3 Steps for a Legal Department’s Successful Transition to a Digital CLM Solution

For some corporate functions, the transformation to digital has been relatively quick and seamless. Legal departments are probably the first to admit that they don’t fall into this category, with their known (and infamous) tendencies to cling to outdated processes and systems. Ultimately, the failure to digitize repetitive, manual, workflows, such as those involved in contracts management delays launches and deals, costs organizations money—and, let’s face it, often doesn’t earn huge popularity points within your enterprise. Fortunately, implementing a contract lifecycle solution (CLM) can have a relatively big impact on both law departments and the business they support. 

A recent webinar within our Foundations of CLM Success Series makes the case for modernization—converting legal departments with more reactive tendencies into proactive, strategic ones. What follows are some initial steps that support a successful transformation. 

1. Lay the foundation

If you decide to implement a new CLM, choosing the right one depends on your specific pain points. How complex will each task be? What’s an ideal turnaround time for specific deliverables—and is that achievable, given the complexity of the process  or ask? What is the ultimate value of the work to the greater team (to both legal and your business partners)? For example, is it a key objective to reduce spend and increase efficiency? Or is avoiding risk and meeting compliance the central focal point? Does your company have mature enough processes to benefit from a more advanced, complex system, or do you need basic triaging and templates to capture early wins? These factors and more are important for determining how technology and digitization can ease your biggest business pains.

For example, in Docusign’s 2019 State of Contract Management Report, 33% of surveyed executives estimated it typically takes over 30 hours to negotiate a contract—due in part to unclear or inconsistent policy. Without fine tuning the processes or policies that contribute to delays, your company will not capture efficiency gains, simply by adding a new CLM. Once that policy is finetuned, the CLM expedites the journey through the deal cycle.  

Once you’ve determined where your most immediate needs are and what an optimized workflow looks like, you can choose the CLM that will help you eliminate or reduce barriers—and expedite your processes. 

2. Get cross functional engagement with your CLM

A solid CLM integrates disparate contract-related tasks onto a centralized platform, which enables legal departments to effortlessly sync with operations, product, sales, IT and other enterprise functions. This results in quicker agreements—and faster go-to-market, lowering risk and increasing customer satisfaction. 

What’s more, form generation capabilities can furnish other departments with newfound levels of self-service, with guardrails from legal, while reducing the endless back-and-forth. Plus, AI capabilities ease search, provide real-time analytics, enable clause extraction and add other functions that expedite workflow and provide much-needed stakeholder transparency. 

A gold standard CLM implementation team includes representatives from legal and IT, along with the business units the solution will ultimately support (sales, procurement, real estate, finance, HR, etc). Legal and IT teams are uniquely positioned to capture lessons learned from an initial product phase and leverage that growth across deployment with other lines of the business.

3. No time like the present

According to the 2019 Gartner Legal and Compliance Automation Study, business leaders’ number-one priority is to increase speed of delivery from legal departments. Companies are under pressure to do more with less—and faster, too. 

Change is inevitable—and it will be here before you know it, whether you welcome it or not. It’s clearly best if your legal ops division is actively driving that transition, instead of being compelled into a solution as a matter of industry eventuality. That way, you can proactively land on the solutions that fit your organization best. 

Nor will most transformational products solve all issues and relieve all bottlenecks right out of the box. Instead, expect a phased implementation to take about three years—beginning with a small, well-defined project featuring easily identifiable pain points. Once you’ve mastered your workflow with a solid pilot, you can use the CLM solution to address another pain point, and then another, until all of your department’s processes are fully digitized, and acting in lock step with your departmental counterparts. 

It’s a careful and deliberate process, focused on change management and iteration of the solution, but one that yields dividends when the rest of your organization stops viewing legal as a cost center—and starts regarding it as a valuable asset able to speed up time to revenue and deliver on a great customer experience. 

Brave new world

Transforming how your legal department manages the contracts lifecycle sounds like a daunting task, but the returns from even your initial steps will be immediate and felt company wide. Chances are, supported by appropriate change management, the outcomes achieved by automating processes, supported by modern tech solutions will win over even your most change resistant team members. At its best, CLM solutions help lawyers do better work and hastens the speed of business. 

Learn more about Docusign solutions for legal departments.