August 26, 2014

The Contract Shield: How the Management of your Contract Portfolio Protects - or Exposes - your Business



Contracts contain a wealth of information that tell you what is going on in your business. When properly drafted, negotiated and managed, they also defend your business against risks such as liability, being underpaid or overcharged, and a wide variety of the unknown and unforeseen. In short, contracts protect against risk by giving you the information you need both on an everyday basis and in times of crisis, when speed, decisiveness and certainty are key.
And, just like the battleground shields of yesteryear, the amount of protection your shield provides depends on its construction. Where your contracts or contract data are not able to be easily drafted, negotiated, perused, approved, located, attached to triggers, organized, understood, re-purposed or analyzed, your contract portfolio shield may leave you vulnerable to risk.

Let’s look at the different ways the management of your contract portfolio might be creating unwanted exposure by exploring some different issues with your shield.

FULL OF HOLES:

If – like a sizable percentage of legal departments – you do not currently store contracts in a central, searchable repository, your shield may be full of holes. When you don’t know what and how many contracts you have, where you have them and when they expire or renew, you are exposing yourself to risk. Some legal teams still maintain a come-what-may approach to contract management whereby each lawyer sorts and stores past drafts, contracts and personal templates in their own email folders and refers to their own “best” language when drafting new documents. This means that there is very little insight into the totality of your company’s contract profile, especially where a company’s legal team spreads over offices or countries. It also means that lawyers waste time reinventing the wheel by drafting contracts from scratch or based on non-standard templates while they could save time and effort by using company-wide, tried-and-true best practice clauses. Finally, risk is created where variations exist across negotiated terms in similar contracts, as it leaves gaps in knowledge as to where non-standard/high-risk terms exist. All parts of your business rely on the strength of your contract portfolio; in order to make investments to grow your business, your financial team must be sure of what and when revenue is coming in. A contract portfolio full of unknowns means your shield is full of holes and you are left exposed to the sword.

FLIMSY or TOO SMALL:

Your shield may be too small if you have a system for organizing your contracts but it is simply inadequate to thoroughly protect you from risk. This could be because it merely stores your contracts without offering insight into the data they contain. Or that you store contracts centrally but have no way to easily search or organize them. Another example of a flimsy shield is if you currently use a contract management system that lacks some important functionalities - such as alerts at renewal time - or cannot handle the variety or complexity of your documents. This is particularly dangerous as it gives you a false sense of security.   

UNWIELDY:

To serve any purpose at all, you have to be able to use your shield. An unwieldy shield may mean that you have a system in place for organizing contracts and contract data but it is not user-friendly. It could be that in order to draft contracts your system requires expert technical knowledge or time consuming data entry. Cumbersome systems inevitably lead to improper or insufficient use. An unwieldy shield may also result from a management system that does not produce trustworthy data. If you cannot trust the data 100%, you are unable to quickly, confidently defend yourself when the accuracy of your contract data matters most. 
In order to make the best, most informed decisions for your business, not only must your contracts be watertight, you need a contract management system that comprehensively protects you. A strong, resilient, manageable shield is one created of a coherent contract portfolio that is centrally stored and offers complete insight into and management of the lifecycles of your contracts. 

August 19, 2014

Resistance is Futile: Why General Counsel Must Embrace Technology

Time to get your head out of the sand - legal technology is here to stay and will transform your practice for the better

The legal profession is steeped in tradition and history. In fact, the law itself tends to respond to contemporary problems by looking back, and legal professionals are no different. If we should believe stereotype – and many firsthand accounts – lawyers tend to resist change tooth and nail. After all, they were bred – and are handsomely remunerated – in an age-old institution that lauds ethics and intellect, not innovation and reinvention.

A recent Law Practice Magazine article, Why Do Law Firms Resist Innovation? 10 Reasons, observes, “What passes for a radical change in a law practice—a new training program, some alternative billing, an extranet—is old hat in other markets.” As a profession that sticks to the beaten path, with a generation of young lawyers that has come to expect a few years of filing, drafting and proofing before they begin to tackle stimulating legal challenges, it is no wonder so many legal teams are hesitant to embrace legal technology.

