What You Need To Know Before Implementing a CLM Software Solution

You’ve realized you need a Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) solution. You’ve also made the decision whether to build your own solution or buy from a CLM vendor. The benefits you’ll see are clear: complete and meaningful insight into contract data, increased ability to collaborate, time and cost savings, and better decision making through reduced risk. However, the path to reach these benefits can be less clear. The “best” way forward differs by company, of course, but a lot can be learned from those who have faced similar challenges.

In a recent webinar entitled “Ask The Expert – Key learnings from contract lifecycle management software implementations” presented by IACCM, Paul Branch of BT and Tom Haman of W.W. Granger, Inc. gave insight into their own diverse experiences implementing CLM tools in their respective organizations. As both underwent unique CLM implementations, differing in scope and scale, we find their combined perspective particularly helpful for those on the brink of embarking on their own CLM implementation project.

In the webinar, they named 10 things you need to do when embarking on a CLM software project. We’ve boiled it down to the four we feel are most important and added our perspective.

Ensure executive sponsorship

This means assembling a small team of experts and “empower[ing] them to drive the ship along” informed by a team of user representatives. As they pay the bills and drive strategy, enlisting executive support will help ensure the implementation process, from requirement-gathering to launch and beyond, progresses smoothly.

Document your system requirements (your “blueprint”)

Identify the must-haves for your CLM system. We believe this is one of the most difficult parts of planning a CLM implementation because it is so important and there are so many stakeholder interests to take into account.

Remember to insist upon an intuitive end user experience. We have had many clients approach us because their end users would not use the previous CLM solution they had put in place. The tool should save time and smooth out complexities, not obscure matters further.

If you’re using a CLM vendor, leverage their expertise – they are most likely a rich source of best practices and their informed perspective and experience could help shake up some of your tired contract management practices. If they are worth their salt, the vendor will be able to suggest tried-and-true solutions and methods that speak directly to your unique needs.

Don’t do it all at once

According to the speakers, if you want everything to work all at once, it will take so long that it will no longer be relevant at the time of deployment. They suggest rolling things out incrementally by functionality and/or department. Starting with and perfecting Document Assembly and adding Contract Management functionality later could be one way to ease the transition to CLM software. In the words of the speakers, “do one thing and do it really well at the start.”

While we tend to agree that it takes time to plan, test and implement, we believe there are ways to handle a single large-scale implementation, though this will inevitably require lots of hands-on effort at time of launch.

Develop an internal communication plan

This one is common sense, but it can easily be overlooked or under-emphasized. When readying to deploy a CLM system – or any major change in practice, for that matter – it’s essential that the end users are not only familiar with the idea that change is coming, but that they are excited about it. “Put on your marketing hat” and “put yourself in the shoes of the end user,” advise the speakers. Really sell the solution so that the buzz generated guarantees enthusiastic adoption. This could be achieved by offering the solution only to a select few; if the solution works well, their enthusiasm will generate organic demand.

This also carries over into robust training for end users both for before and after implementation; you should plan a training program and a manageable (read: not 300 pages) reference guide. And remember, new issues will arise as users explore the tool. If the communication pathways are open and clear, it will be that much easier to resolve inevitable issues and perfect your CLM solution.

If you’ve undergone a CLM software implementation, we’d be curious to hear about your experiences.

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