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Sep 14, 2021

On this episode, we bring order to legal use cases of Microsoft Lists. We chat with Wendy Rubas (General counsel) and Janessa Nelson (Legal operations manager) from the legal organization within VillageMD – a national leader in value-based primary care. We cover a lot of ground how useful integrations between Lists, Power Platform, and SharePoint help optimize people productivity and document automation with visual analytics to improve the patient experience.

Click here for this episode's companion blog post and links.

Full transcript below and if you click here


VillageMD | Website | LinkedIn | Twitter

Wendy Rubas (General Counsel) | LinkedIn 

Janessa Nelson (Legal Operations Manager and Training Executive Producer) | LinkedIn

Mark Kashman | Twitter [co-host]

Chris McNulty | Twitter [co-host]


SharePoint | @SharePoint | SharePoint community blog 

Microsoft Lists | Resource center | Adoption | Posts within Microsoft 365 community blog

Microsoft Docs - The home for Microsoft documentation for end users, developers, and IT professionals. 

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MARK KASHMAN: Welcome to the Intrazone, a show about the Microsoft 365 intelligent internet. I’m Mark Kashman, here with my cohost, Chris, the guy who thinks about the word Syntex all day long, McNulty.


CHRIS MCNULTY: Well, thanks, Mark. Those are the good days. The bad days are the ones where I think about it all night long.


MARK KASHMAN: Syntexian dreams; that sounds amazing.


CHRIS MCNULTY: Yeah, it’s funny, I actually had an odd dream last night where I was using Syntex while riding a bike on a curvy road where there was a giant video screen for miles on the right side of me, and I could watch the documents. It was an indication I should stop looking at technology before I go to sleep.


MARK KASHMAN: Yeah, it sounds like maybe also one of those wellness days, you need to take one of those wellness days.


CHRIS MCNULTY: Yeah, I’ll just settle for days.


We’re not talking about Freudian analysis of Chris’s dreams today. Today, we’re going to be hearing from our customer, VillageMD, about how they use Microsoft Lists, and SharePoint and Power BI to drive innovation at the customer level for a whole host of legal applications.


So we’ll be hearing from their lead legal counsel, Wendy Rubas, and Janessa Nelson, who’s one of their legal Operations Manager.


MARK KASHMAN: One of the things I wanted to just kind of go into the way-back machine, our friend of the podcast, Tejas Meta (ph), used to manage a solution called Matter Center. And it’s really interesting taking some of those valuable insights in Microsoft Word at the time to help promote a lot of saving people time in – specifically in the legal community.


But to see a lot about what Wendy and what Janessa and team are doing for the legal team with inside a healthcare company, it’s really fascinating to see their use cases, to hear about, obviously, everything they’re doing to benefit from their value of their investments in Microsoft 365.


But I want to hone in on what do you know about this space. When you think of content management, you know, you must think pretty heavily on there’s a lot of content management when you think about the legal community.


CHRIS MCNULTY: Yeah, here’s the thing about the legal community, the regulatory community, especially if you’re coming from kind of a generic SharePoint perspective, a lot of the content is, I’d say, fairly square, and then it’s broad and somewhat deep, but not super deep or super structured.


And you have the need to be able to collaborate on all of these interestingly rich structured things, whether they’re contracts or pleadings, deposition review, court orders, things like patent application, and there’s just a wealth of information in there. And how those things get combined with legal research and a collaborative process where there’s reuse, and need for governance, you know, fairly high expectations for security and compliance, because this is the legal world, I think it is an industry that really pushes us to the limits of what we can do and hopefully beyond.


MARK KASHMAN: Yeah, and within that mix, the content is certainly a huge focus, and it has an internal notion, you know, let’s finalize these documents before we share it with our clients and make them longer-term legal form documents. But how to derive and save time in the creation of those, but also how to, in parallel, track time, because we know that a lot of their world is based on billing certain hours and having that be regulated with how it’s associated with their output, the documents being a lot of that output.


So a lot of what I think you will hear, and what I’m excited for people in the audience to hear is how they’re using the tools to kind of combine saving people time, managing time, and ultimately becoming this repository where they can see what are we creating, making it easy to access, and then over time, being able to review what have we done and – and how can we streamline even further?


CHRIS MCNULTY: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting for folks who kind of live outside of this area, who are thinking of SharePoint for any of the other reasons, legal, I think tends to be a trailing indicator on adoption of SharePoint technologies, because their need to do these highly bespoke integrations with what the rest of us might call project management systems, and what they would think of as matter management.


So for legal processes, you have clients, and clients have multiple projects with, call it matters, and being able to integrate with all of that, plus all of these complex workflows for things like conflict checking, can they even work on something, or understanding the current status of all of these areas.


The legal profession for – you know, understandably, has been thought of as a paper-based industry for centuries and centuries, and there’s that great tradition of information that needs to be carried forward into it.


But one thing that when we first sat down with Wendy getting ready for today, it’s just fascinating what they’ve been able to do, hearing about it kind of from the outside, using standard off-the-shelf technologies, with things like workflows and Power BI and everything that we’ve done with lists of late, to really enrich that experience and lifts it beyond just having sets of documents that people can search for and work on, but being able to create this persona that really kind of steps in and helps.


