Summize in Conversation with Sarah Schoenen

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Sarah Schoenen is Head of Legal Operations and Digital Transformation EMEA at PTC, a global computer software and services company.
May 14, 2024
Last updated:
May 14, 2024

From supporting the digital transformation of customers to in-house legal ops, there’s no one who understands the digital transformation gap between legal and other departments within the business as Sarah does. Sarah started out working in the GTM team at PTC, before transitioning into the first ever legal ops role at PTC. 

In this episode, Sarah will discuss the difference in attitude towards automation within legal teams compared to other departments, what it's like building a business case for technology at a global company like PTC, and what the team hope to achieve through partnering with Summize. 

Tom

Hello and welcome back to the Summize Legal Disruptors podcast. I'm Tom Dunlop, the CEO and founder of Summize. I'm delighted to be joined by Sarah Shoenen, Head of Legal Ops and Digital Transformation at PTC. So today we're talking about the difference in attitude towards automation within legal teams compared to other departments, what it's like building a business case for technology at a global company like PTC. So hopefully that’s what we’ll achieve. We'll also talk about what we can achieve through Summize as a partnership because we're glad to call PTC customer. So first of all, welcome to the podcast, Sarah.  

Sarah

Thank you. Thanks for having me.  

Tom
No problem at all. So I guess to start with the usual question really just a bit more about yourself. Your background, I guess your current role at PTC,

Sarah

Yes, sure. So, I don't have a legal background. I'm a mechanical engineer and I started my my business journey in production and optimising the production systems and driving digital transformation from industrial companies models. And yeah, so my role at PTC now is to transfer this experience, this knowledge I'm having from the production and the industry. This is in general a little bit more matured maybe in this in their journey towards the digital threat and digital transformation than the typical business processes as legal is, yeah. And now I'm doing this since a little bit more than a year with PTC starting with the EMEA region, but also somehow trying to transfer what we have learned to the other BU’S and yeah, that's it.  

Tom

Perfect. I believe prior to I guess being part of the legal function, it was more on the go to market side at PTC. So, talk to us a little bit about I guess the, the differences between working in a kind of go to market engine what you're focused on I guess the appetiser the business in terms of I guess digital transformation in that area compared to perhaps from a legal perspective.

Sarah

Yeah. So actually, the challenges are basically the same. So, it's about not well documented processes. It's more like having the legacy of we always did it that way and that's why we're doing it this way, not really thinking about OK, what makes the most sense, what's the most efficient way of doing it. Then the entire problem with the data. So where are we getting this data? What do we want to do with the data? Which data do we need? It's exactly the same problems the industry is facing as we are facing now with the legal department and also that this entire digital transformation is such a huge problem and that you don't know exactly where to start and how to set the road map and how to set the plan where to go. But of course there are also differences from the industrial digital transformation to the legal transformation. Yeah.  

Tom

And on that because I imagine certainly from a and it's a link into another question surely about getting budget. But from other more industrial side, I imagine that the, I guess process improvements are directly relevant to, you know, how let's say, how quickly a product could get out into the market, or it's all very much linked to that kind of either profitability or efficiency in the actual production process. Have you found that there's still the same appetite when you're working within legal from the wider business?  

Sarah

No, absolutely not!

Tom

It was a very leading question that was.

Sarah

Yeah. So, I really, when I started, my first idea was also about just increasing the efficiency, how can we reduce repeatable tasks and all of that stuff. But then I realised that it's not only about increasing the efficiency but it's also about making risk transparent that we can see where we are deviating from our standards, what risk is related to these deviations and all kind of this stuff. So, it's a little bit more maybe about the quality of our work and how we make it transparent then really only the efficient part.

Tom

Yeah, right. That makes sense. And I guess linked to that because you were I guess the first person in the legal functions actually be looking at anything to do with this. So very much at the task of, you know, a blank slate kind of looking at what they're doing, educating people probably about what you were there to do. How did you find that and how have you found building not only I guess the department but also let's say your personal brand, your role and how people perceive you in that in that area.

Sarah

So in general the legal team was or is still technical a theme. So, they already started to implement the matter management system to manage their workload and everything. So, they are kind of on the journey already, but it was not that they are having dedicated workload or dedicated time for doing this time type of things. So, I think what changed when I got on board, it's that we are now really working consistently on this type of things and that we are having a plan, what do we want to achieve
and that we are somehow trying to leverage everything that we're doing that it is fitting and targeting the same goal. And yeah, this goes everything, hands and hand now.

