June 22 by Jason Smith
As LeBron and his Cavaliers celebrate a historic NBA Title, today is a good day to reflect on some lessons from the Finals that translate into the world of contract management. While it’s probably not something you’ve actually given much thought to, there are actually quite a few parallels between the NBA Finals and contract management.
It is a long game
First, don’t try to do it all at once. Just like it’s impossible to boil the ocean, you’ll limit the growth and success of your initiative if you focus on how to win the championship game mid-season. Build a team of invested stakeholders with special talents to offer, then help them work together towards a mutual goal. Keep in mind there will be losses along the way. Don’t let those define your season (or project’s success).
Look forward, not back
Second, don’t let history define your future. Just because other companies have been in your position and failed doesn’t mean you can’t be the first to succeed when the odds seem insurmountable. Something as simple as picking the right solution can change history. Having been a legal technology consultant for the past 16+ years, I’ve seen a lot of companies struggle with projects because of the wrong system even though they have star players on their team. This was a primary reason I joined Apttus… just like the Cavaliers overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the Finals, Apttus has proven to be a winning system, even when every other system had failed in the same circumstances.
Third, keep learning. The companies that have had the most success with contract management initiatives aren’t the ones who had it all figured out on opening day… they’re the ones who implemented a method of continuous learning. This allows the process to be flexible and adapt as it matures. This is especially important as the more successful the initiative, the bigger the bandwagon of stakeholders with various agendas get involved. To do this, however, requires the right partner. I’ve watched companies struggle during implementations of other systems because they spend most of their time fixing bugs, building workarounds to inflexibility or just trying to make the system work the way the sales person promised. Apttus actually works as advertised allowing your team to focus on continuously improving the process rather than trying to upgrade the fixer-upper like some project on the A&E Network.
Finally, don’t get distracted. You may be down 3 games to 1 and all you hear are the commentators telling you you’re facing insurmountable odds. You’ve never won a title. No team in history has ever succeeded in the task you’re undertaking. And your entire company hasn’t seen a successful project since the Johnson administration. So take it one game, or process, at a time. Focus on the things within your control and get the quick wins. Whether it’s focusing on consolidating your repository, migrating your legacy contracts, assembling standard templates, a clause library or a contract playbook, prioritize the more manageable tasks first and build momentum. Remember, you can lose 30% of your battles along the way (even while others are winning 90% of theirs) and still win the one that matters in the end.