For over thirty years, Bill Deckelman has been a leading general counsel in the IT industry – with ACS, CSC, and now DXC. DXC is a product of the 2016 merger between CSC and a division of HP, creating what is now a $17B global IT service provider with 130,000 staff operating in over 70 countries. The creation of DXC from two complex global companies was a massive undertaking and a case study in the management of change on a massive scale.
We sat down with Bill to talk about managing change at this pace and magnitude, and some of the tactics he pursued to quickly position Legal to serve DXC’s global needs. Among other things, Bill reflected on partnering with UnitedLex and AdvanceLaw to create a single team representing the company while improving Legal’s technology and processes. Below are a few of Bill’s key thoughts – starting with his answers to nine “fill in the blank” questions:
- The best thing a GC can do for a client:
“Consistent execution on the fundamentals. Delivering value and protecting the company from risk.”
- One big change in the corporate legal sector by 2025 will be:
“Machine learning. AI adoption will be on the rise and starting to happen in a tangible, measurable way.”
- The hardest thing I’ve ever done professionally was:
“When you have an investigation that involves someone at the senior level. The board becomes involved and you have to make some tough decisions that are really hard.”
- I love it when law firm lawyers:
“Call me to listen – without an agenda.”
- I really dislike it when law firm lawyers:
“Don’t tell me about their firm – their strategies, their budget, where they want to be in five years. I want to know those things. I would rather hear directly from the managing partner about rate increases than see it in the firm newsletter.”
- Two things I love about my team’s culture:
“The respect they have for one another, and their teamwork.”
- One little thing I should really change about the way I work:
“My hours. I’m not good at drawing the line and saying when I’m done, and with virtual work the lines become even more blurred – I need to figure out how to control my calendar.”
- One sentence of advice for my 25-year-old self:
“Be yourself and be genuine. That’s what people respect in the end.”
- Thing in life I’m most proud of.
The ”Courageous and Crazy” Idea
Leading change in Legal has always been at the forefront for me – especially after the 2016 merger between CSC and HPE to create DXC. Our team hit the ground running: on day one I was told to cut 30% of the cost out of Legal. This was a team with hundreds of people around the world, hundreds of law firm relationships around the world, many thousands of contracts. It was already complex before the merger, and a lot more complex after it. And in that context, the first order of business was to keep all those plates spinning – and at the same time, drop our costs by a third.
Contracts are central to DXC’s business, and contract management was by far our biggest legal cost. Given the cost and quality requirements, I knew it made sense to have a managed services relationship, but we needed to find the right people to partner with. We needed to work with others who shared our vision of a transformative, forward-thinking legal department that dives into change head on. The idea of doing this through managed services – I had people coming to me saying I was crazy; others said I was courageous . . . and I’ll tell you something, maybe I was both! All I knew for sure was that this new venture was worth the risk, and I had no choice but to plunge into the deep unknown. And the whole team would have to accept that the world of Legal as we knew it was about to change in a big way.
UnitedLex is global, and they were providing the kind of legal managed solutions I knew we needed. The objective was to make legal services better while costs dropped. To do that we needed to create a unified, strategic team that would transform our legal department. This was no small feat.
The easiest part was actually getting ideas from the team on areas we could improve and efficiencies we could find – they just started flowing! That part was a really pleasant surprise.
The hard part was learning how to navigate two separate entities and merge them into one fully functioning organism. Working through this was definitely a tough and tumultuous time. Part of that is getting the right people into the right places – some people moving around, and some people moving on. That‘s truly the hardest part – whether it’s because not everyone is on board with what you’re trying to do, or you just have a mismatch in skills. But we preached integration and acting as one organization from the beginning, and that approach worked out even better than I think we expected.
The key to success there is just the fundamentals of change management – consistent execution on the basics. We got the right people on board who were change-oriented and passionate about the mission. Having good people involved is everything! Thinking about it, I’m so blown away by how many great people are involved. It’s important to have people with the right type of attitude and mindset in your organization in order for change and transformation to happen.
We get better at key pieces of the job every day. Together, our internal operations have 450 lawyers and contract managers all over the world working on deals. Ten years ago, you would get a monthly report on what was going on in contract management – now you can see anywhere in the world what is happening on any account with one click. The transformation is night and day.
We hit our cost target goal, but the real benefit is the business value of having clearer, better data to provide to the business on risk and legal issues. For example, if the leadership team wants to divest a part of the business, it used to be that you’d ramp up a team of people and they could give you a report on risks, issues, legal considerations in a few weeks. Now we can just pull a report and have most of that available for the leadership team tomorrow.
Because of this kind of thing, our Legal team has earned respect from our CEO and leadership team all the way down, and we have led the way in several respects among central functions supporting the business. We got through the biggest change phase and into really using rich data analysis to create the ability to manage ourselves in real time. We’re running Legal like a business, and all of DXC runs better because of it.