May 18 by Steve Feyer
Las Vegas is home to the biggest acts, the most luxurious hotels, the hottest restaurants, and the highest stakes in the world. Last week, it also features the largest-ever gathering of legal operations leaders.
The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium Institute conference, in only its second year, attracted 1,000 attendees to the Bellagio resort. In one session, legal ops experts Prashant Dubey, President & CEO, Sumati; Lizzie Shilliam, Sr. Director of Chief Administrative Office Operations, The Hertz Corporation; and Tracy McMahon, Legal Operations Manager, DaVita Kidney Care, explained how they overcame common challenges to achieve successful CLM rollouts.
1. Show How Contract Management Will Calm the Chaos
Legal operations directors often find it challenging to gain internal buy-in for contract management projects. Business partners such as procurement and finance must be shown why a contract management system is important.
For procurement, Prashant recommended a “100 critical vendors” approach: Ask the head of procurement if she can identify the company’s 100 most important vendors and their obligations and performance metrics. Chances are, this question will reveal many gaps in knowledge that a CLM system with obligation management could address.
Prashant suggested tying contract management to revenue loss prevention or revenue generation to garner support from the rest of the organization. Some companies he has worked with have been successful positioning the value of CLM to support M&A transactions.
“You need something to sell to the business about why this needs to be done and what the benefit to them is when it’s complete,” Lizzie said. For any department, Lizzie noted that a contract review will justify the importance of CLM to your colleagues. “You find contracts that aren’t fully executed, you find contracts with the wrong parties; it’s chaos,” she says. CLM will first reveal, and then help resolve, these contract issues.
2. Start Small to Secure Success
A true contract life-cycle management system will revolutionize your company’s enterprise contract processes, so it’s tempting to solve every problem and embrace every feature right from the start. But Tracy cautioned against this. “We had laid out this tremendous plan on how we were going to boil the ocean in 3 months,” she said, including hundreds of fields and “elaborate workflows for 13 contract types”.
But this approach led to low adoption and a stalled project because the change was too great to swallow all at once. “If we could do it again, we would start from a repository approach,” she said, and roll out additional functionality in future project phases.
Prashant and Lizzie both advocated this approach, with Prashant noting the importance of showing the value of a contract repository before implementing further changes.
3. Talk and Train
Lizzie explained how reaching full adoption took more than a training class. At her company, a dedicated help desk was set up and provided “unprecedented” support to new users of CLM. This had a significant positive impact on user adoption because users knew that if they needed help, it was only a phone call or email away.
Lizzie also noted that a respected executive sponsor was invaluable, and all three speakers agreed on the importance of gaining buy-in from business users early in the process, both by listening to their needs and explaining the value of the new software. “We chose Apttus, which was a fabulous move,” she said.
Tracy offered a tactical suggestion: “Laminate things. People don’t throw away anything that’s laminated.” Good advice for making sure users learn the features and functionality of their new contract management system!
4. Engage at Either End
Tracy had a specific strategy for gaining her company’s buy-in for CLM. To prepare the company to accept the new system, she engaged with the person who would complain about the change the loudest and most, and also with the person who would be the most excited about the change. In other words, she knew all the people in her organization well enough to find the biggest booster and the biggest complainer—and she focused on them.
Doing this, she was able to offer fixes and explanations to the most negative person, neutralizing them in advance. And she could capture the excitement of the most positive person to boost the entire project. Following this strategy, “the people in the middle will fall in line,” she explained. It’s a clever and efficient strategy to build adoption for a new solution.
About The Corporate Legal Operations Consorium (“CLOC”)
The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (“CLOC”) is a non-profit organization consisting of legal operations professionals providing education, sharing best practices, networking, establishing a professional organization and community, and driving positive change across the corporate legal services ecosystem. CLOC is the “go-to” organization for information about legal operations and connections to the best legal operations professionals in the business.