Tom

And I guess linked to this because I think a lot of people in legal teams wonder when, when is the right time to hire a legal ops person or or even just someone to actually dedicate a part of their role, for example, to review the processes and efficiency. Was there a particular like moment or catalyst that it was kind of like, right, yes, Sarah, you need to go in there now and you need to sort this out. Was there, was there a reason why there was a particular moment in time when it felt important to bring options illegal, or was it just a chance move?

Sarah

Yeah, actually there was not this specific event. So it was not like we are getting CLM system and now we need someone who takes care of processes. It was more smooth transition somewhere, somehow.  

Tom

Yeah, right. Well, that's good. That's sad. That's reassuring that there's companies just want to add resource without necessarily having the projects behind it. And I guess so in terms of I've touched it before in terms of the legal spend, not only do people I guess in house legal teams struggle to justify getting a head count for operations, but then when you're actually looking to purchase technology, I guess convincing the business that you need budget is always a challenge. Is there any I guess tips that you would share or I guess just your experience of going to the business for budget for technology within you know I guess a business like PTC.  

Sarah

Yeah, I think the main element for us was that we understanding that the contracting process is dependent on very cross functional teams and that we are involving all of the cross functional teams because we're seeing that the values are super different for the different teams. So for maybe for sale, it's that the contract is getting faster, time to contract is reduced. For us it's we are getting less of this smaller shaky tasks for the review functions with this, with us, with finance, it's because we're having a greater standardisation and we are using the same standard clause. It's easier for them to review. So it's really the same solution or the same process solves different struggles for the different departments and I think understanding this and coming from this multi perspective value proposition side this is this was the key for us to get the budget finally.

Tom

That makes sense. So essentially when you went to the different departments, well one I guess you made it a priority to involve all these different departments but instead of just suggesting you know we're buying legal tech and it's going to make legal more efficient, you build a business case around what they would care about. So go to market, it was about efficiency and getting deals over the line, finance and compliance. It was more about standardisation, I guess risk mitigation and then legal is alleviating low value. It's trying to get them working on the work that they want to work on that makes complete sense. And so in terms of going about doing that because obviously that sounds great. But one of the biggest things that I found this in working in house is those relationships with those other departments can sometimes be quite fractious or some of the problems are quite resistant because there might be overlap. Like I guess any tips or was your experience in actually going out to those different departments across the business and try and see unite them to you know back I guess your products or your, your budget.

Sarah

So we are communicating this project as a project and not like we are implementing a tool. So it's for us about the people, the processes and the data and the tools. So we are combining and leveraging these four components and having a project dedicated to that. And so it's not only the goal to implement a CLM system, but it's also about discussing about the processes, aligning about the processes, having a greater discussion about business policies, who needs to approve what that we're all getting now on the same page. And it's for us it's so much easier to do it on a concrete example instead of having this discussion in in on an abstract level, just in general. So I think this was maybe the most convincing argument in the in the end that we're saying, OK, it's not only about the tool, we're doing the entire contracting process and leveraging and standardising their everything we can do.

Tom

And do you think, I mean, again, I feel like I'm asking a really leading question, but do you think it was a real advantage that you came from a non legal background into legal to essentially be able to understand the wider business benefits of legal tech?

Sarah

Yes and no. I think the benefit is that I also need to ask legal, what is your main concern? What is your main value? So it's it's less than I am part of the legal team and just focusing on their value, but also sometimes hard because I'm not in the processes, I don't know how the processes work. So I'm a little bit the external in the project, which is good and which is bad. Yeah.

Tom

So from a skill set perspective, it was, it was probably positive and a wider business understanding. But actually when you're trying to understand the use case, having that legal domain knowledge is, is definitely helpful.  

Sarah

Yeah, Yeah. So it's good to have the have both. So we are now doing a tandem with one of the legal part, Mariana. She's a lawyer. And now I'm doing the other part.

Tom

That's a good tip in itself. I guess for anyone looking to implement technology or go about this kind of process change actually having that dual focus probably actually really I guess more supplies the the effects of you know review the process but also again wider business buy in as well and not just relying on lawyers in isolation or you know I guess this this kind of project management digital transformation expertise separately that makes good sense. Well, I guess one of the things we should talk about is Summize and PTC has been a obviously very exciting PTC as a customer. But I guess looking at that in isolation as a tech product and something again that would have followed your internal process and budget justification and what you've just discussed. What was the pain point that you were looking to achieve, sorry, looking to solve by using some eyes what was the kind of business case or the the kind of internal message when you were kind of going to the wider teams?

