At a recent conference, Mark Chandler, the General Counsel of Cisco, made an interesting distinction (See my post of March 8, 2007 on an earlier Chandler speech.). A law department can use software to streamline and speed a process such as producing the first draft of a common agreement. He terms that improvement automation. To be able to search through all of the online minutes of the corporation would be automation. People can do the same thing without automation but we are much slower.
In contrast, a more radical use of software would be, for example, electronic billing. Invoices delivered through electronic submission changes the method of review, the circulation of approval, the accuracy of the data, as well as the speed of everything. Chandler terms that technology. Dramatic improvements in productivity follow from technological innovation (See my posts of June 27, 2007 with three examples of law department productivity enhancers.).
Chandler’s distinction rests on the difference between improvement through automation and a jump in productivity through technology.