Innovation Awards

Feature Article: ILANZ In-house Innovation Award finalists

What does it take to be a innovative legal team? We talk to the finalists for the ILANZ Artemis Executive Recruitment In-house Innovation Award to find out about the project that got them nominated and what difference it is making to their community. Left to right: Jemma Stevenson, Powerco; Melissa Soh-Newstead, Silver Fern Farms; Sarah White, Xero.

Jemma Stevenson, General Counsel & Company Secretary, Powerco Legal team, Powerco.

Can you give us a description of the project, or broader innovation, that placed you as a finalist (and eventual winner) for the Artemis Executive Recruitment In-house Innovation Award at the ILANZ conference 2021?

  • Our legal team has a passion for innovation, this was illustrated in our approach to the selection, customisation and rollout of a new contract management system, Plexus Gateway. The team listened to the business and mapped out the pain points with the old system, did our homework on the options available and then worked with Plexus to customise their product to provide the optimal experience for Powerco users. Our team has a strong customer focus (both internal and external) and our constant test for any decision during this project was “is this best / easiest for our users”.
  • Amongst other things, Gateway provides a customised approval app, automated self-generating templates, integrates with docu-sign and provides contract storage and milestone management.  But the real innovation displayed by the team was in the approach to the roll out of Gateway. Just when we started planning our rollout to the business, Covid-19 was declared a pandemic.  Like most businesses, Powerco was faced with disruption and uncertainty when NZ went into lockdown. Powerco needed our full support to respond to a myriad of legal issues and to ensure the business could continue to operate as an essential service. Supporting the business was our priority, but while working in lockdown we managed to keep the momentum and continue planning to deliver Gateway.  The team was conscious that after several large IT projects, parts of the business were at risk of ‘new tech fatigue’ so knew a different approach was required; it had to be fun, simple and engaging and rather than aiming to mandate the use of the system, we wanted the experience to sell itself.
  • Our roll out started with a jingle sung by one of the team members and led to a light-hearted video using a pizza-making analogy to introduce Gateway (including prizes of pizza vouchers for engaged staff). This was followed by a two week programme of daily interactive workshops in addition to simple user guides. The results speak for themselves in terms of uptake by the business and rave reviews from users – both internally and externally.  

What difference has that innovation project made to your company and/or community?

  • Our users have benefitted through increased self-service, reduced paperwork, faster time to contract and, best of all, time savings – freeing them up to concentrate on keeping the lights on and gas flowing for our customers.
  • Having an easy and well-used platform enables us to now innovate little and often as we get new ideas or requests from the business. For example, we’ve already enhanced our custom app in response to feedback from the business – shows our willingness to be agile and actively collaborate with the business to hone the tool to suit them, not the other way around.
  • The approach to roll out made it simple, easy and fun for users resulting in a very strong adoption rate. Our delivery really set the tone that an IT tool and rollout doesn’t have to be complicated or stuffy, reflected in the feedback we’ve received and demonstrated by other teams wanting to follow suit e.g. with asking for coaching and direction delivering their own tools to the business. In particular, we’ve promoted an achieved a sense of ownership that proves its success – people understand what is required of them and are empowered to quickly and effectively create and manage contracts within the guardrails we have given.
  • We are also seeing a greater use of template agreements, meaning less legal time spent reviewing low risk contracts and more time spent on delivery of high value support to the business.
  • Our external lawyers and counterparties have also benefited from being able to use the platform – including enabling counterparties to sign contracts with Powerco electronically, saving them time and administration too!

Melissa Soh-Newstead, General Counsel and Company Secretary and Fraser McCallum,
Graduate Legal Counsel and Privacy Officer, Silver Fern Farms Legal Team, Silver Fern Farms.

Can you give us a description of the project, or broader innovation, that placed you as a finalist for the Artemis Executive Recruitment In-house Innovation Award at the ILANZ conference 2021?

Our Innovative Privacy Breach Response Tool

When the Privacy Act 2020 mandated notifying privacy breaches, our small and busy legal team had to think strategically how we were going to ensure we are aware of actual or suspected privacy breaches to adhere to compliance. We needed an innovative tool that allowed timely assessment and reporting, that was accessible, clear and user friendly given our diverse range of employees of all ages and walks of life.

Silver Fern Farms quickly recognised that we deal with large amounts of personal information and that we needed an online centralised system to manage our privacy practice when dealing with privacy breaches. We needed a system to register suspected privacy breaches across our wide-reaching network which would allow us to collate appropriate information to make an informed decision of whether notification is required to the Privacy Commissioner. Prior to this tool being developed, we needed to build on our existing privacy framework which was not ready for the changes to come. In the best interests of our people, we needed to help them through our collective privacy obligations to ensure we captured all privacy breaches.

