional criteria that would have significant impact on platform selection.

Platform sponsors were asked to configure their systems so they could support a handful of typical matter management tasks. Once configured, vendor systems were set up in a usability lab where lawyers and paralegals were brought in, one by one, to attempt designated tasks with each of the systems – no training, just walk-up and use. The results were powerful.

The platform favored for its marketplace reputation and impressive array of functionality did not perform as expected. Leading up to the test session the vendor balked at engaging in such an unusual exercise and hesitated to participate and, on the day of the test, attorneys and paralegals found tasks difficult to accomplish with this tool.

Much more successful was a platform that, despite its comprehensive functionality, was a relative newcomer to the marketplace and lacked the more mature vendor’s reputation and install base. This vendor, however, was keen to participate in this unusual exercise and configured their product for the test without hesitation. In the hands of attorneys and paralegals this platform performed exceptionally well. Test subjects found the tool largely self-evident within the context of the tasks they were asked to perform.

Platform selection was different than expected – thanks to human-centered insights and a new, inventive means of measuring SaaS product options.

Reporting, Regulation & Work

As a regulated business practice, matter management can represent considerable operational risk for the institution. In theory, regulated activities represent those business practices that are so sensitive or impactful that their execution within a clearly defined framework of tolerances is beneficial to everyone. When the prescribed processes and tools deemed compliant with regulation are defined without appropriate consideration of the 3 work context and its human actors, risk, change management, training and policy become additional challenges and the likelihood of regulatory compliance proportionally decreases.

Ideally, regulation should represent a better way of doing business. Yet, the human workforce remains among the greatest challenges to regulatory compliance. By pairing regulation with design’s human insights, operational strategies that allow these seemingly opposed concerns to inform one another can create a more successful, integrated, less risky and more compliant future.





Engagement Deep Dive

Let's do something meaningful.

Close icon.
Thank you. Your submission has been received.
Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Other Inquiries