Sarah

I think it's really about the standardisation of the entire contracting process. So we don't have a standard intake today. We don't have, I mean we do have playbooks but they are not involving standard clauses for deviations for example. So we are starting drafting it each and every time from scratch. So it's harder for the review part. We don't have a standardised repository. So we it's hardly what we can't hardly report on specific things out of the contract. So I think the, the main benefit from Summize is that we can handle the end to end process starting from the intake and then going through the creation, through the negotiation part to the repository and also getting the extractions from the legacy contracts.

Tom

That makes sense and I'm glad. And in terms of the, obviously one of the elements that was relevant to PTC was the Teams chatbot. So I guess there's one which is I guess the value that you will see to kind of get out of that. But two is a side to side question. Was that important in getting internal buy in that it felt familiar to perhaps other departments that were not necessarily lawyers that it was within teams?  

Sarah

Yeah. I think it's really a key part for the adoption, a tool like a CLM tool that we're getting the other departments on board, sales or finance or whatever and really doing these end to end process. So they are not need to go to a web page or whatever. They can stay in the environment where they're working. So it's not only the Teams chatbot, but for us it's also the Salesforce integration. So our CLM system which is really important for us so that the business user can start the process wherever they are.

Tom

That makes sense. One thing just to pick up on because I think you've referenced it a couple of times. I think it's a really powerful sort of theme or ethos to have within a legal department. I know in PTC there's a huge focus on the digital thread because I think that's something which I guess I'm going to relate it to kind of the business language like the business speaks as about the digital thread. So I think Legal have adopted that within their terminology, just a little bit about what the digital thread is and I guess how that's relevant to Legal versus the business.

Sarah

Yeah, so actually the digital thread is something we're selling to our customers. So having a consistent data flow through the entire process, having a consistent process and yeah, just getting transparent on this entire process and also seeing this end to end. It's also hard to define where does the process start and where does it end. So we are starting with the contracting process. For us, it start with the request from sales and it really ends with the financial review at the end before we're going to the booking. So this is our contracting process and we're trying to do it end to end somehow in all the different systems being integrated into, yeah, as I said teams, our CRM system but also the review systems and afterwards.

Tom

It's a powerful concept as well like the idea you can also visualise you know, a thread going through numerous tools and I think it's a very visual way of in some ways showing the power of, you know, tech and how it helps at each stage and the different benefits. I think it's quite good.

Sarah

Increasing the traceability,  

Tom

Yeah, absolutely. And like you say the data points that comes through it is powerful. So obviously a lot of people are starting, you know we find this when we're speaking to potential customers, their journey on buying tech, you might be their first purchase or it might be you know kind of quite new for them. Is there any advice or anything you would advise kind of in-house legal teams or legal ops professionals looking at technology for their contracts?

Sarah

I think first, as I said, it's super important to have the right persons involved and involve everyone who finally needs to work with your technology you're choosing. They are, they are having different issues, they are having different perspectives on the things and it's also not the business user only, it's also IT functions. So we spoke with several IT functions within PTC, the system specialist, the AI specialists, then the digital transformation department. So really getting everyone at the table and getting what's important for them really to choose the technology and then maybe second advice a little bit more hands on. We are somehow also struggling with finding the right balance between being agile and thinking about this end to end process and how it could look like in the future. But the most requirements we're just getting by doing it and seeing. So we didn't know what we really want until we started digging into this topic. So yeah.

Tom

Almost a Nike phrase of just do it just kind of you got to you you learn by doing. No, I think it's powerful. I think the one thing that really strikes me from this conversation as well is just the importance of you know the wider business involvement. And I think in some people say this, but I think actually the way you've described it and more how you make the benefits of legal tech relevance each department and how you really bring to the forefront the, I guess the return on investment or how important it is to those departments. You're almost building separate business cases for each business department. And I think that is something which is often overlooked, It's very legal focus. I think that was really powerful. Perfect. Well, look, thank you so much for for joining us today and for those watching, thank you for joining The Legal Disrupters Podcast is now Series 2 and we look forward to hopefully some more coming soon.

Sarah

Thank you very much. Have a good day, bye!

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Summize is a Contract Lifecycle Management solution that incorporates contract workflows into the tools you and your business already use every day.
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