But a general reticence to change doesn’t mean change isn’t coming. Indeed, an article published earlier this month in Law Technology Today claims a legal technology skills audit – in which legal teams will be assessed on how well they use technology to complete legal tasks – is on the way. The reason for this is clear – when considering the bottom line, taking advantage of new products in the legal sphere is a no-brainer.

Document automation and contract management, for example, would allow those document-crunching young lawyers to spend more of their time and competence on higher-value tasks. According to What Really Should Be in General Counsel's Skill Set published a few weeks ago in Law Technology News, these are among the technologies general counsels must explore in order to bring their departments into the 21st century. We couldn’t agree more.

Automation turns what were once manual, labor-intensive legal processes – such as locating a specific non-standard clause – into a simple one-click search. Document assembly software may especially suit large law firms, where the quantity and variety of contracts demand a streamlined, user-friendly approach. For general counsel of large corporations who potentially deal with thousands of contracts, software that combines document assembly with a suite of intelligent contract lifecycle management tools will prove essential in bringing the legal department up to speed with (if not light years ahead of) the rest of the company. Standard contracts can be pre-approved, so salespeople can see a contract through from beginning to end, avoiding bottlenecks in the legal department. With Contract Lifecycle Management software, not only will all of your contracts and standardized contract terms be stored in a central repository, but you will have the ability to search, receive notifications for renewals, be sure you’re sticking to negotiated terms, and analyze changes made during negotiations, among other things. Technologies like these ease the entire lifecycle of the contract, while providing invaluable insight into the nature, value and strength of the contracts upon which your business depends.

With features like this, it’s no wonder investing in legal technology is more than just a rising trend. Indeed, the abovementioned LFT article insists that “Not having the basic knowledge of the automation tools that are used or could be used in the department is a throwback to the old days…Today, as several states have made clear in their ethical rules, it borders on malpractice.” Clearly, hiding one’s head in the sand is no longer an excuse. As the rest of the corporation takes advantage of technologies providing management of and insight into information affecting the business, legal has no choice but to keep up.

August 14, 2014

Contract Negotiation On-Demand: Introducing the Exari Negotiator Ribbon

Exari's Negotiator Ribbon takes state-of-the-art negotiating and makes it even easier.



We take pride in Exari’s reputation for being responsive to the ongoing feedback we get from our clients. One of the newest features of our Intelligent Contract Management software, the Negotiator Ribbon, is the direct result of this input and represents yet another step in our mission to help organizations streamline, manage and track the lifecycle of their contracts. 

The Ribbon works in conjunction with Exari’s existing RoundTripping™ functionality, a feature of our Contract Management software designed to streamline contract negotiation by making it easy for users to compare contract versions and analyze the differences between them. 

Catering specifically to the needs of the negotiator, the Ribbon allows users to access many of the functions of Exari Contract Management software straight from the comfort of Word. Essentially, it gives clients the ability to add a new “ribbon” containing specialized, flexible action buttons to their Word Menus. When the ribbon is turned on, negotiators can view, compare, track, edit, save and efficiently manage versions of contracts – whether or not they were created within our Contract Management software or on other people’s paper – without ever leaving Word.

The Ribbon saves changes to and versions of contracts in negotiation to the Contract Management repository, where those changes are tracked and stored. It also allows users to access clause and document libraries directly from Word, further easing the negotiator’s experience. 

To learn more about the Negotiator Ribbon or any of the other Contract Management tools Exari has to offer, click here.

August 12, 2014

How Contract Data Adds Value Across Your Business



Use existing contract data to inform and strengthen all aspects of your business.




Scientia potentia est – Knowledge is power – it’s a trusted truism dating back thousands of years. In the business realm, knowledge means not merely understanding the demands of your industry and clients – it means knowing how to use the information you have to improve the overall health of your business.
Chances are your business already tracks data to improve performance and mitigate waste. For example, you probably already capture and share customer data collected by Marketing across the enterprise. We believe that the next function to embrace this trend will be Legal. 

