Are we ready for techno-contracting?

In the last decade, advances in technology have significantly changed our lives, from our homes to our businesses. Techno-contracting – the use of AI, machine learning or blockchain – will change the way businesses write, create, review, negotiate and sign business deals.

2020 saw a massive increase in the use of e-signing platforms with some law firms reporting a 9000% increase from March to December. Admittedly, this was largely driven by external factors arising from the pandemic – restrictions on meeting, working from home and no access to business-quality printing.

But are we ready for these changes?


My 2020 survey asked more than 50 respondents across the globe and different sectors to consider various issues on digital-first contracting.

Only 30% were confident what their business had the skills and resources to respond to the impact of technology on business deals. Nearly 45% were not at all confident.

What is driving this lack of confidence? Perhaps it is some of these barriers that respondents identified…


The key barriers, that might prevent their business from adopting new technology and responding to change, were three-fold:

  1. Skills, knowledge or expertise – their lack within the business (70%)
  2. Software/hardware – lack of affordability (43%)
  3. Emotional – fear or inertia (37%)

Some respondents noted that their business did not believe it needed to invest in new technology (I suspect 2020/2021 has changed this view) and in some regions the local infrastructure is insufficient as their existing technology runs too slow!

We clearly have a skills and resources gap that needs to be resolved before we can make the most of the technology. The risk is that this is considered the role of a tech team and becomes side-lined from mainstream business operations. But ‘doing deals’ is core to business survival, so we must make sure everyone understands how to use these processes efficiently.

Investing in new technology is tricky – how many companies invested in systems which later became obsolete? Who is the right person to trust to explain the options? How many people have even tested more than one platform? We need technology consultants who understand the needs of users and the wide range of tools that can help.


As we move to a digital-first society – where online and automated processes become the norm – I asked to what extent did the respondents think this will impact on the way their business writes, creates, reviews, negotiates and signs business deals in the next five years?

The impact was mostly considered as:

  • massive: with every aspect from creating and negotiating to signing and exchanging moving online; or
  • significant: where most of what is done ‘offline’now will move to a digital approach.

My experience is that hard copy documents are bad tools – impossible to interrogate, often lost/incorrectly stored and rarely read. However, one-fifth of my respondents felt that while some aspects would move online there will still be a need for paper-based hard copy documents.

Two respondents (from smaller companies) said that we would come to realise that hard copy is still the best approach. Surely the pandemic has taught us how hard it is to review a contract that is locked in an office miles from where the users are?

The pandemic has accelerated the move to digital-first business, and this is a genie which will be hard to put back into its bottle (or filing cabinet).

What should you do?

The options, as with all technology, are to adapt at a pace that suits your business – whether you are an early adopter or a laggard. In a world that is currently facing monumental changes in business working practices, implementing new systems with a remote workforce may not be practical or sensible.

As Lucy Bassli recommends, start where you are. Decide what you want to achieve and investigate whether your existing systems can work better for you. Only once you have clearly identified a need, the best strategy to resolve it and the skills and enthusiasm to embed it, should you think about major programmes of change and investment.

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