You know, it’s interesting; I thought there was someone else they were going to have us interviewed named Sharon Pointer, and it looks like she’s not going to be able to speak with us today. Do you know anything about that?


MARK KASHMAN: Yeah, you know, Sharon pointer, you know, if you say it a few times fast, you start to understand who Sharon Pointer is: Sharon Pointer, Sharon Point, SharePoint, Sharon Pointer. It is a persona, and I think we’ll hear a lot more about it. They even have an avatar, which we’ll make sure to have in the blog, so you can see who is Sharon. But it’s really interesting to hear from them their use of SharePoint, and their ability to adopt it with their broader audience, who isn’t the most technical of audiences, based on what we heard from them, Sharon Pointer being somebody who helps them every day is truly that backend, I think for a way to describe it, a robo-lawyer.


We don’t want to give away too much, but that persona is pretty important, I think, in two ways. One, that bet that they’re putting on that Microsoft 365 backend with tools like SharePoint, Microsoft Lists, leveraging the Power Platform to automate and visualize.


But the other thing that they’ve invested a lot in is people. And when you hear from Janessa, who represents the implementation side, we know the business, they do understand the legal community and their needs, but they’re not lawyers. But they’re also not traditional IT. They’re really there to be solution builders, knowing the legalese requirements, but also knowing the capabilities and the boundaries that they can then build on top of.


And I think you’ll see it’s a lot of configuration and use. It’s not deep customization, like Chris said. When they talk about Sharon Pointer, it’s really interesting to hear why they use that name, and of course, behind that, what they’re really doing.


CHRIS MCNULTY: Well, SharePoint Nation, you’ve probably heard me waste enough time getting ready. I’m here with Mark to bring our guests in. So why don’t we get right to it. And let’s take a moment and bring Wendy and Janessa into our Intrazone virtual studios.




MARK KASHMAN: We have reached that point, which is the most interesting point, which is our guests on the Intrazone. We are now pleased to welcome Wendy and Janessa from VillageMD, Wendy, Janessa, welcome to the Intrazone


WENDY RUBAS: Thank you so much for having us. It’s a true pleasure and thrill to be here. We’re listeners of Intrazone. We learn a lot from it. So it’s a thrill to be here.


MARK KASHMAN: You know, that’s the way that I think we became aware because you had written to us and said, “Hey, I love the Intrazone, and we have a great story to tell.” And I think pretty immediately, we agreed. We said, you do have a great story to tell. And usually it’s a little bit more work for us to get somebody to tell their story. Very much thank you for being here.


Before we jump too much into the what the story is, can you share with our listeners a little bit about yourself and your role at VillageMD? Wendy, we’ll start with you.


WENDY RUBAS: Thank you. Yes, I’m General Counsel at VillageMD. So that means I’m responsible for the legal risk and compliance departments. I also sort of end up owning information governance by default. I never set out to have a background, but my background, I’ve had to build operating systems in legal departments. This is, I think, the fourth time. I came into my role with that experience


MARK KASHMAN: Janessa we have one particular question that typically is not what we start with. We actually are going to hear more about your role based on a lot of how that plays into the story of VillageMD. But just initially, so we can get a sense of who you are and what you do at VillageMD.


JANESSA NELSON: My name is Janessa Nelson, and I’m the legal Operations Manager here at VillageMD.


Interestingly enough, I’m not actually a lawyer. I do have a specialized master’s program from Northwestern University. It’s called a Master’s of Science and Law. It’s sort of a shortened course program where we did take some law classes from law professors at the university, but we also had business and just other sort of interdisciplinary skills, in order to have more practical applications for law and business, to be able to work sort of in this legal operations role that I’m in now.


I actually have an interesting background. I studied science in undergrad. And then I went and worked in healthcare as a medical scribe for many years. And that actually taught me really valuable lessons on docket management and writing notes and whatever is written in the chart is what happened. And so, that was sort of my default going in, which actually ended up being a positive instead of a negative, especially with Wendy.


So yeah, I’m very lucky to have worked at VillageMD. And, you know, I have a decent amount of career experience, but this is, you know, my first time working in in-house legal department post my master’s program. So it’s been three years.


CHRIS MCNULTY: Yeah, Northwestern is great. They have all of these really creative interdisciplinary programs. I know Microsoft participates in one through the Kellogg School for marketing leadership, where they ship you out for three days and force feed you deep dish pizza and some learning along the way.


Apart from the culinary benefits that you may have experienced along the way, I’d love to take our listeners on a little bit of a tour about who we’re talking with today, from the perspective of your business.


So Wendy, could you chat a little bit about what is VillageMD, and who are some of your internal users


WENDY RUBAS: Happy to. VillageMD is a private company. It’s a growth company. And the mission of VillageMD is to change healthcare, which is a big mission. But we support and work with primary care providers, and they’re changing the way they practice so that instead of providing services, they’re working on managing the health of a population.


