December 11, 2014

Happy Holidays? Let Contract Management Software Help Bring the Joy Back

Don't be like this guy next year...Contract automation software can get those contracts done in a fraction of the time.

How many of you are looking forward to the holiday season and everything it brings?
For most people, late December means long evenings with family, too many cookies, and puppies leaping out of elaborately wrapped boxes; in short: joy.

However, if you’re a corporate or in-house lawyers, chances are you view December with a mix of anticipation and dread. And no, it’s not because of Aunt Milly’s fruit cake. It’s because you fear that this year will be like last: that you’ll miss out on holiday festivities and family time trying to eke out contracts by year’s end.

There are many reasons why companies want contracts signed, sealed and delivered by December 31st. Whether it be to hit revenue targets, take advantage of discounts or incentives, or use up budgets that vanish when the clock strikes midnight, the end of the calendar year often means piles and piles (and piles and piles) of documents that need to be edited, negotiated and approved. And that, in turn, means missing out on some of the magic the holiday season has in store.

So how to avoid missing those holiday parties for late nights in the office?
One way to make sure you get your fair share of eggnog is to use technology to streamline contract creation and negotiation. Implementing software that allows you to work off contract templates, pull from catalogs of preferred and fallback clauses, and even simplify negotiation will give you back not only time, but peace of mind. Never mind that contracts completed in haste (or in the haze of holiday hangover) are more prone to human error.

It’s becoming increasingly evident that document assembly and contract management software are not passing trends, but essential parts of growing your business. Employing tried and true technologies to ease the entire lifecycle of your entire contract portfolio will make legal firms and departments more productive and efficient all year long.

While there’s no software that can help you please the in-laws or roast the turkey (yet), this holiday season do your company, yourself and your family a favor: look into contract automation and document assembly.  Next year, let contract management software save time, give you peace of mind, and help bring the joy back to the holidays.  

December 08, 2014

What You Need To Know Before Implementing a CLM Software Solution

Putting together the pieces such as planning ahead and starting small can help ensure a smooth - and more effective - implementation of Contract Lifecycle Management software.

You've realized you need a Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) solution. You've also made the decision whether to build your own solution or buy from a CLM vendor. The benefits you’ll see are clear: complete and meaningful insight into contract data, increased ability to collaborate, time and cost savings, and better decision making through reduced risk. However, the path to reach these benefits can be less clear. The “best” way forward differs by company, of course, but a lot can be learned from those who have faced similar challenges.

In a recent webinar entitled “Ask The Expert - Key learnings from contract lifecycle management software implementationspresented by IACCM, Paul Branch of BT and Tom Haman of W.W. Granger, Inc. gave insight into their own diverse experiences implementing CLM tools in their respective organizations. As both underwent unique CLM implementations, differing in scope and scale, we find their combined perspective particularly helpful for those on the brink of embarking on their own CLM implementation project.

In the webinar, they named 10 things you need to do when embarking on a CLM software project. We’ve boiled it down to the four we feel are most important and added our perspective.

Ensure executive sponsorship

This means assembling a small team of experts and “empower[ing] them to drive the ship along” informed by a team of user representatives. As they pay the bills and drive strategy, enlisting executive support will help ensure the implementation process, from requirement-gathering to launch and beyond, progresses smoothly.

Document your system requirements (your “blueprint”)

Identify the must-haves for your CLM system. We believe this is one of the most difficult parts of planning a CLM implementation because it is so important and there are so many stakeholder interests to take into account.

Remember to insist upon an intuitive end user experience. We have had many clients approach us because their end users would not use the previous CLM solution they had put in place. The tool should save time and smooth out complexities, not obscure matters further.

If you’re using a CLM vendor, leverage their expertise – they are most likely a rich source of best practices and their informed perspective and experience could help shake up some of your tired contract management practices. If they are worth their salt, the vendor will be able to suggest tried-and-true solutions and methods that speak directly to your unique needs.

Don’t do it all at once

According to the speakers, if you want everything to work all at once, it will take so long that it will no longer be relevant at the time of deployment. They suggest rolling things out incrementally by functionality and/or department. Starting with and perfecting Document Assembly and adding Contract Management functionality later could be one way to ease the transition to CLM software. In the words of the speakers, “do one thing and do it really well at the start.”

While we tend to agree that it takes time to plan, test and implement, we believe there are ways to handle a single large-scale implementation, though this will inevitably require lots of hands-on effort at time of launch.

Develop an internal communication plan

This one is common sense, but it can easily be overlooked or under-emphasized. When readying to deploy a CLM system – or any major change in practice, for that matter – it’s essential that the end users are not only familiar with the idea that change is coming, but that they are excited about it. “Put on your marketing hat” and “put yourself in the shoes of the end user,” advise the speakers. Really sell the solution so that the buzz generated guarantees enthusiastic adoption. This could be achieved by offering the solution only to a select few; if the solution works well, their enthusiasm will generate organic demand. 
This also carries over into robust training for end users both for before and after implementation; you should plan a training program and a manageable (read: not 300 pages) reference guide. And remember, new issues will arise as users explore the tool. If the communication pathways are open and clear, it will be that much easier to resolve inevitable issues and perfect your CLM solution.

If you’ve undergone a CLM software implementation, we’d be curious to hear about your experiences.

November 07, 2014

How to Prepare for a Cyber Security Breach in the Big Data World

Visibility into contract data means being able to mitigate the effects of a cyber attack. 

We’re living in the brave new world of big data. It’s here, it’s real and it’s already changing our lives in awesome ways. With all of its potential, though, comes the fear that the vast stores of information institutions hold will be used for malevolent purposes.

