Thinking Big, Starting Smart: New Report Lays Out the Keys to a Great CLM Implementation

When it comes to CLM implementation, companies should lay the groundwork for enterprise-wide CLM while working toward quick wins that maximize effectiveness and user adoption. 

By Bernadette Bulacan

In this period of economic uncertainty, one of the best ways for organizations to forge a strong path forward is by creating a single source of truth for all contracts. Technology can be a powerful ally in this process, providing tools businesses can use to unearth savings, drive revenue, and automate formerly manual processes, including contract creation and negotiation.

The need for contract lifecycle management (CLM) solutions and services is growing rapidly amidst continuous market disruptions. As organizations begin to work toward selecting a vendor, their approach to implementation will ultimately determine their success and user adoption.

The Right Approach to Implementation

There is a growing consensus that the CLM technology ideal is to have a single contract management system spanning the entire enterprise. When software enables teams across the organization to work in the same environment, companies gain maximum value from each document.

However, enterprise technology implementations don’t happen overnight. Approached as a single, “big bang” project, enterprise-wide CLM projects risk losing momentum with stakeholders as they wait for value to be realized.

Rather, companies should lay the groundwork for enterprise-wide CLM while working toward quick wins that maximize effectiveness and user adoption. A new report from Gartner®, “Critical Capabilities for Contract Life Cycle Management,” frames the dynamic this way: “While enterprise-wide, full-contract-life-cycle digitization is the primary trend, it may take multiple years to fully adopt a solution at that level.” The analysts also note: “It is okay to prioritize specific processes or stakeholder groups incrementally rather than through an enterprise-wide, full-life-cycle implementation.”

The question then becomes: How can an organization put itself on a path to enterprise-wide CLM without waiting years to see value?

The key is to choose a solution that is ready to go big when you are and supports your organization at every stage along the way.

Think Big, Start Smart

An incremental approach to CLM can deliver immediate results without forcing stakeholders to give up their most ambitious visions for CLM.

In other words, starting “smart” should not be confused with starting “small.” Rather, it’s all about approaching an 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 quick wins, including:

  • Building credibility and confidence for the deployment team
  • Creating vocal champions in strategic stakeholders and users
  • And developing learnings to apply as you leave one phase and enter a new one, even smarter and faster than before

But Where to Begin?

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.

Dividing CLM implementation into stages also allows organizations to set critical milestones while looking ahead to their ultimate goals. Identifying priorities, like an agreement type or a specific department’s operations, gives you a solid foundation for growth.

Case Study: Phased Implementation in Action

To better understand what a “think big, start smart” implementation looks like, consider one Icertis biotechnology customer.

This organization has operations across the world and chose the Icertis platform for its ability to handle its enterprise-wide contracting needs.

However, while enterprise-wide was the ultimate goal, the implementation team started its rollout by consulting with internal stakeholders to fully assess needs, asking questions like:

  • How would the clinical trials team get the most from contract intelligence?
  • What did the compliance team need?
  • And how would Icertis help the marketing team?

In the end, after discussion and analysis, the organization agreed that the needs of their clinical trials team were the highest priority.

Team members were instrumental when it came to designing requirements, which also ensured they were fully prepared for integration. The company’s systematic approach allowed them to evaluate the most pressing concerns while accounting for future priorities. Then they broke their deployment into stages, each stage acting as a gate that expanded from one agreement to the next.

This organization saw immediate benefits from its phased approach. Not only were they able to create supplier contracts much more rapidly, but the contract insights they gained allowed them to respond much more quickly to informational requests from regulatory bodies. The stakeholders involved, who saw their priorities carefully assessed, became champions of change.

The company’s thoughtful and systemic approach to CLM implementation benefited the entire organization. These wins set the stage for rollouts to other areas of the business, putting them on the path to true enterprise-wide contract intelligence.


While selecting an enterprise-wide solution may seem difficult and its implementation might appear daunting, a phased approach breaks the endeavour into manageable pieces. Although a phased approach delivers incremental progress, it will help your solution deliver both feedback and careful scaling by specific agreement, department, or team, ensuring the overall results accrue to the entire organization. Aided by a qualified and capable partner, teams can achieve quick wins according to their unique needs as they implement their CLM solution.

For more information about how CLM can help your enterprise improve compliance and increase negotiation and approval times, download the most recent Gartner® report today.

Download the Report

Gartner, Critical Capabilities for Contract Life Cycle Management, 17 October 2022, By Kaitlynn Sommers, Patrick Connaughton, Micky Keck 

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