So the analogy I like to use is like you go to a mechanic, when you have a muffler, you need a muffler, and that mechanic goes, here’s your muffler, and you pay, versus if the mechanic was responsible to keep all the cars on the road and keep all the cars running. And that’s really the change that’s happening in healthcare, and VillageMD is at the forefront of that change, a very innovative healthcare company and technology company,


MARK KASHMAN: You said, Janessa, that you have obviously some specific training to understand the speak of lawyers, the speak of the healthcare industry. But from a tech perspective, could you summarize, you know, what you would see as some of the broader challenges from an IT perspective that you see within health care, obviously, from a legal perspective?


JANESSA NELSON: So I mean, first and foremost, what Wendy has really installed in me is that it should be sort of user friendly, right? So, any of the applications that we’re making, we’re wanting to allow users to utilize it. That’s how you’re going to get the best information. And if you build something, and nobody uses it, great, you spent $100,000, and you’re not getting anything from it, because no one will use it.


So that’s sort of one of the first things, there’s always a give and take with that, making sure that you’re providing enough information so that you have – you can report out or have actionable workflows that are going on, but also making sure that it’s people feel comfortable using it,


The number two thing is managing the volume and flow of work. Especially when Wendy started and I started, everything was being done via email. And that’s just not sustainable as a business continues to grow and adapt and change. Working in email can be great at the start, but once you’re getting 100, 200 emails a day, there’s only so much that you can do to sort of keep it managed.


The other thing that we found is talking between departments is always a struggle that I think every corporation has. It’s definitely, you know, something that we’ve continued to work on, so trying to break down silos of information and make information accessible to multiple different users through one system.


And that sort of also goes into another thing, which is source of truth. So you know, every department has different information. You know, if you’re reporting something out, is it accurate, or does somebody else have different information? So, that’s something that we’ve definitely been trying to work on is part of the inter-department connection is everyone has one place where they put their information, and so that’s why we know it’s correct.


And then the last but not least is VillageMD is an insane growth company. We’ve made a huge amount of growth in the three years that I’ve been here. And nothing is static at VillageMD. You know, we’ve – we’ve changed and continue to grow, and probably will in the future.


And so, we’ve wanted to customize and build, and change and adapt, and that can be a little hard when you’re buying technology off the shelf. It doesn’t allow you to change and adapt. But we’ve had great success with sort of the interconnectedness of the Microsoft tools. And Wendy’s constantly described them as Legos; you can sort of build and change them as you want.


MARK KASHMAN: Anybody that describes the inbox as not being a content management service, we love that. But also, you know, hearing the adaptability and the flexibility, you know, I don’t think it’s often where we hear a lot of legal entities thinking about extending, you know, services and apps, but when they do, or when they can, it is to map to exactly what the business needs are. And we can guess at what your unique – your unique business needs are, and certainly pleased to hear that you’ve kind of gone that direction, but also are getting what it is that you need out of it from a platform perspective.


CHRIS MCNULTY: Thinking about this, bringing new technology into law firms is there’s definitely a storied history there. I remember back in the 1980s, when my parents were both lawyers, like Mark’s dad and my dad, one day in the mid-80s, decided to unplug our home Commodore 64 with a TV, with a modem, and bring it into the office, I think to sort of prove a point.


And, you know, Wendy, I know you made a move, I think that was a little more – more nuanced and forward-looking than a C-64, to hire technology pros like Janessa, to really rethink the way work was being done for VillageMD. Can you share a little bit about how that – you know, what led to that and what some of the benefits are that you’ve seen from that?


WENDY RUBAS: Well, people always say you learn from failure. That’s true. So I’ve had the pleasure of implementing systems over my career. And there’s this fantasy that people have that you’re going to buy a system, and then like, oh, check that off, that works now because we bought software.


And what people don’t realize is that every system has to have an owner, a babysitter. This idea that people are just going to, across an organization, insert information into a system, and then you’ll have something usable, is really it’s a fantasy. It’s not how it happens. And so, and I’ve learned that the hard way.


You know, I’ve become very guarded about who enters information into my system, not who can see it, but the responsibility for entering it is everything. Because if you’re going to get reporting, and you’re going to have intelligence, it has to go in right.


And so, you know, I’ve had the experience of buying systems, I’ve had the experience of building. And when you buy, many times, you know, your budget is on the software license.


So in the – so coming into Village, the strategy was, I’m going to use these Microsoft products, which have really advanced, and see if I can’t build what I need. And I’m going to use the budget, because at that time, I was the only lawyer here, on people to run the system.


And that has really just paid off in so many ways. As we’ve grown, we’ve added more of the MSL grads, and each one now has their own sort of domain. And they become like the subject matter expert in a way that the lawyers really aren’t. Like, if you think the lawyers are reading the contracts, but the lawyers aren’t the ones that are really involved in the reporting and the analytics about the turnaround times and the number.


Lawyers are never going to be able to do that with the work they do, and that’s where I think, as you said, the storied history of legal technology fails. If you are going to ask lawyers to change how they work, change their process, that’s probably not going to work. You’re just – they’re just not going to put it in there, and they’re going to work around it and just keep it in their email, or their secret drives, or their Commodore at home. And so – or they’ll say, well, let me file that on Friday. You know, I’m going to file all this, you know, but then they just never will.


So what we’ve done is just wrap around the lawyers, so that the stuff gets in, and we have the analytics, and we have the records, but it’s not in the way of the lawyers. And that was the strategy.