To achieve this, our goal was to implement a user friendly, robust and bespoke, in-house online privacy breach response tool (“tool”). The tool is readily available to all our networked staff on the Silver Fern Farms’ “Our Source” company intranet. The tool is designed to be used by all staff if they come across a privacy breach, or a suspected privacy breach and there are mechanisms to ensure everyone has access. 

What difference has that innovation project made to your company and/or community?

Privacy Culture Transformation at Silver Fern Farms

Although technology was the key to collating the information required for reporting, a proactive privacy culture was essential to achieve our reporting requirements. Throughout our privacy campaign, we ensured that we were visible and transparent across the business of the type of privacy culture we want to be setting. We communicated the privacy message through many different forums including what the new Privacy Act meant for Silver Fern Farms.

This was done through companywide emails, our backyard posts on our internal communications platform, and implemented through streamline standup meetings in our sites for non-networked staff. We took surveys across the business about privacy practice. From there, we presented in person or via zoom to different business units about what privacy culture we wanted to set with the opportunity for questions and answers sessions. We have created a Privacy Center on our Silver Fern Farms’ “Our Source” intranet that can be accessed by all networked employees. Employees can find any privacy resource they need, including access to the tool, our policies, presentations, and links to the Officer of the Privacy Commissioner’s e-learning modules.

This tool has been designed with the reporter’s privacy in mind and its intention is to give people the courage and comfort to report privacy breaches, including suspected breaches, without fear of repercussion. This way, the incentive for people to report is maximised. For example, our people have the option to report privacy breaches anonymously on the tool, or through our “Report it Now” platform. Report it Now is an anonymous third-party helpline, which reports back any privacy breaches reported through this platform to Silver Fern Farms.

With the above in mind, we were able to emphasise and embed a strong privacy culture across our business. One of Silver Fern Farms’ core value in our Sustainable Chain of Care is “engaging people and sustaining communities,” which focuses on making positive contributions toward our people and communities. Privacy is an integral part of this. We protect the privacy of individuals whose personal information we may collect and process from time to time in the course of carrying out our business activities. We aim to champion privacy compliance beyond requirement, while building and embedding a top-tier privacy culture.

Our constant communication means people are privacy focused in their day-to-day business, proactively and actively asking questions or spreading concerns when they are unsure, and we have seen our privacy breach tool actively being used when appropriate.


Sarah White, Acting EGM, Legal - Customer & Regional Operations, Xero Legal team, Xero.

Can you give us a description of the project, or broader innovation, that placed you as a finalist for the Artemis Executive Recruitment In-house Innovation Award at the ILANZ conference 2021?

We were really excited and honoured to be named as a finalist in the ILANZ In-house Innovation Award category for 2021 and would like to congratulate all of the finalists across the categories for their amazing work.

Xero is one of the world’s fastest growing software-as-a-service companies, with more than 2.7 million subscribers and 3,600 employees, and the Xero Legal Team itself has has grown significantly in recent years. With such incredible growth, one of our focus areas has been to ensure that the culture and ethos of our team is shared while we continue to provide the right legal and business support to Xero.

By implementing a range of innovative practices and tools, and by thinking about how we work (both in our team and across Xero) we are well positioned to support this incredible growth. We work in an agile way, which is more than just a method of getting work done – it’s a mindset that helps us adapt to change. We’ve found that agile methodologies promote better communication, transparency and accountability in the team and with our business stakeholders.

Xero is a company that strives to engage with its customers in a human way and the Xero Legal Team is no exception to this. We've worked on several initiatives to develop a communication style that aligns closely to Xero’s values, enabling us to deliver a natural and relatable legal service experience to our business partners and to Xero’s customers. A major achievement in legal communication was the re-launch of the Xero Terms of Use. For this project we set out to improve user accessibility through natural language and human navigation.

The Xero Legal Team is passionate about delivering legal services in a way that is simple, seamless and empowers our business teams. This approach has resulted in our team implementing contract automation and process management tools. By partnering with innovative technology providers, we’ve automated the process for creating non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) at Xero and have implemented a matter management tool which provides great insights and data about the work we do.

What difference has that innovation project made to your company and/or community?

We’re a team that aspires to be at the forefront of innovative tools and technologies, ensuring that our people can focus on stimulating and high value projects. We’ve identified a number of key advantages from introducing these practices and tools, including:

  • business teams are excited and feel empowered to use technology to create their own contracts;
  • better control of Xero’s template contracts, and better oversight and understanding of matters;
  • significant time saving and streamlining of interactions within our team and with business stakeholders; and
  • our people feel more empowered and engaged with their work.

By embedding these practices and tools across our team and by championing innovation, we’re able to constantly evolve our delivery of legal services based on the changing needs of the business. This generates better outcomes for our team, our business colleagues, and ultimately supports Xero in its purpose of making life better for people in small business, their advisors and communities around the world.