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Forecasting the Workflow Automation Market

Previously in this series, we have discussed the expanding use of low/no code (LNC) workflow automation (WFA) in corporate legal departments. Now, we turn our attention to where both product development and buyer behavior are heading, drawing on Hyperion Research survey data, interviews with WFA users, and briefings with technology providers.    


Given the high degree of customer enthusiasm, continued growth is expected, as workflow technology continues to lower the barriers to entry compared to traditional business process automation platforms. Increasing accessibility is driven not only through pricing, but also by expanding arsenals of out-of-the-box applications and integrations. Newer entrants (like Josef and Checkbox) often focus on pushing the boundaries of pure no-code application development, while more established low/no code vendors (like Mitratech TAP, Neota and Kim) are offering more turn-key capabilities and working hard to simplify the user experience for “citizen developers.” 

Quickly Expanding Use of Large language Models

Solution providers in this category have long drawn from several key facets of AI, and some were already experimenting with large language models (LLMs) before ChatGPT exploded onto the scene. Free beta modules abound, as WFA competitors seek to capitalize on the hype in the market by deploying generative AI capabilities, potentially unlocking a more conversational approach to end-user interactions – whether answering policy questions or responding to email. 

Over time, expect LLM capabilities to be built-in rather than bolted-on. Legal service intake “portals” will become ever more sophisticated   - capable of processing unstructured data (like emails). Structured forms and bots will more often be chained with LLMs, taking in information to kick off workflows. As customers get more comfortable with using their own knowledge base (e.g., corpus of policies, approved contracts), we anticipate expanding use cases and refinement in certain features, such as content/document analysis and redlining.  

Unified legal operations management systems still beyond reach

For many years, legal departments have had a wide range of solutions at their disposal as teams have sought more efficient ways to deliver legal services, as data from the 2022 Hyperion Research Legal Operations Benchmarking survey shows below. 

Hyperion_GRAPHIC-2024 Report_Legal Ops Tools

Hyperion Research studies have shown that many legal department staff work in eight different systems, often logging in to retrieve information from one system and put it in another. LNC workflow automation often promises to provide a “single pane of glass” for the diverse set of applications used by corporate legal team, by working across many existing systems and often providing a front-end visual layer. Such a dashboard could potentially display information from various sources, systems, or applications in a consolidated and organized way, providing users with a holistic view of their operations. The advantages of a single pane of glass approach include:

  • Enhanced visibility by allowing users to see the status of various components or processes without having to navigate through different interfaces.
  • More efficient management by virtue of having all relevant information in one place, reducing the risk of missing or improperly transposed data.
  • Reduced complexity as users can work within a single environment, reducing cognitive load and potential confusion.
  • Improved collaboration supported by the ability for multiple users to view and interact with the same information simultaneously.
  • Streamlined troubleshooting with the ability to identify the source of problems by having a centralized view of the entire system.

Many teams find these hypothetical benefits compelling, in light of the fragmented nature of legal departments’ technology stacks. However, such fragmentation remains significant, despite numerous acquisitions by legal technology providers assembling portfolios of products to cover wider arrays of legal department needs. Beyond the typical poor integration at the application level, most vendors market their products as distinct solutions, rather than holistic, unified offerings. While some may offer bundled pricing and easier contracting, vendors have yet to provide seamless integration across their own product portfolios, driving the appeal of WFA technology as the ‘glue’ among platforms.

While this is an attractive concept and represents a significant part of the appeal of these solutions, we have yet to see solutions fully deliver on that promise. Typically, solutions only provide visibility into processes automated by the tool.  To date, that remains a distinct subset of legal department processes. Low/no code WFA vendors have yet to develop their solutions to the point that more than a fraction of law department processes are supported by the solution and managed in its dashboard. 

By example, while business intelligence ranks highly as a top priority, teams still typically rely on separate reporting and dashboarding tools, like PowerBI and Tableau, to support decisions that must be enacted in other systems – such as WFA, CLM or ELM tools. 

Hyperion_GRAPHIC-2024 Report_Trends InvestmentsAs a result, many legal departments are adding WFA to their arsenal of applications, often as a limited purpose ‘point solution.’ The most sophisticated are using their LNC tools to move information and documents between solutions; however, we have yet to see this technology used as a command center for legal department operations more broadly. Thus, the holy grail of unified, holistic corporate legal operations management is not yet at hand – but we predict steady, slow progress will continue toward this transformative approach.    

Simply put, the full potential benefits of digitization across the legal department have not yet been realized. Workflow automations may address some pain points, but WFA solutions generally do not yet serve as fully integrated command centers for managing legal department operations across the board.

In our next and last installment in this series, we will provide practical guidance on setting up workflow automation management models and embarking or continuing along an automation journey. 


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