MARK KASHMAN: Part of the switch to the cloud, as I was hearing you answer, this is maybe five or 10 years ago, when we really started to, as a – as an entity moved from product to service, and there was this notion from IT, like, oh, you’re kind of taking away my core value of standing up servers, making good uptime for services and whatnot. But with that transition, they weren’t out of a job; they just transitioned into being closer to the business.


And you’re – you’re intentionally, you know, with the right proactive reasons, hiring IT that is for the business, not for the actual systems on the backend. Even if they’re working with them, it’s still more closely aligned to the business value, which I think is a really wonderful move to hear, partly because you don’t need the infrastructure support, but you still need somebody that can translate, how can we be more efficient to support what is the core driver of the business. So anyway, I just wanted to share that. Great direction, and I think it’s also validating that there is still a lot that can be supported if you’re on the IT side of the business.


I want to hear about one thing that is going to be more of a personification question, if you will. But this is based on a little prep that – that you sent us. On your team, you have a member and I want to ask you, who is Sharon pointer?


WENDY RUBAS: Well, Sharon is, is we used to call her our robo-lawyer. We made her an avatar. And I wanted her to look like the Jetsons maid.




WENDY RUBAS: But of course, none of these people knew what I was talking about. So I lost that battle.


But we built this system. It’s a database. And then we started finding ways to flow and intersect with the business, because as Janessa said, one of the biggest challenges about being the only lawyer in a department is the flow.


And so, if somebody wants a contract, they send you an email, “Hey, can I have a contract?” And you go, “Well, what’s the term,” and then they go, “Well, two years.” And you go, “Well, what’s,” so 50 emails later, you know?


So we started doing intake forms and things like that, and we would tell people when we were training people, and we’d say, just do it in SharePoint. And it was just a, no offense, guys since you’re a SharePoint podcast, but it was – it was a block, and it’s like blank faces, they didn’t know what we were talking about. So I think they were thinking about the little yellow folders.


So we were brainstorming about this one day, and we just – and I was trying to describe because a lot of the people I was working with had never worked with the file cabinet days. And I was just, so there used to be a lady who sat in front of the file cabinet. And like, if you wanted to file something, you had to give it to her. And when your stuff was expired, she told you. And she was sometimes kind of mean, but you know, you needed her. So then I go, maybe we just need to describe it like that.


And we just had this idea of like, let’s call it Sharon Pointer. Let’s just say, send it to Sharon. It’s a –


JANESSA NELSON: It was a game changer.


WENDY RUBAS: It was a game-changer.


And so, because people could understand, we’ll send it to Sharon. Sharon will remind you when it expires, and then like Sharon isn’t going to take it – and this is just like the way it was, too, with file cabinet people – Sharon was not going to take that unless everything is filled in. You can’t give that to Sharon if it’s a mess. So that’s sort of the breakthrough that we had, and then it just sort of went from there.


JANESSA NELSON: Like Wendy said, she has an avatar. She also has an email address, so you can email


Not only has it allowed us, as we continue to grow within our analyst team and in the legal department, we sort of have like a dummy account, where multiple different people can be accessing those files from sort of a centralized location.


WENDY RUBAS: We just – they just send it to Sharon, and then on the backend, we have people working that queue. We didn’t expect that, but that’s been a really great benefit.


JANESSA NELSON: That’s exactly right.


And then, you know, it helps with consistency. It’s always email Sharon, so everybody knows that.


The one issue that we’ve had is that people think that she’s a real person. And so, that’s always something that we have to make sure to tell people that it’s not a real person. It’s our sort of automated backend work.


And so, most of that’s built off of flow, but you know, anything that gets pushed out pretty much comes from the Sharon account. So there you go.


WENDY RUBAS: Plus we get to blame Sharon. We love to blame Sharon. Like if that was not working, or it’s like we go, “Sharon, she is so, you know, moody.” It’s become just like a department.


And – and as I’ve grown up, you know, my new department members really have embraced it. So it’s been great.


CHRIS MCNULTY: You know, it’s interesting about, you know, fictitious persons, if you’ve ever gone through a Microsoft demo, one of the most common names in the demo is Megan Bowen. Someone decided to set up a Twitter account for Megan where she complains that like, she’s the most hacked person in the world. Every day, hundreds of people are logging in as her and it’s not the real her and – but it is funny, sometimes the fictitious people are better than the real ones.


Years ago, my path to technology also led me through law firms, as the child of two lawyers. And without revealing the jurisdiction, there was one Superior Court where the file clerk was only available to give you files like 9:30 to 11:30 –




CHRIS MCNULTY: – and 1:30 to 3:30. And I remember making a point of getting there at 1:45, and the reaction I got was, “Ah, geez, can’t you see I’m getting ready to close here?”


MARK KASHMAN: Does Sharon Pointer keep better office hours?


WENDY RUBAS: She keeps 24/7 office hours.


JANESSA NELSON: Sharon works hard. She works late. She works weekends. She’s like that.


CHRIS MCNULTY: Let’s take our audience through a little bit more detail about not just what Sharon does, but to Wendy and Janessa, what you’ve accomplished.


