Today we are releasing the 12th episode of Icertis' podcast series, "Contracts Over Coffee." This series brings together the most influential voices in the Icertis Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) partner ecosystem to discuss all things related to contracting while enjoying a delicious coffee beverage.
In this episode, our senior director of partner marketing, Anne Baker, was joined by Teju Deshpande, founder and CEO of Oya Solutions, a consulting firm focused on deploying leading-edge contract management solutions. Teju has spent over 25 years in the technology and legal services industry, helping leaders improve effectiveness and efficiency through process technology and data optimization.
Here are four key takeaways from their chat:
1. Contract Management Is Not a "One-and-Done"
Anne: What do you think is the biggest contracting challenge today?
Teju: Even today we hear from a number of customers that they don't have a centralized repository. They cannot find their contracts. You would think that we would have solved that problem, but we haven't. There are still manual email-based processes. Things take too long, contracting cycles haven't really shrunk, in spite of automation and tech tools that are available.
There are also challenges due to an increase in complexity and globalization, which leads to regulatory concerns. People have been managing risk differently. And I think the pandemic proved that, suddenly, going from an all-office environment to a virtual work-from-home presented its own challenges. And I think the overarching issue is one of governance and continuous optimization.
Contract Management in particular, is not a one-and-done. It isn't something you implement once and go away and it sort of self-runs. Your business evolves, your products change, your business models change, our suppliers are changing. People get acquired all the time. So one of the continuing challenges, I think, is a strong governance for contracting. There is no centralized role—a head of contracts doesn't exist in an organization. So it's siloed; it's part of revenue ops and it's part of legal ops. It is important to think about contracts as not a back-office thing, but actually one of the most important assets you have.
2. Digitization! Flexibility! Continuous Optimization!
Anne: I still cannot get over that, in this day and age, a simple centralized repository is missing—especially when analyst firms like the Aberdeen Group and others have found that you can reduce costs by 25, 30, upwards of 40% through automation. With that in mind, where do you think contracting is going to address those challenges?
Teju: So I see three big trends. One is digital transformation. The pandemic accelerated this process. Simple things like e-signature, low-hanging fruit—automating that was important. I actually had to do an eNotary process recently that I've never seen, where you actually have to be on FaceTime. Someone had to see my hand signing the thing. It was sort of interesting to see how simple tech can solve fairly important issues.
The second thing is flexible business models. The businesses that were able to pivot really rapidly in response to the pandemic were digital businesses. You could move from a fully office environment to a virtual environment. And what that would lead to is a flexible contracting paradigm—more flexibility in the way you write your contracts and collaborate with suppliers.
And the last one—and I say this again and again to every person that we do implementations with—is you have to have acontinuous optimization mindset because your business is not going to be static. Your products are going to evolve faster than you can imagine. You're going to have different levels of competition. If someone were to have told me 15 years ago that General Motors is really a technology company, I would have said "What?!?" But if you look at their contracts, whether it's self-driving cars or licensing technology from Google or whoever, they're really in the business of technology. And so the whole notion of continuous optimization is critical.
If you think about Icertis, for example, one of the interesting things is the platform is modular. You can add and bolt on—you can add an AI module if you want. So, you're already thinking five years ahead of where the rest of the world will follow.
3.The Go-Live Is Just the Beginning
Anne: What is one contracting tip you wish every person knew?
Teju: Plan for the implementation. Bear with me on this one: I liken software purchases to buying a house. What people really don't pay attention to is: How do I get ready? When we moved from the Bay Area to Chicago, we moved with very little readiness. And by the time we got our boxes unpacked, we realized we had a garbage can full of garbage still packed nicely in bubble wrap that we opened five years later. So if you don't take the time to be ready, you have data and contracts that are 10 years old that you're never going to open that come along as part of your legacy loads.
Where things drop off is after the big bang. Implementation Go Live seems to be the event. And then the people who had sponsored the event get promoted, have other jobs, move on—and six months later, there's no real governance around adoption. Who in the company is responsible for adoption success? Legal operations, sales ops, maybe IT? So if I were to give people a contracting tip: Who is responsible for the care and feeding of a very, very important investment you've made? Your employees have application fatigue, so help them make it easy to use the tech that is so valuable.
4. It's All About Data Management
Anne: What do you think people would be surprised to know about contracting?
Teju: I still think data management continues to be a problem. There's a lot of expectation from AI that somehow it's a one-button magical answer to our data problems, but you'll always need to standardize data across the enterprise—to have a unified view about what contract risk means and what your core metadata or attributes mean for the entire company. It shouldn't be surprising, but it is—data and analytics continue to be an ongoing challenge. And again, my house analogy: You lose your mind if you cannot find stuff. And that happens if you don't have a method to the madness.
Anne and Teju wrapped up this episode with some personal reflection:
- her love of road trips ("In my childhood, we did a lot of road trips in India … I loved the experience of going through tiny villages and temples, and beaches that were unspoiled");
- the few remaining U.S. states she and her family need to cross off their list ("We're trying to find a way to get to Oklahoma … That's one of the middle states we are stuck with");
- and the inspiration she found in the past year of COVID response ("As humans, we persevered, we innovated … the resilience of who we are, and the human spirit, is what inspires me to say, ‘We can adapt, we can change, we can pivot and we'll come out ahead.' ")