Contract Management Systems: 5 Best Practices for the Enterprise

You've implemented an enterprise contract management solution. Now, you’re looking forward to reaping the benefits: standardized contract processes, greater efficiency and a significant reduction in errors and risk exposure. But just because you’ve automated your contract processes, doesn’t mean your work is fully done. You also want to make sure you get the most ongoing value.  

With continuous program oversight, support and a focus on end user adoption, your new contract management system will continue to deliver business outcomes for your company, in ways that will be amplified over time.

Here are five contract management best practices to make sure you obtain maximum value from your new CLM solution.

1. Institute frontline support. As we noted in 8 Best Practices for Implementing Contract Management Systems, support is crucial for success. The same applies after go-live. Most organizations find that transitioning members of the implementation team into the ongoing support team provides seamless continuity‚ and prevents knowledge gaps. 

The IT department is often best positioned to provide day-to-day technical support, onboarding new users and working with people throughout the organization to optimize solutions by department, role or task. To take things one step further, a dedicated IT task force can perform precise triage: deciding which issues are new (vs. ongoing), which involve technology (vs. training), which require solution enhancements and exactly when to escalate. 

It’s important to set up a feedback mechanism to learn how the solution can evolve to meet (shifting) user needs. In this way, you gain a continuous feedback loop—and can forward concerns to your dedicated team, which is best equipped to remedy them. 

In one recent case, the steady stream of feedback during roll-out enabled a global organization to constantly optimize its new contract management system, and, within a relatively short period of time, automate 100% of the data used to populate an agreement (with both general defined terms and scenario specific language). A process that used to take hours, if not days, was completely automated so that now all it takes is the simple click of a button.

2. Provide ongoing training and enablement. As with any new technology, contract management training and enablement exponentially increases adoption and usage. They are the cornerstone for operationalizing contract processes, managing support inquiries and enhancing your CLM solution as your business needs evolve. Training is the first leg, helping users learn the new software solution. Enablement goes even deeper, providing customized support based on each user’s specific role and the context of CLM within their processes.

Ownership of training and enablement can vary: for some organizations, it may be part of the learning & development function. For other organizations, it may be owned by IT. For still others, it might fall under sales, legal or procurement. 

Whichever department owns training, it will need to make a host of decisions. For instance, who will create and maintain the training materials? What format will learning take? Will training be in-person, virtual or self-paced? Where will the materials reside: in the cloud, in print or elsewhere? How will training be rolled out—by department, levels or geographies? Leading contract management solution vendors will offer self-paced learning resources to support the ongoing need to develop new skills and product knowledge, and support learners at all levels.

3. Delineate access—and guard sensitivities. Your contracts are highly sensitive legal documents. From pricing data to specific terms to intellectual property references, they contain myriad details that should not be seen by everyone. Modern organizations want to make sure that access is available to those who need it without having to overcome hurdles, such as making as-needed requests. Access delays are avoided when security or access permission policies are instituted as part of the CLM system implementation. In putting together your CLM roadmap, be clear about who needs access—and what level of access is required by role. 

4. Monitor metrics. In our article about contract management implementation, we discussed defining success KPIs. But KPIs can’t simply be set, then left untended. As your contract management system gains adoption and increases usage, KPIs will identify areas that can be further optimized, and areas in which applications can be expanded. For instance, if you target x hours (or days) as the cycle time for a certain process, and are meeting or exceeding that target, you have a proof point that substantiates roll-out to other business units. 

Case in point: by automating legal contract management, a global logistics provider reduced the time spent on contract approval by stakeholders from nine weeks to two days. Armed with this process knowledge—and impressive outcomes—the company sought other areas to apply the software. 

In another example, a company noticed that a clause in the contract was changing more than the targeted percentage of times. The KPI was a clear indication that the standard clause language needed to be revised to something more agreeable. Once the change was made, the company significantly reduced the amount of time needed for negotiation and speeded time to signature. 

5. Leverage your success resources. While CLM implementation and ongoing operations are transformative, generally, they are also complex. This last best practice is also the most earnest: engage with your CLM vendor’s customer success team. This team exists solely to offer hands-on help. By leveraging this team’s expertise, you open a direct line to tips and perspectives gained from successful implementations across hundreds of customers. What does that mean in tangible terms? It means de-risking your deployment and raising positive outcomes throughout your organization.

Contract management systems can have a profound effect on how your organization operates. A digital contract transformation powers business innovation, strengthens relationships and gives time back to employees for higher level work. These are the factors you look for in solutions to help you grow.

To learn more about contract management best practices, check Docusign CLM.