A recent survey conducted by Gartner found that 58% of legal and compliance leaders said their main challenge in 2021 would be to align constrained resources against their highest-impact business needs. In other words, law departments working with limited staff and budget have to find a way to ensure they meet high-priority business needs without altogether abandoning other tasks required of the legal function.

Fundamentally, solving this problem is possible through the thoughtful design and application of operational metrics fueled by data about the volume and quality of workflow. Once an organization prioritizes business needs, it can identify desired service levels and express them in the form of SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound. For example, if a critical business need is negotiating sales agreements, a SMART goal might be to improve negotiation processes over the next six months so that contracts are ready for execution (i.e., fully negotiated) within 48 hours of the sales department's request to legal. If the need is to reduce outside counsel spend through targeted invoice reviews, a SMART goal might be to conduct a targeted review of 30% of invoiced spend each month.

Measuring results against goals (and, of equal importance, measuring the resources used to achieve those results) requires software configured to collect and report accurate and meaningful data. For some departments, this might require a significant change in processes and digital capabilities. Once that occurs, the legal organization can measure the results of its operations and the cost of obtaining those results, and then make supportable decisions about where to change its deployment of resources and additional changes in how it performs work to improve outcomes and reduce costs.

In short, achieving resource alignment is a four-step process: set priorities, set goals, establish the processes for measuring resource utilization and progress toward those goals, and modify how you do the work to improve results.