Legal Ops Experts Weigh in on Successful Contract Management Implementation and Adoption

Using a contract lifecycle management (CLM) system is transformative: a survey of Docusign customers showed a 97% improvement in data accuracy and completion following adoption, as well as a 90% improvement in processing productivity. Sounds good, yes? But, according to a recent Gartner analysis, 50% of first-time CLM deployments will fail by 2023. Being more than halfway through the year, we asked the experts: “What’s the difference between a successful contract lifecycle management adoption and a costly disappointment?”

Docusign sat down with our customer experts at a roundtable discussion at the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC)’s 2023 Global Institute. Participants included Jonathan Johnson-Swagel, Senior Legal and Business Operations Manager at Uber; Julian Tsisin, Director, Global Legal and Compliance Technology at Meta; and Nicki Martin, Senior Director of Contract Management at Ciena.

Whether you’re looking to decrease the high overhead costs that accompany massive contract volume, search contracts to identify data that can lead to improved operations and mitigated risk, or integrate your contract management solution with other systems of record, these legal operations experts offer key points for your roadmap to successful contract management implementation and ongoing adoption.

Issue #1: Achieving visibility and interconnection

Many companies initiate their digital CLM implementation journey because of frustration over their static, disconnected and non-searchable systems. Nicki’s experience implementing Docusign CLM at Ciena showed her that it’s possible to eliminate these barriers and develop transparent processes and results using a single platform for contract management. 

“We can now look at what’s closing and in progress across all regions,” said Nicki. “We can even see who's signing it and who’s viewing it.”

Visibility frees up teams like Nicki’s to work on more meaningful work, rather than spending hours combing through agreements.

“We’re just scratching the surface of what a CLM can do for us,” said Nicki. “We want to be able to set up these self-service models for our business partners so that the legal team can step back from more transactional work and focus on higher value, more complex work.”

Issue #2: Seeing around the curve

Many large companies face issues with contracts distributed across a multitude of repositories causing a lack of search functionality. Full visibility is necessary to see “around the curve” of performance and market forces. Jonathan supports a team at Uber that needed this foresight, and, by implementing Docusign CLM, they were able to gain it.

“It gives us a glimpse into the future,” said Jonathan. “This allows global legal teams to plan better based on historical knowledge.”

With an API-driven, data dashboard integrated with their Docusign CLM system, Jonathan’s team is now better equipped to use contract analytics to pinpoint bottlenecks in the contracting process, stay on top of trend analysis, and provide self-service templates for use around the globe.

“You can shift the view of legal from a cost center to a business partner in compliance,” said Jonathan.

Issue #3: Agreeing to terms you can manage

In his experience implementing contract AI as part of digital transformation across multiple companies, Julian has seen machine learning produce unexpected insights, and turn these into impactful business wins. He recalled one instance, early on, where inconsistencies were spotted in the terms that a field ops team was agreeing to around notification around data breaches, without knowledge of legal operations or information security.

“That was a big win,” said Julian, “and that's when I think people started to believe that we can deliver a lot of value with this tool.”

Julian noted that implementing a tailored, AI-driven, contract analysis initiative takes effort, but you can achieve early wins with out-of-the box data models, which he considers “table stakes.”  “They may not be tuned specifically for your contracts, but you’ll still see some good results.”

“I'm very bullish on what AI can do for the legal space,” said Julian.

Three tips for legal operations to manage digital transformation of contract management

Concurring on the value of CLM and contract AI, all three experts also agreed on key points when it comes to contract management implementation and adoption. 

Understand your processes during the design and build stage

To make the most of the design and build stage, it’s essential to have a deep understanding of both your current workflows and what you want from your future-self.

“I wish we’d understood more about the system before we did design and build,” said Nicki. “Whatever technology we adopt, the processes themselves don't change.”

Detailed documentation of the existing process should be your starting point, and everyone involved should know and agree on what needs improvement—not least to avoid problems down the line.

"Take the time to map out ideal processes during the initial implementation," advises Jonathan. "This avoids the hassle of going back and reworking things later. The truth is that no implementation is perfect, so don't let the occasional misstep hold you back from making quick progress and continuously improving your approach."

Educate stakeholders and users

Getting buy-in from all levels of the company hierarchy, from leadership to admins, is one of the most important things you can do in implementing a new contract management system.

“We need to get educated and manage expectations,” said Julian, specifically discussing the hype around AI solutions and the tendency to see them as a magic bullet for problems a company faces. “We talk a lot about tech and AI, but nothing works without people and processes.”

There are also issues of perception to consider. Legal is often seen as a source of costs for the company. By engaging with other groups, you can shift that perception, and build confidence that the legal team is a trusted partner to sales, HR, compliance, and other areas within your company.

Jonathan emphasized that, “ensuring contracts are in a centralized, easy-to-search location is everybody’s job. It extends beyond the legal department; if anyone within the ecosystem is noncompliant, the entire company could face consequences and headaches.”

Look from implementation to adoption

All agreed that the process is not one-and-done. Implementation is only the first step in an ongoing process of adoption that may require continued fine-tuning.

“Don’t get discouraged when the tool is not perfect,” said Julian, emphasizing the importance of continual improvement and development. “We’re okay with humans not being perfect, but we’re not okay with technology not being perfect.”

As users interact with the contract management solution, they’ll find there are things they want that aren’t currently in place, and you should be prepared to take their desires into account to spur long-term adoption.

“It’s an intuitive process,” said Nicki. “They say they want the minimally viable product, but really they want everything. You have to be able to iterate and evolve.”

Legal ops as leaders in contract management transformations

Along with being expert eyes on expediting contracting processes, legal ops teams can help their organizations lower contract costs, and use data in contracts to improve operations and mitigate risk. In leading the implementation and adoption of an integrated contract management solution, legal can actively help to drive value across a company.

CLM is a key tool for better contracting processes. In 2022, Docusign was named a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Contract Lifecycle Management. As Gartner and these legal experts found, with integrations for front and back-end processes, AI capabilities, and a fast path to value, Docusign CLM helps to digitally transform business.

Learn more about Docusign CLM.