Henrik Hjertstedt

Do you want to finish your work faster? Then “Only Type Once”

I’m going to talk about one of the most important concepts I use in my digitalization projects: only type once

I will say it over and over again. When looking at your digitalization projects or things you can automate think about times when you (or other people) are typing the same thing more than once. This is where you can get quick wins.

Think about why you are typing the same thing over and over. What could you do differently? Is there a source of the information somewhere you can access?

Back when I was at the beginning of digital transformation I knew I needed to improve my productivity. The core concept I implemented and communicated was “only type once”. Every tool, process and change needs to pass the only type once test.

I’m working on a book right now, No Cost Contract Automation, about how you can implement contract automation at no cost. The guiding principle when designing this system which saved me 600 hours last year was “only type once”.

The only type once concept is really simple. Look at your entire process from start to finish. Not just your part but everybody’s part. This is really important that you just don’t look at what you are doing. Really look from start to finish. Ask yourself two questions. First, if you need a piece of information in your process who is the best person to put that information into the process. The second question is, does the information already exist independently of that person.

What I see all the time when people work in silos is they just think about what they are doing. They say, yeah Henrik I am only typing this information once. Then when I examine the entire process there are 4–5 people who are typing the same information. I used to get so frustrated when I was spending time looking up information I knew somebody else had typed before. That is not following the principle of only type once.

Once the information is in the process it needs to be used and accessible throughout the process. Look at the diagram below. This is typical source to pay process when you are buying something whether it is at work or at home. It shows how the information (data) flows in the process. Now think about each piece of data in this process and how you can implement the only type once.

An example source to pay process showing the flow of data.

Think about supplier name. In the entire process who is the best person to enter the supplier name? It is not an admin assistant or someone outsourced. The best person is the supplier of course! They also have the most interest in getting their own details correct especially if it is a supplier. They are happy to do the work. You just need to find a way for them to give you the information in a format you can use. In the example above you would have them enter the details either during sourcing or for the NDA since that is when correct details are needed.

Who is the best person to enter your company name? Someone in the company of course. However, this is information you surely have available in several places. So you need to find a way to save that information in a format and place where you can use it in several different places. Each time you use it you save a bit of time and become more efficient.

Once you find the best source of the information the second step of only type once is to store the data in place where it can be used throughout the process. If you want to complete your work faster then you should make sure the data is automatically transferred between the different steps in the process.

If you are working with different systems there is a variety of ways you can transfer information including smart workflows, REST API, robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), chatbots or cognitive agents. With LegalBot AI Tools I have put together in once simple place tools that will help with the information transfer process.

I’m working on a chapter in the book which covers the “only type once” concept in more detail. It is a cornerstone concept. I’m super excited to share it with you and hope that you start thinking about your processes and where data comes from.

Lawyer and Citizen Developer. Founder of LegalBot.io. Passionate for digitalising and automating legal work. Co-founder of Corporate Legal IT Forum.