This item was originally published by Corporate Counsel Business Journal.
Keep these 10 key requirements in mind when selecting a CLM solution for your organization.
CCBJ: Please give us a brief overview of the 2020 Wolters Kluwer Future Ready Lawyer Survey. What was your goal in conducting this survey?
Lee Matthews: The market for contract lifecycle management (CLM) solutions is a busy one. There are so many options out there that it can be difficult to understand how companies and their product offerings are differentiated and which will best meet your needs. There are a few things you can look for, however, to ensure that your company chooses a CLM tool that will work well for your organization. When beginning your search, keep these requirements in mind to achieve the best end result. I would also recommend including each of these in your CLM solution request for proposal.
1. Full Microsoft Office Suite integration: For most employees involved with contract management at most companies, the Microsoft Office Suite is the base of operations from which they run their workday. Therefore, its integration into the contract editing process is a key part of driving the user adoption and efficiency of a new technology. Many vendors leverage plug-ins as a form of integration, but plug-ins come with limitations. Choosing a solution with native Word integration means you can expect full formatting freedom, tracked changes, redlining, full language support, and clause version control.
2. Integrated clause library: CLM solutions that rely on templates create the need for manual processes and introduce version control and compliance challenges. Look for a clause library that offers automation and dynamic contract assembly to ease clause maintenance, as well as contract initiation and assembly.
3. Full-scale workflow automation support: You should not have to change your processes to conform to a new CLM solution. Rather, your solution should have the flexibility to support a wide variety of automated workflows. Robust solutions support simple serial workflows, as well as parallel workflows that allow multiple people to work on a contract at the same time. It is also important that your solution support ad hoc workflows that can be customized on the fly in nonstandard situations.
4. Rule-based, integrated workflow engine: The engine that drives those flexible workflows should be rule-based and dynamic to ensure that your organization doesn’t need to intervene in your CLM processes. This workflow engine should enforce role-based security, along with your defined business policies. It should support both buy-side and sell-side workflows, even if you don’t plan to use both initially. This will ensure that even as your organization and processes evolve, the solution will be able to support all of your contracts.
5. Powerful metadata: Metadata about key contract attributes such as expiration date or signed date, gives you the accuracy you need to correctly drive all stages of the contract lifecycle. Configurability of metadata is critical. Your CLM solution needs to support the capture of any data that is imperative to your business. The gathering of metadata should be fully automated and should incorporate machine learning for best results.
6. A comprehensive and searchable central repository: The user experience of your chosen solution will be strongly impacted by the structure and searchability of the contract repository. First, it should allow for parent-child relationships between contracts and their subcontracts. It should also track related data, such as email correspondence, team members, and audit logs. Second, the search function should include both metadata and language within your contracts themselves. There should also be drill-down capabilities to allow users to find the precise information they need quickly and easily.
7. Actionable alerts and reporting: The alerts and reports provided by your CLM tool are the direct link to ensuring that your team can easily stay up to date on the status of your contracts and help keep you on track with respect to obligation management. Your solution should, for example, automatically identify obligations and provide reminders of them to the correct parties. Reports should offer clear visibility into all aspects of the contracting process, including any bottlenecks, and they should be easy to understand, with simple visual representations of key performance indicators.
8. Time to go-live: A well-executed and rapid implementation will speed your organization toward your return on investment. Look for a solution that works for you out of the box without the need for extensive customizations. Ask vendors for examples of the timing of key milestones and for references with similar needs and circumstances as yours.
9. Ease of workflow adjustments: Even after implementation, it’s important that your CLM solution doesn’t depend on customization to meet your needs. Workflow and process changes should be simple to execute over time as your way of working and organizational needs change. Custom code changes lead to longer-term projects and greater disruptions to your business.
10. A simple, intuitive interface: You need to know that your solution provider doesn’t think that their work is finished once you go live. A quality vendor will offer support and ongoing guidance without the need for constant professional services fees. Ask about each vendor’s plans for the product and the company as a whole. In addition, look closely at the user interaction interface; a simple and intuitive interface will require less training and support for your users.
When you find a solution provider that meets the above needs, along with any other business-specific requirements you may have, you’ll know that they are worthy of a closer look. By keeping these requirements in mind from day one of your search, you’ll put your organization on the path to CLM operations that help meet your business goals. For more detail on the importance of these requirements, download the free eBook: Top 10 Contract Lifecycle Management Requirements to Include in Your Next RFP.