Automating Your Contract Management Process

So you've chosen to automate your contract management processes, and you can't wait to get the system live. It is exciting, but as you plan for the ways your organization will benefit from contract life cycle management, also consider the traps companies can fall into during implementation, including trying to do too much too quickly, conducting pilots that drag on indefinitely, or wavering on a go-live date. The following tips should get you thinking about how to get your implementation on the track to success—right from the beginning.

Weigh the pros and cons of pilots. Ah, pilots. Love them or hate them, they do provide a metric for product success. However, where they can start to become more hassle than help is when they contribute to the deceleration of an implementation project, simultaneously raising costs and pushing out the system go-live. If a proof of concept is critical to your initiative, consider creating a staging environment, and take users who would be working in the system through testing. If they have any concerns, they can voice them at the end of testing, and the staging environment can be altered as necessary. Once the environment is in an optimal state of operation, a developer can push the information live for company use.

Brainstorm known issues in the contract life cycle well before implementation. Before implementing, ask key groups involved in the contract process, "What does our system need to do?" This is an important distinction from asking what your system does today or what you want it to do that it does not. Clear visibility into known operational issues from the get-go will enable you to efficiently configure your solution to address existing pain points, while also taking into account how the process will look going forward. Keep in mind that the benefits of purchasing CLM software should extend beyond curing a single problem (e.g., not having information at your fingertips during an audit). If you've discovered one pain point in the current system, it's highly likely there will be more. These conversations with key users will likely begin giving you a good idea of details, such as what data fields need to be included, and bigger picture issues, such as how different departments across the organization will be able to use CLM.

Beware the "big-bang" approach. Diving in and implementing an entire CLM system right from the get-go can actually discourage users who are trying to process the changes associated with automating contract processes. Start with smaller, bite-sized chunks and get users comfortable with key functionality one step at a time. Phased approaches lead to higher adoption rates, faster rollout, and increased end-user satisfaction. Also, with a phased approach, you will be able to provide demonstrable ROI faster as you experience the "little victories" (or big ones!) at each stage of the rollout.

Have a plan for legacy documents. The amount of time required for implementation increases with the amount of legacy data that has to be loaded in the system and set up to be monitored and maintained. Determine beforehand if you need every contract since the beginning of the company in the system (and some companies do!) or whether you can put a stake in the ground and start with contracts, say, after a certain date or that require monitoring or data extraction. Also consider a two-phased approach to legacy data loads, where critical or historical data, if required, is loaded after go-live. Are those contracts hard or soft copies? Do you have enough in-house resources to perform legacy loads, or will you need outside help? Thinking about these details will help you properly allocate project budget and manpower as well.

Stick to the go-live date. Set a go-live date, communicate it early (and repeatedly!), and do your best to stick to it. If you're struggling to decide when your system should go live, consider any practical factors. Does your current system have an impending expiration date by which you need to migrate? Where are you in the sales cycle? It may, for example, be a bad idea to set your go-live date too close to the end of the quarter. These factors will carry more weight in selecting the date to roll out the system than simply assigning an arbitrary date.

While these tips apply to almost any CLM implementation, each organization has unique implementation issues that may require scrutiny. The very best tip I could give you is to partner with your implementation manager and implementation team, keeping them in the loop with updates and asking questions before, during, and after implementation. That way, you'll end up with an implementation that sets the stage for a healthy level of user adoption in your organization from day one.

David Humphrey is the vice president of professional services at Selectica. He is responsible for building and maintaining all aspects of the company that deliver consulting services to the company's customers, including some of the largest companies and brands in the nation. He has more than 25 years of experience in the design, development, and implementation of software systems at companies such as Accruent, Ventyx, and Global Energy Decisions.

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