We encounter stories and predictions about how artificial intelligence (AI) will fundamentally change a variety of industries on an almost day-to-day basis. In fact, it has become such an important topic that late last year the Council for Society and Technology wrote a letter to the Prime Minister advising how the UK could take advantage of opportunities created by the increasing convergence of robotics, automation and artificial intelligence. As more and more industries, including healthcare and financial services, adopt AI technology, we’ll continue to see increased benefits on our society as a whole.
It starts with document management
Conversations about AI tend to have a sci-fi vibe: robot personal assistants, self-driving cars, you name it. But the real, day-to-day business value of AI is much less futuristic, starting with the hundreds and thousands of contracts that keep business deals up and running every day. Unfortunately, many companies have a problem finding and understanding what exactly is in their contractual agreements, which is a huge problem that can cost thousands or even millions of pounds over time. For example, forgotten auto-renewal terms can hurt budgets and company departments often work in silos and unknowingly have agreed to terms that are in conflict with each other.
While alternative resources were created to find and house contractual documents (think Contract LiveCycle Management, document repositories, etc.), those options still require manual reviews from in-house legal operations teams or having them outsourced to law firms. The problem with this is they are time-consuming and expensive, and not accurate. Also, manual reviews are rarely up-to-date, meaning when data or values are extracted in the past, they don’t reflect changes in contracts, and when different data is needed, say for a new event or regulation, the reviews must be done over again. Fortunately, in recent years new technology has been introduced to open up a whole new opportunity for contract discovery and management.
Using machine learning and natural language processing to “read” contracts
Combining technology like machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) can automate the extraction and review process; taking the process from tedious and time consuming to relatively painless. Think about it: business users shouldn’t have to contact the legal team every time they have a question about a contract and then wait around for days to get the answer they need. This type of technology allows them to locate and view any contract, at any time.
Not only is this more convenient, but it can also be more accurate. Machine learning technology is capable of seeing patterns in data that even trained professionals don’t always catch. Automating those tasks allows professionals to do their work faster and focus on higher-value activities that their computers can’t do. Machine learning and NLP has opened the door for an ongoing process of automation, allowing business leaders to make more informed decisions based on insights derived from contract data.
Legal tech isn’t just for the lawyers
When you think about contracts, you might think of the legal department within an organisation or lawyers in general, who are becoming more open to automating data review and management tasks, allowing them to focus their time on providing the high value strategic counsel they’ve been trained to give. But really, the legal teams aren’t the only ones who can benefit from this type of technology. The business intelligence that comes out of an automated contract data extraction and review process is being used to power decision-making for other levels of the business (c-suite, sales, procurement, facilities, etc.) across a variety of sectors. Contract data includes all of the terms, obligations, incentives and liabilities organisations have with external parties, on the buy and sell side. This data fuels better decisions overall, and can lead to a higher performing organisation.
Not only is AI a cost saving option for many companies, but the true value lies in the intelligence it provides to the business. Companies now have the ability to make better business decisions, and manage contract data and data in other systems, in a way that they couldn’t do before.
Kevin Gidney is a founder of Seal Software. Prior to founding the company, he held various senior technical positions within Legato, EMC, Kazeon, Iptor and Open Text. His roles have included management, solutions architecture and technical pre-sales, with a background in electronics and computer engineering, applied to both software and hardware solutions.