Driving Change: Creating a Strategy for Legal Transformation

September 26, 2022 Bernadette Bulacan

As legal departments strive to do more with less, there is ever-increasing pressure on department leaders to utilize technology and strategically manage work and contract flow.  One of the most powerful technologies helping legal teams work smarter and digitally reimagine manual processes is contract lifecycle management (CLM) software.

Indeed, the promise and value of CLM is readily apparent.  However, many corporate legal teams lack a concrete plan for successfully transitioning to a digital contract management model.

For the last twenty years or more, many corporate legal departments have experimented and innovated with various LegalTech.  These technology transitions have yielded certain learnings and varying levels of success.  So, should the deployment of CLM be treated like these other technologies?  Should legal departments recycle the same playbooks to deploy CLM?  I recently sat down with Kami Paulsen, Head of CLM Consulting at Elevate, a strategic partner of Icertis, who is committed to challenging the legal department status quo by delivering better contracting and business outcomes.

We traded insights into how teams can set themselves up for a successful transition to digital contract workflows and the benefits of automating your contract processes with contract intelligence.

Big Bang vs. Quick Wins 

Generally, when it comes to CLM implementations, there are two common approaches: either “Big Bang” or “Start Smart.”

Some legal teams initially will aim for the grand vision, or ‘Big Bang.’ They want to unleash the gates and automate everything all at once.  They have embraced the mindset that “bigger is better.” 

For those teams that embrace this approach, I must admit, that I love seeing the excitement when they first start their implementation.  There is passion about the value that CLM will yield, and they are enamored by the potential of a robust, feature-rich CLM system.  It seems like the sky is the limit and they want it all.  And now.

But there are risks to this approach—sometimes expensive ones.  According to Kami, Big Bang can lead to poor, rushed deployments that lead to greater pains down the road.  For instance, one of her clients who embraced this approach estimated the cost of a ‘rip and replace’ to be about $1.5 million.

“Corporations have to rip and replace because they’re not getting it right the first time.  I think we’ve learned that as service providers, customers, and implementation experts––we need to dig into the process and the people and the agreements first to be successful in the long run,” remarked Kami.

That’s why I’m a proponent of starting smart, rather than the Big Bang approach.  This should not be confused with starting small but rather approaching your implementation through a series of incremental phases while keeping an eye on the “north star” of where you ultimately want to take your CLM project.  Phased approaches can deliver some fast wins, like building credibility and confidence for the deployment team; creating vocal champions in strategic stakeholders and users; developing learnings to apply as you leave one phase and enter a new one, even smarter and faster than before.  Starting smart will pay dividends as your implementation progresses.

One way to “start smart” is by focusing on contract types that are high volume but low risk.  NDAs are a great example.  For many organizations, NDAs are a prerequisite for engaging with third parties (thus high in volume) but include fairly standard language (lower risk)—yet nonetheless require manual intervention to be drafted and reviewed by legal before execution.

With CLM, legal can make NDAs self-service, bringing delight to end-users who can work faster with third parties and, with little risk, leave attorneys out of it—so they can focus on higher-impact initiatives.

Making Smart Connections 

Another area where a “think big, but start smart” approach is effective is integration.  At Icertis, we pride ourselves on building CLM technology that structures contract data and connects it to other enterprise systems.  The Icertis platform features integrations with Microsoft, SAP, and Salesforce, to name a few.  This is why we refer to the Icertis Contract Intelligence platform as the fifth system of record.  Unlocking the ability to extract data from your contracts and combining it with other robust enterprise systems delivers enhanced decision-making intelligence to drive competitive advantages, increase financial outcomes, and provide flexibility and transparency to meet changing regulatory and customer demands.

Determining where to start with these integrations can be very technical and overwhelming for legal departments.  As Kami and I discussed, these types of technology decisions are not part of a legal leader’s comfort zone (unlike the comfort and expertise they might have when choosing which contract templates deserve priority in digitization).

This is the value that an experienced services team, like Elevate, can provide in connection with a CLM implementation.  When a robust CLM technology is deployed by an experienced partner and guided with a smart phased approach, legal teams can experience immediate success in their CLM implementations.  Legal teams should start smart—whether in prioritizing which contracts to digitize first or integrations it wants to undertake.

Why You Should Start Your Journey with Elevate and Icertis’ SmartStart’ 

The SmartStart program is designed for teams who want to quickly and successfully implement and adopt Icertis Contract Intelligence.  Elevate works with you to understand what to prioritize, achieve faster time-to-value with fewer headaches, and align your objectives with your investment.  Kami, one of the principal architects of SmartStart, explains:

“When talking with customers, I often hear, “we’ve got 56 contract types”.  However, this is typically incorrect.  In reality, they have a handful of contracts but numerous versions.  So, we developed the SmartStart package because we understand that contract types are both a hurdle and key to success for CLM.  Contract harmonization is at the heart of SmartStart.  We work with customers to harmonize their contract types and decrease the complexity before implementation.” 

Taking on a consequential transformation like CLM implementation can be intimidating.  But those who stay on a system that hinders their ability to approach contracting more strategically and reach across their organization with contract management functionality face the greatest obstacles.  Elevate’s implementation methodology is designed to get you up and running quickly and efficiently with a phased approach that starts by identifying your North Star, mapping out your processes, and configuring the software to match those processes.  Elevate’s CLM experts train your users to use the software and provide ongoing support to ensure success.

With our SmartStart program, we will help remove the guesswork of where to begin and accelerate your implementation and readiness to experience the power of the ICI platform.  In the end, you will achieve faster time-to-value and greater user adoption.

Listen to the full podcast episode here and learn more about how Elevate and Icertis’ SmartStart’ can help your organization achieve the highest return on your CLM investment and journey.  If you have questions or are ready to start, schedule a call with us today.