How to implement digital contracting

Do we set small comfortable objectives in relation to our contracting process and then execute them in a small way? Are you more excited by contract evolution than contract revolution?

If you want to stay small, or avoid failure, then don’t start a contract lifecycle management (CLM) process. But if we want contracts that are easy to use to gather data, then we need to digitise the contract process.

At the World Commerce and Contracting EMEA Summit 2022, Syke estimated that 35% of CLM projects fail. How can you avoid falling prey to the shiny software being peddled by CLM providers… what do you need for success?

Syke proposed three key steps:

  1. Set your objective: you will need a clearly defined success measure, which overarches the project. All decisions taken should take you closer to that objective. If the system is not meeting that objective you need to intervene quickly (test & iterate). Ask yourself and your team Why are we bothering? Where are the challenges in our current process? Create a project charter defining your requirements including trade-offs and priorities, technical dependencies, and the wider business landscape.
  2. Simplify your content: you need to consider how your documents are going to be drafted, negotiated, approved, signed, stored, managed and accessed. You also need to be clear how you are going to report on them and what information you will need on an ongoing basis. According to Alistair Maiden, virtually no organisations have templates that are up to scratch – many of them are very embarrassed by their templates – and none can explain how their processes work in practice. “Organisations don’t think about their contract templates as assets worth investing in.”
  3. Treat adoption seriously: in a poorly designed and poorly implemented CLM platform, people don’t use it… so the data quality reduces, reports are incomplete and people lose confidence. “It’s got to make people’s lives easier.” So you need to get clear on user journeys and user-experience from the start. Any platform you choose or create must be intuitive, easy to remember & easy to navigate. Don’t forget that you should consider the needs of and involve everyone – from those who create contracts by phone to the legal team carrying out complex B2B negotiations.

What should you do?

Digital contracting is not the soft option.

Before searching for a CLM platform, decide what your success measure is, simplify your content and understand your existing processes – as they are, not as you think they should be!

In my view (not just Syke’s), simplifying your templates is a pre-requisite to successful contract lifecycle management.

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