The news has been filled with stories about data breaches, DDoS events, and other IT attacks. A quick flip through recent headlines recalls the punishing hacks of EBay, Home Depot, Verizon and P.F. Chang’s. According to Forbes’ assessment of the first half of 2014, “Criminals are stepping up their game and data breaches are becoming both common and devastating.”

As shown by the high-profile – not to mention highly embarrassing – breaches of the past year, even the biggest organizations cannot completely shield themselves from a cyber-attack or data breach, the risks of which are too obvious and numerous to mention. After implementing oversight/prevention strategies (outlined here by the Department of Homeland Security) the best thing executives can do to mitigate risk associated with cyber threats is to be prepared for them.

Far too many organizations have no idea which contracts contain terms addressing IT security breaches, let alone how the language varies across those that do. In the case of breach, there is no time to analyze what may potentially amount to thousands of contracts before taking action. Thus, corporations must prepare in advance in order to combat the risks associated with a cyber attack. According to a recent Corporate Counsel article, this means being proactive by “prioritizing resources and investments for reviewing vendor contracts and specific clauses addressing the risks relating to privacy, cyber security, data breaches and other cyber risks.”

Understanding what’s in your contract portfolio means you are equipped to create a strategy complete with plans of action that can be decisively and rapidly implemented. Only with access to complete contract knowledge through mechanisms such as best in breed contract management and discovery software, will response teams be able to find contracts relating to the specific type of breach, identify the contingencies stipulated in the contract, and work on remediation efforts to lessen the impact of the attack. “They also will be able to proactively determine which contracts the organization has that don’t include adequate breach or notification language,” the article continues. “This language is critical when determining a proper response. For example, if a breach occurs, does the breach meet the preagreed definition of a breach? If it does, what are the notification requirements? Are there other actions you’ve agreed to on a one-off basis, or is it part of your template?”

Your cyber security preparedness efforts will do more than mitigate loss in the unlikely event of breach: they will demonstrate to investors, partners and clients that your organization takes security seriously, and they will give your team the peace of mind to forge bravely ahead. 

October 30, 2014

Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Manage Risk Through Visibility

The scariest part of this Halloween season might be what’s lurking in the dark.  

We’re not talking about spiders and skeletons, ghouls or goblins; we’re talking about all the important – dare we say critical – information about your business that is kept hidden in filing cabinets, inboxes and shared drives. That’s right: contract data. The phrase alone may be enough to send chills up the spine of every General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer in companies where contract data remains buried, disregarded, left for dead.

Indeed, far too many companies do not have any useful or meaningful way of analyzing the data in their legacy and active contracts – those common yet complex mechanisms by which nearly all of your external and internal affairs are governed. And when you have no way of knowing what and how many contracts you have, where you have them and what they say, you are exposing yourself to the most bone chilling word in today’s business world: risk.

One way to bury risk is to gain visibility into your company’s existing processes, knowledge and data. Visibility is the light bulb in the basement, the candle in the attic, the flashlight in the graveyard, the car keys in the abandoned truck with a full tank of gas.

How does one go about gaining the visibility that equates to adequate risk management?
The first step is to understand what is going around within and around your business. From a contract perspective, this means you have to do what was previously unthinkable. The task of manually compiling and organizing all of your company’s contract data is a terrifying one and rightly so. According to an oft-cited statistic from IACCM, the average global 1000 corporation maintains and manages over 40,000 active contracts. Manual contract creation and archiving? Manual searching and reporting? Downright bloodcurdling.

Adopting tech-based strategies such as contract lifecycle management tools with reporting, trigger and workflow capabilities, will work wonders for increasing both efficiency of and insight into existing processes. But according to CEB’s Risk Intelligence Quarterly: Q2 2014, visibility is more than just knowing what you have, it’s knowing how to use it.

The key to successful risk mitigation, according to the report, is tying data to goals. This is the real-world equivalent of using a cell phone to call 911 when the land lines have been cut by the prowling serial killer: it doesn't make good TV, but it does mean survival.

Visibility into contract data can go far beyond knowing when to renew a contract to activate a discount or being able to quickly locate non-standard, high-risk clauses. It can mean understanding the true worth of certain projects and partnerships. It can mean understanding the value of departments and individual employees. When metrics are extracted to answer specific questions, contract data can be a hugely important source of light.

Don’t let yourself fall victim to the darkness. This Halloween, turn on the light by adopting successful strategies to gain insight into the data at your fingertips, lest risk come knocking on the window…

October 21, 2014

Upcoming Webinar: What is Contract Lifecycle Management?

Contracts serve as the backbone of the modern business. They contain nearly all the information you need to be able to assess the health of your business and your business relationships, both internal and external. The best Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) solutions available today not only automate contract creation, they import key data points from legacy contracts, so you can search, sort, share and report on the data of your entire contract portfolio.

In order to better explain what we mean by "the best solutions," we're hosting a free webinar on CLM. Think it might be interesting?

Are you...

        unsure where your contracts are or how many you have?
aware that you could be giving more to and getting more from your contracts?  
losing time and money on inefficient, manual-heavy or nonexistent contract management? 
blinded by lack of visibility into your contract data or frustrated by the bottlenecks of sales contracts in the legal department? 
interested in learning more about about how you can organize and share information with colleagues and how it can help your bottom line?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, or just simply want to know more about CLM, you are invited to join us on Wednesday, October 29th at 12pm EST (5pm GMT).* The webinar will be free, brief and objective. 
Led by Grant Ramsey, our VP of Global Solutions (and all around great guy), this introductory yet deep-diving session is perfect for those who have never heard of CLM, have seriously explored implementing a CLM solution, or are at any stage in between. 
To register, click here.
*If you can't make it to the live webinar, register anyway to receive a link to the recording.

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