Avoiding Common Pitfalls in CLM Adoption: What to Know Before You Buy

The attraction of Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) systems in today’s fast-paced business environment is undeniable. Organizations, curious of the promise of streamlined processes and enhanced efficiency, are quick to jump on the CLM bandwagon. However, the path to adopting a CLM system is fraught with challenges—challenges that have led to a staggering 77% failure rate in legal tech projects, according to a survey by Onit’s ContractWorks group.


The consequences of these failed implementations are far-reaching. Employees’ loss of confidence in their employer, plummeting morale, and even resignations are just the tip of the iceberg. The implications of a failed CLM project extend beyond financial loss, corroding the trust that employees place in their organization’s ability to make sound technological decisions in a digital world.

The reasons behind these failures are complex and varied. Often, there’s a misalignment between the CLM system’s capabilities and the company’s specific needs. Challenges also arise from insufficient data migration strategies and the lack of a robust training and support framework. Moreover, resistance to change can significantly derail adoption efforts.

To navigate these pitfalls, companies must adopt a strategic and informed approach to CLM adoption—one that ensures thorough stakeholder engagement, seamless system integration, comprehensive training and ongoing support, effective change management, and careful planning for scalability and future growth.

In this article, you will learn not only to recognize potential pitfalls but also to take proactive measures to avoid them.💡To make your read more impactful, you’ll find action items at each step of the process so you can go ahead and apply our recommendations to your own situation. Find them marked by a green tick box (✅) under each section.

1. Stakeholder Engagement: Ensuring User Buy-In

Stakeholder engagement goes beyond mere consultation; it involves active participation in the CLM selection and implementation process. The aim is to create a sense of ownership among the users, which is critical for successful adoption. Without their input, there’s a significant risk of selecting a system that doesn’t align with the day-to-day realities of the users, leading to low adoption rates and potential project failure.

Engagement should be an ongoing process, starting from the initial stages of selecting a CLM system and continuing through to its implementation and beyond. By involving users early and often, organizations can ensure that the system meets actual needs, which in turn, enhances the likelihood of a smooth transition and high adoption rates.

Action Item #1: Develop a comprehensive engagement plan that includes regular touchpoints with stakeholders at every phase of the project. Use different methods such as surveys, focus groups, and prototype testing to gather a broad spectrum of insights. Use these findings to tailor the CLM system’s workflows to the specific needs of your users. This sounds like a lot of work, but it is one of the most important elements to ensure successful CLM adoption.

👀 Recommended reading: How to get C-suite buy-in for a CLM 👀

2. Integration Woes: Aligning with Existing Systems

CLM systems should not exist in isolation but should be a seamless extension of the organization’s existing tech infrastructure. Poor integration can lead to data silos, process inefficiencies, and a decrease in user adoption. Therefore, a thorough understanding of the current tech stack and how the new CLM will fit into it is crucial.

The best CLM systems are those that enhance and complement existing workflows, thereby amplifying the value of other tools and systems in use. Integrating with tools like CRM systems, ERP software, HR management tools, and e-signature platforms should be a smooth process, without extensive custom development.

Action Item #2: Map out your current tech ecosystem and identify key integration points for the new CLM system. Work closely with IT specialists and the selected CLM vendor to understand integration capabilities and limitations. Ensure the chosen system can integrate with existing tools through APIs or out-of-the-box integrations, avoiding the need for costly custom development.

3. Change Management: Addressing Resistance to Change

Change management is a crucial facet of CLM adoption, as resistance to change is a natural human response. A CLM system can represent a significant shift in daily workflows, which can be met with apprehension or outright resistance by employees accustomed to established processes. A robust change management strategy must address the psychological and practical aspects of this transition, communicating the benefits and providing ample support to ease the change.

This element goes hand in hand with our first point, ensuring stakeholder engagement. Your change management plans should address why, when, and how you will engage your different stakeholders throughout building your CLM project and implementing your chosen tool.

Action Item #3: Create a change management plan that starts with clear and transparent communication about the reasons behind the CLM adoption, the benefits it will bring, and the support available to all users. Use interactive sessions that allow employees to voice their concerns and provide feedback. Establish a network of change ambassadors from within the team (think beyond managers!) who can provide peer support and promote the benefits of the new system, making the transition smoother and more accepted across the organization.

4. Training and Support: Empowering Users

Effective training and support are the cornerstones of empowering users and ensuring the successful adoption of a CLM system. Training should be approached as an ongoing process rather than a one-time event. It should cater to varying levels of user proficiency and learning preferences, ensuring all team members are confident in utilizing the new system to its full capacity.

When evaluating CLM vendors, it’s important to understand how the relationship with them will go. If your use case is complex, having advisors who can recommend the best course of action from having worked with hundreds of companies who successfully implemented their CLM can make the world of a difference.

Action Item #3: Ask the different vendors to propose onboarding and roll out plans, and ask questions about how support looks like in their organization. Would you have a dedicated Customer Success or Account Manager who can partner up with you to roll out the new technology – and make sure you make the most of the tool over time? Do they offer QBRs (Quarterly Business Reviews) and what do they look like? Do they have a customer support service available during work hours in your timezone? Ask references to describe what the partnership with the vendor looks like. 

Action Item #4: Draw the outlines of a structured training program that includes initial training sessions, followed by periodic refresher courses to reinforce learning. Use a blend of training methods such as workshops, written tutorials/FAQ, and interactive webinars to cater to different learning styles. Ensure that users have access to a robust support system post-implementation, which can include a dedicated helpdesk (from the vendor or internal), user manuals, FAQs, and a forum for sharing tips and best practices. By investing in comprehensive training and support, you encourage user adoption and optimize the functionality and benefits of the CLM system.



The selection and adoption of a CLM system is a strategic decision that requires a careful, methodical approach to avoid the common pitfalls that lead to the high failure rates we see in the industry. By thoroughly engaging stakeholders, ensuring robust integration capabilities, prioritizing user experience, and selecting a system that can grow with your business, you can mitigate these risks and set the stage for a successful digital transformation of your contract management processes.

The value of being well-informed and cautious during the CLM selection process cannot be overstated. It’s not just about choosing a tool—it’s about adopting a solution that will work harmoniously with your people, processes, and existing technology for many years to come. This alignment is what ultimately drives user adoption, operational efficiency, and a strong return on investment.

Remember, the goal of implementing a CLM system is not to conform to an industry trend but to fundamentally improve your contract lifecycle management. The insights and action items provided in this guide are designed to equip you with the knowledge and steps needed to make an informed decision—one that will bring long-term benefits to your organization and avoid the pitfalls that have tripped up so many before you.

Final Action Item: Take the time to review each section of this guide and create a checklist of requirements and considerations for your CLM system. Use this checklist as a framework during your selection process to ensure that you’re not only choosing a system that meets your current needs but one that will also support and enhance your business’s future growth and success.

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