NEW REPORT: The State of CLM and AI-Powered Contract Intelligence

With Contract Management Software, Data Needs AI, and AI Needs Data: A Q&A With Icertis Co-founder and CTO Monish Darda

The following Q&A with Icertis CTO and Co-founder Monish Darda was originally published on AiThority.

AiThority: How difficult is it to help enterprises leverage contract management through artificial intelligence capabilities? What are the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

Monish Darda: As with any technology that is going through the hype cycle, there is a lot of jargon and confusion about how best the technology can actually be used.

One of the biggest problems was ensuring that the difference between real AI/ML and reporting/analytics was well understood in order to be able to uncover disruptive use cases.

The second was to deal with the expectation from people that AI would magically solve all their problems, or worse, make them redundant. The third, of course, was the need to be very patient since, as with most emerging and disruptive technologies, time and experience are critical in making things work in the real world. We have a unique advantage: effective AI and ML need data, and Icertis probably has one of the largest structured contract repositories in the world!

The first step to ensuring a successful application of technology was to find compelling business use cases that are in need of AI technology — and this is what we've focused on with our customers. We've identified a series of formerly intractable challenges that uniquely benefit from AI solutions including parsing huge volumes of contracts into their component parts, enabling more effective negotiations based on negotiation history, and visualizing the complex relationships between all the contacts in a company's repository.

How can businesses safeguard their legal and compliance requirements through Icertis' Blockchain solutions?

Our customers are working on a number of compliance scenarios that leverage the Icertis Blockchain Framework to ensure compliance with their suppliers and/or customers. One such example is creating a more transparent and responsible supply chain through the use of blockchain and AI to enable more ethical, sustainable and secure sourcing, all while remaining compliant to various international regulations. Icertis is partnering with Mercedes Benz to ensure full compliance with its ethical sourcing and sustainability standards across its 500,000+ suppliers. This is a critical first step towards eliminating child labor, "blood cobalt" sourcing, etc.

There are other use cases: Outcome-based pricing for cancer drugs that allows payment to pharmaceutical companies only when the efficacy of the drug in a specific treatment is proven is one such example where the solutions not only help bring compliance to the very sensitive healthcare segment but also have the potential to significantly reduce the cost of treatment.

What are the biggest roadblocks and opportunities for AI companies in dealing with rising technology prices?

Rising technology prices have two very interesting side effects: First, technology investments are under intense scrutiny, and, second, potentially disruptive technologies get a very defined budget for proof of concept projects! Even when access to budget for a PoC is very easy, the biggest roadblock is that if ROI is not shown quickly, the PoC dies away. With AI in contract management software, there is so much untapped potential (digitization of this class of data has just started) that it has been fairly easy for Icertis to realize ROI for our customers and then move to investment and deployment at scale.

AI-powered imports of legacy contracts, effective risk analysis of third party contracts enabling better negotiations and improving compliance for transactions based on the contract are all huge opportunities that have made ICM one of the most sophisticated AI-infused platforms in the world.

AI in everything — Is it good or bad for enterprises, and why?

The thing that makes this question moot is that this change is inevitable! As enterprises generate more data and store it longer (some researchers suggest that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated every day and that the last couple of years have probably produced more data than ever before) AI becomes the vehicle to use this data.

As with any new technology that brings disruption (nuclear energy has been one such example), enterprises will need to adapt, deal with data privacy issues carefully (Facebook and Google are prime examples), ensure ethics in AI algorithms, and reskill employees where necessary. And as with any new technology, this brings so many benefits: agility in business, reduced risk and better compliance, better customer service and value and better, more sophisticated products.

Icertis is proud to be one of the vehicles to provide a never-before-seen level of sophistication, user experience and decision assistance in one of the most critical systems in the digital transformation journey of an enterprise: its contract management system!

What makes deploying artificial intelligence solutions so hard?

You need data to train AI. And most data, if it is present, is unstructured, not complete, too hard to get, wrong or simply not useful. We have been lucky in that our contract data is vetted by the best authority on the subject: our customers who create and use the contracts themselves.

What has been Icertis' best use case?

The best use case for us, without doubt, is the ability of the Icertis platform to bring AI and blockchain together to solve some of the most intractable governance and compliance problems in contract management, including a transparent, more ethical and sustainable supply chain.

Where do you see AI/Machine Learning and other smart technologies heading beyond 2025?

I believe AI and related technology is heading towards being able to very accurately predict in 2025 what will happen in 2026. It is simultaneously a scary and exhilarating thought.

As you are driven to the office (autonomously, of course), drinking coffee that is chemically synthesized to your taste and mood of the moment, your personal 3D printer will deliver a custom protein tablet with synthesized medication to suit your activities of the day as an autonomously negotiated employment contract pops out for the work you will deliver that day for your employer, and the country's president will be automatically elected for the day because technology will predict the best person for the job based on today's sentiments of the country's population. Crazy? Maybe!

But we do believe that autonomous contracts (contracts that automatically negotiate the best terms for both parties) and the Internet of Contracts (an interconnected, "live" network of contracts) will be very well on their way in the future.

What technologies within AI and computing are you interested in?

There are many with the nature of our work, Machine Learning and Neural Networks are definitely of interest and so are distributed ledgers and trusted computing.

What could be a piece of professional advice that changed your life?

Always remember, most people are smarter than you are.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.

Satya Nadella, of course!