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Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) is often caught in cross-functional turf wars. Consequently, many find that the system in place is not the hoped-for “silver bullet,” especially as unmet requirements surface across the organization. Moreover, the benefits documented in the CLM business case may always seem just beyond reach, especially as phased roll-outs stall amidst frustration and disappointment that what was pitched by the vendor turned out to be more difficult to actualize than it seemed. 

Here is some practical advice on how to pull a CLM implementation out of the muck and redeem the investment value, gleaned from a recent webcast featuring Daniel Lee, Director of Legal Technology & Analytics at DaVita, Jonathan Johnson-Swagel, Senior Legal and Business Operations Manager for Uber, and Laura Barrios Griffin, Vice President and Corporate Counsel with Edwards Lifesciences – all of whom inherited a CLM that was selected and implemented by someone else.

Assess your Current Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) tool and status

If you're taking over a CLM roll-out mid-flight or are tasked with implementing one (and switching tools is not an option), the best way to start is to assess your current state: 

  1. Review the current tool and what exactly it does (and doesn’t do – but could).
  2. Find out who is using it and precisely how they are using it.
  3. Find the right stakeholders and meet with them to determine their needs and challenges. (Hint: The “right” stakeholders might include detractors as well as champions – and be drawn from other functions.)
  4. Consider how much application switching occurs as users work around deficiencies or manually bridge gaps between tools used by other teams or functions.

Define your (revised) strategy to improve your CLM processes

Once you’ve reviewed what you have, you can pinpoint what you need and chart a path to strong adoption. 

  1. Prioritize among contracting capabilities you want to enhance – e.g., managing risk, improving velocity, better-leveraging resources, etc.
  2. Understand what playbooks and templates are in place and use internal feedback and data to determine how to improve the application of these important policy devices
  3. Decide which adjacent systems to connect to and in what order, considering that strong integrations are key to making a CLM effective enterprise-wide. Before integrating, make a concrete plan to improve processes globally, involving other functions.
  4. Reconsider your staffing model. For example, if adoption has been a challenge across the department, one approach could be to create a center of excellence (COE) for certain contract types, and focus your adoption efforts on those core users.
  5. (Re)introduce training, try targeted approaches such as with certain practice groups, or focus on specific challenges or high-priority improvements.
“Sending out a survey to users and stakeholders as part of your assessment process can help identify pain points in your technology.”

- Laura Barrios Griffin, Vice President and Corporate Counsel with Edwards Lifesciences

Ongoing engagement to drive continuous improvement

Remember that you’ll need to be agile and flexible as new demands and opinions crystalize. You will need to involve stakeholders from different business groups, geographic regions and more, as they all have different needs: 

“This is a people process, getting the right people in the room…. across Legal, IT, Procurement, Global sourcing, Engineering, Vendor Management”

 - Jonathan Johnson-Swagel, Senior Legal and Business Operations Manager, Uber

  1. Start small and build on your “wins.” For example, tackle one geographic region to demonstrate what success looks like for other areas. Or find a small fix, like automating NDAs. Build upon that momentum.
  2. Listen to your power users and learn from their techniques. Garner feedback from your center of excellence
  3. Be sure to communicate using terms that all teams. understand, making sure that moving forward is an open and transparent process and that pain points are addressed.
  4. At every stage, confirm understanding, acceptance, and adoption of the desired changes.

Build a better relationship with the vendor(s) 

Behind every CLM tool is the vendor that created it and perhaps also a professional services team that your company engaged to support the implementation. When you start on this optimization process, make sure to build a strong, sustainable relationship so you can leverage vendors’ expertise. 

  1. Review what you purchased (if legacy) and the vendor Account Management
  2. Get information from the vendor about product updates and upgrades. Be sure to share the information with IT.
  3. Don’t assume the original design or decisions are still valid
  4. Propose a “test case” with the vendor to get access to new/beta features and offer to help them by providing feedback. That way, you can influence the product development trajectory.
  5. Obtain additional training from the vendor, perhaps taking a phased approach to move from improvement to improvement.

"Ask questions rather than make demands. Develop mutual trust by avoiding blame and showing respect."

 - Daniel Lee, Director of Legal Technology & Analytics, DaVita

Refine as your journey continues

As you bring your team along, demands and resources will likely grow and change as your contracting operations mature. Remember to keep redefining your strategy as you gain experience and take on more feedback. Quarterly and annual progress reviews against clear milestones and KPIs and making course corrections will help ensure that your core objectives are met. 


Region: Global
The information in any resource collected in this virtual library should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on specific facts and should not be considered representative of the views of its authors, its sponsors, and/or ACC. These resources are not intended as a definitive statement on the subject addressed. Rather, they are intended to serve as a tool providing practical advice and references for the busy in-house practitioner and other readers.