So Janessa, I understand you’ve put a system in place that automatically can bill documents, sort of a self-service tool that’s running. Can you talk a little bit about what that is, how people are using it, and of course, is that legal?




WENDY RUBAS: So Sharon’s not a lawyer.


JANESSA NELSON: Sharon – Sharon’s a robo-lawyer, not a real lawyer. She doesn’t have a JD.


I was the second fulltime hire. We added some more people, but you know, we’d get questions all the time from our business team asking for support for drafting NDAs, something that’s so simple, very templated. They just didn’t understand how to put in the entity information or just anything.


So I’d get these emails, we’d have to go back and forth, what do you need? Drafting might take five minutes, but, you know, if it wasn’t a high priority, you know, it just took so long to do it.


So I went up to Wendy and I was like, I have a proposal. I can utilize this Microsoft form. I can ask a couple basic questions. And then using a backend Power Automate flow, I can intake that information stored in our system, and then also put that information into a Word document and then send that document out.


WENDY RUBAS: I think I gave her a lecture about that will never work. Go ahead, try it. No one’s ever going to use that. I’ve tried to create – I’ve got all the list, all my things that I’ve tried to do that never worked. So I go, we’ll try it but no one’s ever going to – they’re going to want to call the lawyers. You know, that’s – they’re never –


And so then, it was just sort of operating in the background and we started looking at the data and – and our users love it, and they use it. So we’ve done that now for a bunch of different agreements.


Again, these are repetitive template agreements, and there’s a few questions and you just sort of fill it in. You know, in the old days, we had a paper intake form. You had to fill in what you wanted. But there’s no paper at Village really. So – so this is just it queues up the user what information we would need to fill it in. And then, you know, Sharon’s, pretty quick, she does a form right away.


JANESSA NELSON: Yeah, it takes a couple of seconds and then sends them an email. So it’s actually faster than what I can do. And she files it for me. So like, it’s way higher service that I was ever going to be able to give to people. It’s 24/7 accessible. And we’ve seen a huge amount of people love it. They love the self-service. And we did 150 self-services last month, just – just last month.


CHRIS MCNULTY: Have you ever been tempted to temporarily rename Sharon to Janessa, so people do think that you generate all that output?


JANESSA NELSON: I’m okay. You know, if she ever has any issues, I would rather them blame Sharon and not me, so.


MARK KASHMAN: Well, it sounds like you – you gave Sharon a good, you know, push in the right direction. Then, you know, at some point she can operationalize and takeover, and you’re on to the next thing anyway.


JANESSA NELSON: (Inaudible/crosstalk) sort of be impulsive and moody and send out occasional like mean emails, but I was overruled on that.


WENDY RUBAS: Yeah, we’re trying to avoid the Terminator Skynet, I think is try to avoid that situation, but yeah.


MARK KASHMAN: Come with me if you want to law, or live or something like that.


So let’s move into your – one of the second solutions that you shared with us that we’d like to dig into. And this one’s pretty close to my wheelhouse. But for lawyers that are on the clock, and I mean, that sort of time is money, but at the same time, taking notes and getting information is also valuable, to not have to search and find. And to your earlier point, that single source of truth, you have put some of your truth, truthfully, into lists, and they’re in SharePoint and they’re accessed through kind of a unique endpoint that I’m going to let you describe. But can you talk about that role for lawyers and you in leveraging lists for the work that you do?


WENDY RUBAS: I’ve been so fortunate in bringing on some new folks into the department that really understood what the power of this was instantly and got it, but you build a list. That takes time, because you have to constantly tinker with it. You don’t have the right columns. You don’t have the – you can tinker with that infinitely, but especially at first.


But once you get that bill, and it’s sort of got the things you need, I’ve come to think of that as like the backend. So we have some of our users that work in that all the time, and so they’re very familiar with it. But the interface isn’t like 100% quick and easy and intuitive, because it’s basically like a spreadsheet with, you know, benefits. It has a lot of cool things, but it’s – it’s not like an amazing interface.


And so, we brought in a very experienced paralegal who immediately got it. And she had envisioned – we get lots of people call us and want corporate documents. They need to know about our entities. And again, what we’re always trying to do is to be efficient, is reduce the noise, so the lawyers and the staff can just work on the things that really require them. And it isn’t just a lot of just, you know, assembly line of noise.


And so, she said, maybe we could create an interface. She didn’t know about Power Apps. But these documents could be – you could work with them in a different way visually. And she sort of drew out what it would look like. And it’s simulating an old school Minute Book. So it has the tabs. If you’ve ever had a corporate minute book, you know, they, you know, back in the good old days when it was a leather bound, and it had all the most important things. So you always felt good knowing, lawyers love knowing. it’s in the minute book.


So VillageMD is in many states, and we have lots of different entities, and just keeping track of bylaws, operating agreements, charter documents, that’s a whole world. If you’re not organized and tight on that, you can end up with a big problem.


So we – we were able to build this interface that’s not even just for the lawyers. The lawyers like it, but really, other people in the organization that need this information can quickly and intuitively understand it and where to go to get it.


JANESSA NELSON: And so, we used Power Apps to build that. We did, you know, hire. We sort of had a SharePoint consultant to help us out with some of those front=facing applications using Power Apps, because it’s a little bit more difficult with like the level of coding and interactivity between the Power Apps, because we want something a little bit complicated. And so, we did hire somebody.

