Deciding to adopt a CLM (Contract Lifecycle Management) system is more than just a technological leap. It’s a transformative step towards reducing operational load and bringing out the strategic value that contracts hold. The initial step is all about acknowledging that ‘the way we’ve always done it’ does not cut it anymore.
💡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.
Before we go into what you can do now to fix contract-related issues before CLM implementation, and by doing so getting yourself set up for a successful CLM implementation, let’s look into signs you’re ready to adopt a CLM.
- It’s getting difficult for the legal team to manage contracts manually. They spend more time looking for contracts and trying to understand who signed what and when than improving the strategic value of contracting.
- Lack of collaboration and transparency between contract owners in internal teams like sales, procurement, or finance. They have limited visibility into the contract lifecycle, which also makes it hard for the legal team to manage risks.
- Slow turnaround time as a result of repetitive and disjointed work. Teams waste time drafting contracts, downloading them, uploading them, finding the right templates, reaching out to Legal for the same questions all the time… which, in turn, slows down the closing process.
- The legal department is perceived as a cost center and bottleneck rather than a value driver. The legal team is associated with the word “no,” and the place where deals fall through.
- You see high compliance risks. Frequent errors, missed deadlines, or regulatory non-compliance show that the existing contract management process isn’t sturdy enough.
Implementing a CLM can speed up the contracting process to signature (from 1-2 weeks to 1-2 days with a CLM), increase ROI, or simply make data-driven problem-solving possible and make organizations audit-ready.
Yet, there are several things you can do before adopting a CLM, which will both give you a clearer picture of your contract management processes and bottlenecks, and help preparing for CLM implementation.
✅ Action Item #1: Make a list of your organization’s known contract management challenges—be it a cluttered approval process or a past misstep that led to a compliance issue. Document these findings as your ‘before picture,’ setting the stage for your CLM journey.
1. Operation Audit: Your Current Contract Ecosystem Under the Microscope
Before diving into the world of CLM, let’s first take an inventory of what you’ve got. You won’t know what solutions to buy until you know what you need. This is your time to look closer into inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and risk areas.
Ideally, this step will have you speak with several stakeholders across the company. Go knock on Sales’ door and ask them what standard clauses they always end up negotiating. Ask Finance where they go to find contract information, what information they are missing. Get curious about Procurement’s challenges related to calculations or manual information inputting and how they manage errors.
Depending on whether the various stakeholders take note of their challenges, you may need to task them to keep track of them and report back to you. From here, you can already explain why you’re auditing your contract ecosystem and how a CLM will benefit them down the line, which will bring them onboard – a key element to successful CLM implementation. Ultimately, your goal is to make contracting processes faster and smarter, so everyone can remove roadblocks and inefficiencies to focus on the work that matters.
✅ Action Item #2: Channel your inner detective—use flowcharts (like templates Miro offers for free) or process mapping tools to break up your existing contract workflows. Use color-coding or annotations to spotlight trouble zones like high-error segments.
✅ Action Item #3: Convert your audit findings into quantifiable metrics. Use these as a baseline to measure the impact of your future CLM system.
2. Band-Aids Before Surgery: Quick Fixes to Improve Contract Management Now
An incidental benefit of auditing your contract ecosystem is that you will discover ways to improve it now. A good example of this is building a unified, central repository across teams: some teams might store documents and folders in Dropbox, others in Google Drive, and others keep them on their desktops. Once you’ve talked to the different teams and understand how they interact with contracts, you might be able to make a decision to bring everyone on the same platform. Even if it’s just a set of well-organized Google Drive folders, it will ensure that key team members can access necessary documents. Access permissions can help maintain compliance.
Another example is keeping track of contracts and their expiration dates: keeping them in an Excel sheet can save you from unexpected lapses in coverage. From there, you could build a reminder system where the right person is notified when it’s time for them to renew a contract.
Do keep in mind that not all quick fixes will have the same impact; focus on the ones that will have the most benefits to most stakeholders. You will also quickly notice where there still is room for improvement: typically, where automation with a CLM will further remove inefficiencies.
✅ Action Item #4: Go for low-hanging fruit—start implementing these quick fixes as you gear up for your full-scale CLM implementation. Keep track of their effectiveness to build a case for how much more efficient a proper CLM system will be.
3. Building Your Core Team: Fostering Collaboration Across Departments
As you might have realized already, effective contract management isn’t a solo endeavor but rather a cross-departmental mission. While your legal team may excel in legalities and compliance, Procurement understands vendor relationships, and Sales bring customer dynamics into the mix. Various departments handle distinct types of contracts. Each of them offers specialized insights, making it essential to foster a collaborative approach to develop a comprehensive CLM strategy.
Your task at this point will be to put together a list of stakeholders who will benefit from a CLM. In section 1, we already discussed how understanding the way your colleagues work with contracts can help you get a clear picture of what they need. At this stage, draw from the information you collected and identify the stakeholders who should be involved in CLM implementation.
Finally, consider creating a system where you can collect feedback from your various stakeholders at different stages of the project. You can set up a system as you prepare for implementation, and, later on, introduce it to all CLM users to submit feedback for improvement on an ongoing basis. Whether it is on workflows, contract contents, or features they need in the platform, your stakeholders will feel heard and involved and therefore more likely to adopt the tool, too.
✅ Action Item #5: Assemble a core CLM team that pulls in expertise from different departments. Clearly define each member’s role and responsibility and establish regular meetings to discuss progress and strategy alignment.
✅ Action Item #6: Set up a feedback collection space in your project management tool so you can easily hear from your stakeholders now, during CLM implementation, and down the line when you are fully onboarded.
4. Meticulous Planning: Budget and Change Management
Planning is the linchpin that holds the whole CLM implementation project together. The two main pillars you’ll want to focus on are financial planning and change management.
While your legal department might be the epicenter of this project, cross-departmental work needs mean expenses can quickly mount. In essence, a well-defined budget ensures that no surprise costs derail your project and allows for a smoother buy-in from stakeholders.
Change is inevitable but rarely easy. The introduction of a new CLM system can trigger resistance or confusion if not managed properly. To mitigate this, prepare your team for what to expect before, during, and after the CLM implementation. Create training programs or guides, clearly communicate the benefits of the new system, and keep an open channel for concerns and questions. This will not only ease the transition but also contribute to quicker adoption rates.
✅ Action Item #5: Create a comprehensive budget that includes line items for software licensing, internal man-hours, external consultants, and contingency funds. Obtain approval from key stakeholders before moving forward.
✅ Action Item #6: Develop a change management plan. Include a timeline detailing key milestones, such as training sessions and feedback loops, to keep everyone in the loop and manage expectations.
You’ve audited, you’ve fixed low-hanging fruit type problems, you’ve assembled your team, and you’ve planned your resources. All this preparation is your safety net and will bear fruits even before you get to CLM implementation. It ensures that when you finally make that leap into the world of CLM, you can see continuous success within your own team and in your organization as a whole. Your goal is not just to change a software but to improve your entire ecosystem of contract management, and therefore, to extract and maximize the strategic value of contracting.
✅ Post-preparation Action Item: Revisit your initial assessment and update it with your new findings. This will serve as your ‘after picture,’ showcasing how far you’ve come and setting you on a path for continual improvement in your CLM journey.
Happy preparing, and happy contracting!