A recent post by Inside Counsel focuses on the potential positive impacts of sharing and reusing legal data captured during the e-discovery process. The authors highlight the importance of innovating effective methods of capturing information, writing,

“A need for efficiency, cost savings and sanity has led to an organized effort to re-use data in e-discovery, recycle final work product and to drastically reduce the overall amount of data that is collected and reviewed.”

While data compiled through e-discovery may be useful, you do not have to wait for the unfortunate event of litigation to harness existing legal data. We believe this represents only the tip of the iceberg in terms of size and scope of the opportunity for legal data to add value across the enterprise. Contract data – the data that informs and reflects all aspects of your business – is where the greatest potential impact can be found.
The contracts that underlay virtually every business deal, employment agreement and supply relationship, contain valuable, measurable information that may be the most accurate and efficient way to gain knowledge into the strengths and weaknesses of your corporation. Rather than relying on time-consuming, high-cost methods of compiling data metrics, why not turn to the terms in your existing contracts?

First of all, as the authors of the Inside Counsel article point out, reusing data drives up efficiency and drives down cost. Contracts contain a wealth of information, which, if used beyond its static legal purpose, can provide vast amounts of insight across the company. Organizing and, eventually, automating contracts (essentially an elegant, refined way of recycling data) is a way to put contract data to work and a cost analysis no-brainer.

But what if you could harness the data within your contracts for purposes beyond the legal department? Could you, say, analyze contract data to more precisely target potential clients and hold on to your employees?

How can each of these departments use the data contained in your company’s contracts?

Sales & Marketing
  • Better measure salespeople’s individual performance
  • Reduce the length of time it takes to close deals
  • Analyze information about customers and their specific product and support needs
  •   Reduce pain of future negotiations by monitoring amendments and terms added during previous deals
  • Provide details to help make ongoing communications activities more relevant

Product Development
  • Understand whether there are contractual terms that might prevent you from “sunsetting” an old product

Finance & Operations
  • Spend less on compliance
  •  Ensure invoices are sent for the correct amount to the right person
  •  Apply contractually negotiated discounts and offers without being prompted by clients
  •  Quickly recognize the potential financial impact of a crisis and respond appropriately
  •  Assess the probability of future revenue streams impacted by things like opt out clauses

Support
  • Respond to requests for customer support only within scope of contractual obligations

These examples only scratch the surface. The actual impact of contract data depends on your industry and the volume and complexity of the various agreements that make up your contract portfolio.



Knowledge is power. Capturing and leveraging the vast amount of data contained in your contracts will empower your entire business.

February 14, 2014

Exari’s London Insurance Market Competition

London Insurance Market practitioners and their overseas correspondents are invited to participate in Exari’s contest for a chance to win an iPad Air and have their document of choice automated and hosted by Exari for the market to use.


Exari London Insurance Market Competition


Exari is launching a competition for practitioners of the London Insurance Market and their overseas colleagues. We are looking for suggestions of widely used documents that would benefit the market most if automated.

The person providing the best suggestion will win an iPad Air, and the selected document will be automated and hosted by Exari for the whole market to use.

The best documents for you to nominate for automation should have the following characteristics:

  • Non-proprietary 
  • Used by a large number of people 
  • Complex, with lots of data points and optional text 
  • Used by overseas correspondents (optional) 
  • One of a series of related documents where data can be re-used (optional)

Examples include application forms, questionnaires, compliance documents and audit questions. But feel free to be creative and tell us which ones you think should be automated and why.

Entries will be accepted through March 28, and results will be announced on March 31. For more details and to enter the contest, please visit our site. Multiple entries are encouraged.

Exari’s Intelligent Contract Management software is used by brokers, insurance companies and Lloyd’s syndicates to create and manage a full range of insurance documents, from applications to quotes to fully claused policies. We automate the document creation process by generating an easy-to-use browser-based questionnaire that guides end-users through a structured process to create high-quality contracts and key business documents. The answers are captured so they can be re-used and provide data for analytics and reporting. To see how the documents are generated, please try our demo.

Exari is also part of the Lloyd’s SmartForms project, which we presented in January with our partner Tier2 at a Lloyd’s Technology Thought Leadership Session. Designed to show the insurance market the benefits of document automation, the project received a strong response from the audience.

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