But the way that we built it was we wanted it to be pulling directly from our SharePoint list. And so, it’s automatically updating and, you know, allowing us, whenever we’re growing and entering new markets, that information will be immediately sort of available in there, and there’s very little maintenance that we have to do on our end. And so, that way this can continue to live and breathe and grow with minimal coding requirements, you know, from our team.


MARK KASHMAN: I would say that’s not too uncommon. You know, there’s going to be a point in time where even if you hired technology specialists, they’re not skilled in every single app and service out there.


So if you augment with a partner or you know, a one-time hire, even if it’s coding, you know, it is, you know, certainly okay from a platform perspective. But that skillset of the Power Platform, that is oftentimes a very different person. And I think Power Apps especially has so much that’s possible. But if you’ve not done it, doing it that one time and maybe only one time for – for this kind of need, you know, it’s the right thing to do to hire, not – not a buy versus build, but build a little, get your solution, and then I’m assuming you now are all in a good run state, and you know, that hire maybe will be something for another project, but it’s just been –


WENDY RUBAS: Even if you buy software, many times you have to customize it. How many times do people have to bring in support to do that? So – but this pays dividends just in terms of time saved.


CHRIS MCNULTY: The other thing I wanted to drill down on a bit is your use of Power BI. Many of our customers and certainly, you know, from Microsoft’s perspective, we see lots of use of Power BI to help people report and analyze, you know, the structured data, which are typically these large databases.


And kind of with your list strategy, you have all of this user-contributed data, but you’re using Power BI, as I understand, to help analyze and report against that, if I have that correct.


Could you talk through kind of what you’re doing there and some of what that looks like for your user base?


JANESSA NELSON: So I mean, just at a glance, what it allows us to do is just see volume of work that we’re intaking, we’re producing, we’re doing on a regular basis, at any time, in real time, which is a valuable thing, you know, in a fast-paced growth company.


WENDY RUBAS: And you can’t overstate how many legal departments do not have a simple count of the work that they’ve done.


The benefit from Power BI is because everything is in one system, and it’s all within the Office 365, mostly SharePoint, is that I can get a cross-section between all of our disparate lists. So compliance volume month over month, how many contracts we reviewed, how many contracts are unsigned, turnaround time, I do all of my invoicing and budget management in a SharePoint list. And so, I can get information about costs, transactional work, policies. I can keep going on enterprise risk, insurance, training, etc, etc. So anything that’s sort of stored within there, we can report out.


And the goal is, is that like, you know, whatever you sort of need, we can customize a report based off of what you need. You know, what you need changes over time, which is nice, so that way, we can build them from scratch ourselves. It’s nice, because I don’t have to rebuild this every time. So if we’re going to do a count of how many compliance entries we had per month, instead of going through the list, doing it manually, I just click refresh, and it just updates itself for me.


MARK KASHMAN: Yeah, just even here, you know, going off of a single list into Power BI gives you lots of value, if that’s your sole focus, if your function is a product or a project. But as you’re leveraging it on behalf of a lot of other entities, so they’ve got different needs, you know, maybe different sets of lists that combine to really create the report that somebody is going to have to, maybe in the past, manually go and whatever tool they may have used in the past.


It really brings me back to what you lead with was this – this kind of the health of the data, you know, what you put in, if it’s not good data, or it’s just everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean, if it’s – if it’s in like decent places, but multiple repositories. The challenge that I think that you were probably facing before you really started to refine was healthy data and ease of, you know, pulling out that – that – that what we would call the insights, but, you know, the analysis, and serving, it sounds like, multiple, not just scenarios, but multiple needs of people.


WENDY RUBAS: You can only have so many spreadsheets sent to your inbox. I mean, there’s only so much. Email has, you know, gone from convenience to sort – sort of nuisance in some ways. And same with spreadsheets, because you know, you get spreadsheets from everywhere, and it’s like all the information is there, if you only had the time to open it and look at it. So the Power BI is – is an amazing tool for us in that way,


JANESSA NELSON: It goes back to the source of truth and inter-department connection. So you know, we have our contract library in SharePoint. And our procurement team, which is newer to the organization, has started utilizing that library. And so, we can produce reports for them, so that they can automatically get information that they need. And it can automatically update which is, you know, a great feature that is really, really valuable to, you know, anybody who’s trying to keep track of like herding cats, in some ways.


MARK KASHMAN: So you’ve got the cats herded, and something tells me, once a month, they start scratching and clawing about something new, something different, or you just have a backlog of now a lot of great ideas and – and you want to get to them.


So if I could frame this next question, we know based on our working and what we’re doing with SharePoint and sort of the art of the possible, but from your lens, if you were to look at what do I want next from Sharon Pointer, if she’s going to work a little bit more overtime on the next project, we’ve got a sense of leveraging lists and Power Apps and Power BI, you know, with the form intake, what do you see is the next thing that you either already have on your backlog, or you’re hearing from your customers, your clients internally and what they’re trying to accomplish that you think you can solve with technology? Just a little insight into maybe the – your future roadmap that you’d be willing to share.


