BERNADETTE: Thanks again, Craig, for taking the time out of your busy day to film the "Contracting Top Ten: Preparing for the (New) Future of Contracting" episode of Meeting of the Minds with me. I know that your time is precious, especially because it's normally spent with your canine in beautiful British gardens and filming your very popular #walkingmydogvlog on contract management. Also, who doesn't love a good Top Ten list?
CRAIG: Thanks for having me—virtually. Well, since I am not waiting in airport lines or cab queues, I do have time to talk (or write) a bit about what I'm seeing in contract management and the CLM tech world and bounce some ideas around with an expert such as yourself. Sadly, Sammie the dog won't be able to write on this one. She's double-booked.
BERNADETTE: I've been secretly writing an expose of the true source of your contracting brilliance, but this post isn't about Sammie.
Personally, when we were planning for our webinar, I found it pretty difficult to limit myself to a list of ten. The pandemic is highlighting all the ways we need digital transformation and that there's no going back. But a "Top Ten" can still be too much to wrap your head around. So out of our list of ten, did you have a Top Three?
CRAIG: First off: Sammie is in talks with Netflix, so you may want to hurry.
BERNADETTE: [Covertly texts her Hollywood agent on her cell phone.]
CRAIG: Just three? That's hard. But I would have to go with simplifying your templates as number one. It's the core unit that affects everything throughout the whole contract lifecycle. A better, more focused and easier-to-read contract is faster to create, easier for anyone in the business to use, quicker to approve, more "automation-friendly" and clearer to manage in the post-signature phase. You can have the best tech, process and people in the world, but if the contract is a mish-mash of over-lawyered pontification, outdated business focus and Rube Goldberg-esque format and structure, you just won't get the efficiencies, value or business outcomes you want from the contracting process.
After that, I think the next two are about your tools. Really explore your CLM platform to see what it can do. Remember how excited you were when you realized you could change your background in Zoom or Teams? Well, imagine exploring your tool and realizing it can automatically report on renewal dates or extract obligations with one click?
This leads into the last of my top three, and that is train, train and train some more. The biggest problem you see in CLM tech is poor implementation (please don't do this yourself) coupled with poor change management, leading to low adoption rates. A great way to avoid that is to really train your team. But this can't be a one-way tutorial. It has to be a dialogue about what the users need in day-to-day and how the tool and/or process can make that easier.
But what are you seeing with your customers, friends, and Legal-Twitter compatriots?
BERNADETTE: Not to be too Zen, but based on what I am hearing from customers, I am hopeful that post-pandemic, contracting professionals will focus on simplification and a more holistic, global mindset as it relates to CLM tools.
Like you, I am totally behind a return to simplification. As we discussed on the webinar, there will be a clear prioritization of what's important and foundational as manifested in new or revised templates, clauses and playbooks. And while we are at it, let's eliminate "NOW, THEREFORE," "WHEREAS," and any of the other legalese that just clogs up an agreement. Beyond looking at the four corners of a contract, I'm hopeful that this simplification will also be manifested in a reimagination of an organization's contract lifecycle processes.
Speaking of CLM processes, I am certain that more organizations are going to look at holistic implementations of their CLM tools; tools that can unite the buy-side and sell-side will be the gold standard. Organizations are suffering as they attempt to manage a multitude of processes and CLM solutions that are scattered across divisions or geographies. Never before has the necessity of having a single, unified system across an enterprise been more pronounced. Easily, my favorite takeaway in the recent IACCM survey around managing contracts in COVID-19 supports this holistic approach: "Corporations would do well to move towards a common buy-side / sell-side contract management system, or at least towards a common platform that would enable integration of data across systems."
What else am I hearing about? Mostly fatigue with middle-school math and all things homeschool-related. And general wonderment over TikTok videos. Maybe the motto coming out of this time is: "Families that dance and lip-sync together… more creatively quarantine together"? With Sammie a bona fide internet star, when should I expect your family's debut?
CRAIG: That is just too much Conte for the internet to handle. But you make good points above. And as a completely natural pivot, to sum up I think this period of transition has forced companies to relook at contracting in a different way and is going to force better practices. I think we should be optimistic about that, but also ready and focused for it. These crises are forcing companies to think about what matters and what doesn't and what's just a waste of time. I believe this will carry over to what comes next. How about you?
BERNADETTE: Well, as the only semi-extroverted one in my immediate quarantine circle, it's unlikely you'll find me or family attempting a dance challenge on TikTok anytime soon. And, agree to disagree that the internet can handle the Conte family. Wait, is this remotely responsive to the question you wanted me to answer?
If you are asking about what's next in contracting, I'm with you and looking forward to better, smarter deployments of CLM technology. CLM is an area where I see growth and transformation; even for the most conservative CFOs who are pausing on enterprise technology investments, automation initiatives—like CLM—will remain on the agenda for many organizations through the pandemic and beyond. You know what else is exciting to me? Crises have a funny way of manifesting new opportunities, so I'm also looking forward to the career growth and recognition that is on the horizon for several contracting professionals as they lead with new technology and processes into this new future.
CRAIG : Well-said. I'll reopen my Vine link. That's like TikTok 1.0 right? But yes! Let's get our acts together and use technology, process, people and content better. Thanks for having me join you here (virtually). Looking forward to a better future on contracting. And airports, restaurants and such too.
BERNADETTE: If you thought #walkingmydogvlog was popular, just imagine what your TikTok debut dance challenge filmed at Terminal 5 of Heathrow will do. Contracting professionals from across the globe who are ready for the new normal of contracting await with bated breath.
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