WENDY RUBAS: There’s a couple of things and some of them we’re working on, and some of them are on the future. Ease of use with email, and integration with email is paramount because no matter how much you do, you’re always going to have inbound email. So trying to find ways to automate information coming into our email and getting into the SharePoint list is something that I’m obsessed with and we’re always trying to figure that out.


The other area is I think we’re in a moment, like this is a moment that people will look back on. Like, I always tell these guys I’m hiring, like there was a day when this was all paper, and you had binders and tabs. And I think there’ll be a moment when people go, there was a time when you had to do dropdowns, you know, to get structured data.


And so, we’re always trying to find ways to get the dropdown structure, without the manual effort to use whether it’s tagging, we’re using some automated things. So you have types, and I’ll just go in. We’re doing some integrations with other software like signing document software that will automatically populate, so that I don’t have to pay smart people to go dropdown, dropdown. You know, so we’re always trying to do that.


And then the other thing, we’re working with the – there’s an AI tool, Power Apps AI Builder. And so, we’re – we’re trying to teach Sharon how to read some of this stuff herself, so we don’t have to tell her what it says, but she can read it, put it in, and then we can just approve it.


And we’ve had some luck with that. You know, it’s not – it’s actually been surprising to the team. They’ve been able to train this, whatever it is, to look at that. And this is again, on repeated, repetitive templates, like NDAs or those kinds of things, that can read it, and then it’ll know, put it into the system so that I don’t have to have dropdowns.


We’re at different stages of maturity in all of our different modules, but – and some of them we’re still trying to build some of these interfaces, and it’s really limited only by your imagination, in a way. Like if you can envision what would help you, you can build it. That’s the hardest part, I think,


MARK KASHMAN: Where would you categorize yourself? And I know that there’s some older ways of framing this around a maturity model, a technology adoption model, whatever it might be, but you shared phases. How would you describe where you are now and what is next in that chart, just for our audience to understand where you’re going?


WENDY RUBAS: I like to use a graph like that because when people come in, it’s important that they understand, it’s not always going to be like this. And so, but the first, you know, you start out with this chaos information everywhere, whenever. And then you go into, you know, spreadsheets, which is the next step, and we’ve been through that.


And then you build the database, so we’ve got databases built. Then you know, you’re forever fixing them and tinkering with them and then you run reports and realize you don’t have the fields you need. So that’s the next stage that you get. You stay there a while. Then you start doing the flows. That could be for approval routing. It could be for reminders, and things like that.


So I feel like we’ve come through all of those pretty much, and really in different stages, in our different places, we’re really perfecting our views in Power BI. In some areas that are high value outside of just my department, we’re doing these Power Apps sort of interfaces.


And then as I said, automation, the next frontier is integration with other department, other organization systems. That’s where you get real intelligent, not just having a contract, but having the spend data all together, which comes from you know, AP. That’s really for a user, a business user, you know, what they want. They want to have it all together in one place.


And we’re working on that in some of our policy system, how can we show the interconnectedness of policies by doing word, you know, almost like word, have it, read it and show what words are in it and things like that.


Again, you almost have to start with an imagination as to – and that’s I think the hardest thing with software sometimes is we get very indoctrinated into what it does, and it gets us out of thinking of what should it do, or could it do or how this could be better.


But with these tools, really just the usability and the automation is where we’re going. I’m always telling my team; we’re not always going to be doing dropdowns. Just stick –like I challenge them, go figure it out, how to stop doing them, because that’s really the bane of databases. So that’s, I guess, sort of our roadmap.


MARK KASHMAN: Well, we want to thank you both for your time and if you could pass along, Sharon Pointer can also bill us for this time, that would be great.


Do you have any last thoughts? You know, because I think you represent a specific industry that, at least from what Chris and I are aware of. We don’t hear a lot about the technology that – that really is leveraged, you know, within the law space, and obviously, blended with healthcare, that’s even more unique. But any best practices, even if it’s just agnostic, you know, to technology and how it’s leveraged to help, you know, move things forward, and maybe modernize, you know, how anybody works. Just last thoughts,


WENDY RUBAS: You know, to my peers out there, they’re all trying to adopt technology at different – or sort of know they want to, and the answer is, in a sense, to have one of these MSL type support systems to come in and solve that. That’s – that’s the key.


You know, the other thing I can’t stress enough is, building on top of these Microsoft products saves you so much time, because it’s already provisioned. You don’t have to give people passwords. It already knows who works here. It already has all this stuff in it.


So many times you do demos, and you see products, and they look so great. And they just, you get so frustrated, they break your heart after you buy them. I just want to encourage my peers to – to just try it. You’d be surprised how easy it is.


JANESSA NELSON: I think Wendy said set it all. Simple is sometimes better when you’re first starting, and then you – you know, if people actually find it worthwhile, they’ll want more. You know, they’ll keep asking for, you know, more features and more things that it can do.


And that’s what really that we’ve seen with Sharon is that growth has happened really organically because we started simple. And you know, it’s gotten more complicated. It’s because I’ve learned more as Sharon’s continued to grow. But also the businesses invested. And so you know, they see the capability. And so, they’re interested in – in working in partnering with us. And so, you know, if anybody’s going on that journey, it’s okay to not start with the most complicated thing, start where you are, and see if it works,


CHRIS MCNULTY: Janessa, Wendy, thank you very much for coming into the Intrazone. It’s really great to catch up. It’s really inspiring to hear how much you’re able to do and land with the tools that we have. And thank you. And I hope our audience can learn from this example.


WENDY RUBAS: Well, it’s our pleasure, appreciate the opportunity to amplify the work of this amazing team that I’ve got.




CHRIS MCNULTY: So up next on the Intrazone, events. If there’s an event promoting and sharing information about SharePoint, legal technology, HR, Viva, anything else in Microsoft 365, we want to spotlight it here for you on the Intrazone. Let’s get right to it. Mark, how are you?


MARK KASHMAN: I am good, and I am still completely digital, but enjoying plugging in and planning and working with all the event leads. A lot of these things like Commsverse is taking a hybrid approach. And shortly after this goes live, September 15th to the 16th, there is a Microsoft Teams community event in the UK. And again, in person and online.


CHRIS MCNULTY: We also want to share a couple of updates. And this reminds me of when I was a small child listening at home on snow days back on the East Coast for upcoming school cancellations or delayed openings. And frequently my school would be the one that was still running.


The reality of this pandemic is we’re responding to different events. So there’s a couple of events that were coming up in September and October, SharePoint Fest DC, Collab Days New England, SharePoint Fest Dallas. These have all been postponed until it makes sense to bring people together. So we will continue to update you on those events. They have not been canceled. We’re just looking for a time when it makes sense for us to be able to participate with our customers in a way that’s safe for everyone.


But one event, Mark, I know that you’re deeply in the midst of that is not postponed is?


MARK KASHMAN: Microsoft Ignite. And in the mix of a lot of what is happening with in-person events and all the fluctuation, it was decided a long time ago that the Microsoft Ignite event was going to be all digital. And we are in full swing of content planning.


Chris, you are also planning, meeting with your PM peers, and there’s a lot going on across the company. Obviously, we represent a certain corner of the entirety of Microsoft, but to represent what Ignite is in planning, there will be, as you would expect, keynotes from Satya and some of our leadership across the major areas that we want to convey with new innovation, new scenarios that we support.


There will be events that – breakout sessions that then go into further detail. There will be a some very one-on-one, one-to-few, one-to-many type engagements with Ask the Experts, roundtable discussions, one-to-one customer and partner meetings and everything in between to make it so that we make available as much as we can through the digital format, what it is that we’re working on from a roadmap perspective, clarity on what’s in market and how to use and adopt it, and a lot of voices coming from Microsoft, from the community, from partners, and from customers, all packaged between November 2nd through the 4th, again all digital with a lot of great thinking in terms of how can we make it a really great engaging online event.


CHRIS MCNULTY: And remember, it’s free, and you can engage in it from the comfort of well, anywhere.


When I think forward to what 2022 is going to look like. I’m confident that we’ll be returning to having somewhat more traditional or hybrid events. And I know some of you out there, there’s at least a couple of you who at next year’s event are going to sit – you may be sitting down right now and saying, “Oh, another virtual event; I’m tired of virtual events.”


And next year, you’ll be coming to something like an Ignite, and you’ll get there, think about all of the difficulties and travel and you don’t like your hotel room and say, “Gosh, I wish we could still do all of these things virtual.”


So we know that it’s going to continue to evolve, and we just want to make sure that everyone’s safe, and everyone is well informed, and we’re happy to participate again this year.


If you have more events coming up, whether they are physical, hybrid, or virtual, please write to us through the show handle, and we’ll be sure to spotlight your event on an upcoming episode of the Intrazone.


MARK KASHMAN: One last little note for events is for everything that was postponed, we do have links that describe more about what they’re planning, so that if you were interested in those events, when they get rescheduled, or that they’ve already been rescheduled, we’ll make sure to have great links that take you directly to some of that information they’ve recently put out.




CHRIS MCNULTY: Well, I think that means that our intranet court is just about adjourned here today.


We would love to thank Wendy and Janessa for their insights into their own deployment and rollout of Microsoft technologies. We’ll put links to everything they talked about today and more in our show notes, and in the Intrazone blog.


MARK KASHMAN: You can check out our show page, this particular episode, and all episodes at


CHRIS MCNULTY: And if you’re curious about other Microsoft shows, check out


MARK KASHMAN: You can email us anytime about your wildest dreams, like Chris was having about Syntex, or your most concerning thoughts at, or chase us down on Twitter @SharePoint, @Mkashman, and @CMcNulty2000.


CHRIS MCNULTY: You may be sitting around at this point, because the broadcast has come out, the first week of the NFL season is in the books. And if your team is oh and one and already out of the playoffs, that means that you’re either in Houston, or you’re looking for something to learn more about.


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You know Mark, I could have also gone for U.S. Open Tennis. By the time this is broadcast, we’ll know who won.


MARK KASHMAN: We are your hosts, Mark Kashman and Chris never miss an opportunity to get a sports reference in there McNulty, and you have been listening to the Intrazone, a show about the Microsoft 365 lists legal eagles intelligent internet.