Contracts govern every dollar that enters and leaves a company.
For most businesses, contracts are a necessary evil, but getting them through the legal department impedes closing deals. While sales, procurement, and other business teams have specialized tools to automate their processes, the legal department has been stuck with plain old Word, email threads, and backup drives (both online and offline) for decades.
With contract lifecycle management (CLM) software, you can turn chaos into cohesion, bringing all aspects of the contract process together on one platform and bridging the gap between law and business.
How does contract lifecycle management (CLM) work?
Managing a contract’s lifecycle, from creation to negotiation to execution and renewal, is called contract lifecycle management.
By automating and streamlining this process, companies can make sure that everyone involved in a deal, from legal to corporate, is connected from start to finish.
Modern businesses’ complexity and fast-paced environment require more than spreadsheets, folders, and email chains to manage the different moving parts effectively.
Contract lifecycles typically consist of the following phases:
- Authoring or creating contracts
- Negotiation and collaboration on contracts
- Approval of the contract
- Execution of contracts
- Tracking, auditing, and reporting of contracts
- Renewal or expiration of a contract
Pitfalls of traditional contract management
The traditional structure of legal departments has led to bottlenecks due to tiered collaboration and disrupted information flow between functions, resulting in inefficient processes.
The following challenges may be faced by a legal team using outdated models.
Standardization is lacking
Team members struggle with different formats and languages when there are no standardized processes or templates for creating and managing contracts. In addition to making contract tracking a nightmare, this complicates enforcing contracts accurately and on time.
Getting lost in the shuffle
An overworked legal team and a disorganized contracting process can lead to costly errors and non-compliance when you miss contract renewal or expiration dates or can’t keep track of executed contracts.
Priorities of business and law are not aligned
When business and legal teams do not communicate well, they can end up working independently without productive collaboration, resulting in misunderstandings and delays that frustrate both teams.
Visibility and documentation are inadequate
If you needed a specific contract or wanted to know more about it, who would you contact? Do you have access to this information easily? As your business grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to find and refer to specific terms and conditions when you don’t maintain contract documents properly.
Organizational perceptions of negativity
The legal department can stall deals or partnerships when necessary, so teams lacking visibility into closing deals or proper communication channels can become frustrated, resulting in distance between them. To ensure business success, all teams need to work together, so a negative perception of the legal department would only worsen the situation.
Using technology to automate traditional contract processes
It is easiest to get started with contract lifecycle management by using online applications such as kanban boards, project management software, online storage solutions, and spreadsheets. To automate the collection of signatures, many teams are also using e-signature tools.
You will be able to move away from:
- Contracts stored on individual hard drives are outdated processes
- Analyzing email threads for contextual clues
- Lack of visibility into executed contracts that may be renewed or expire
- Signing and scanning agreements manually to solve the execution problem
A dedicated CLM software can also streamline contract lifecycle management and remove roadblocks. With a contract management tool, your legal team can automate repetitive manual tasks, gain insight into the stages of the contract lifecycle, and identify areas for improvement.
Identifying if your team needs a CLM solution
Do you even need a CLM in your company before you invest in organizing your contract process?
Your legal team may benefit from a CLM solution if it struggles with traditional contract management challenges. Here’s a simple exercise to identify areas that need automation.
It will also assist you in creating a business case when evaluating CLM solutions and convincing stakeholders to fund them.
Legal teams aren’t the only ones who can benefit from CLM
In addition to being a legal enabler, contract lifecycle management software also acts as a business enabler. Effective contract management benefits the entire organization. There are many ways teams and stakeholders can streamline legal and business tasks with CLM software, from creating contracts using pre-approved templates to tracking contract data.
Deals are closed faster by the sales team
It integrates with the customer relationship management (CRM) solution to enable a more efficient and transparent contract creation process.
A CLM helps sales teams close deals faster, concentrate on the value proposition, and negotiate specific terms instead of struggling with the overall structure and language of contracts. Using pre-approved templates reduces the risk of errors or omissions, which can delay contract completion. It saves time and effort otherwise spent drafting and negotiating contract terms from scratch.
In addition to streamlining the contract negotiation process, contract management software helps sales teams track activities, speed up the review process, track the status of contracts, identify opportunities for upselling and cross-selling, and so on.
Visibility and insight are gained by finance
Finance teams can make better decisions by using contract data through CLM systems to improve cash flow, increase efficiency, reduce risk, and improve cash flow.
In addition to ensuring timely payments, proper contract management improves cash flow and reduces financial disruption risks. Furthermore, it allows finance teams to streamline processes, saving them time and effort on manual tasks such as finding contracts and tracking payments.
In order to make better business decisions and improve financial planning, finance teams need better contract management.
Specifically, CFOs can benefit from CLM tools, from leveraging contract intelligence to create accurate financial forecasts to ensuring compliance.
Vendor contracts are under control with procurement
In addition to managing vendors and contracts, procurement teams also manage processes, vendor relationships, financial health, and track renewals and expirations.
It automates tasks like tracking payments or getting reminders of automatic contract renewals by providing a central repository for all supplier contracts and better visibility and tracking of the contract lifecycle.
CLMs can also help procurement teams collaborate more effectively with other departments in the organization, such as finance and legal. They can automate the approval process and set conditional logic.
It is possible to set up sequences that automatically approve contracts below a certain value and review stakeholder requests for contracts above a certain value. As a result, contracts are reviewed and negotiated properly and all parties are kept informed throughout the entire process.
A contract lifecycle management tool can also help procurement teams make more informed decisions about their contract portfolio, improve strategic planning, and identify cost-saving opportunities.
An increase in efficiency is enjoyed by all teams in the organization
A CLM system not only supports legal, sales, finance, and procurement teams, but also solves business challenges for everyone involved in contracts and data.
The following are included:
- Using CLM software to organize and streamline employee offer letters and agreements
- For better visibility and tracking of contracts related to specific projects, operations teams use it
- Responsible for data security within the organization and ensuring all sensitive contract data resides in a single, secure location
CLM software automates the contract lifecycle in what ways?
From entering contract requests from CRM software or creating contracts directly on the platform, to tracking contract status and generating reports, contract management software provides the tools you need for each phase of the contract lifecycle.
Online or template-based contract creation
For legal work, MS Word is no longer sufficient. Modern CLM solutions offer businesses two ways to streamline contract creation:
With pre-approved contract templates, users can easily fill in details like names, dates, and contract values
A purpose-built solution designed to simplify legal paperwork through in-app contract editors that enhance traditional word processing software
Negotiation and collaboration on contracts
These features enable more efficient collaboration between team members and stakeholders from other business functions.
- Workspaces that are shared
- Access control for document sharing
- Flexible annotation tools
- Request management and approval automation
Through redlining tools and activity tracking, some contract tracking tools also facilitate contract negotiations within the platform.
Execution and e-signatures of contracts
In spite of the availability of specialized e-signature solutions, many teams prefer to execute their contracts on a single platform. CLM solutions provide native or integrated e-signature solutions within their platforms.
One platform allows users to mark contracts for execution, collect signatures in order, send reminders, and track status.
Management of the contract repository
Creating a central repository of all contracts, related documents, and data is one of the biggest challenges a CLM solves for legal teams.
CLM tools offer other benefits as well.
Streamlines storage and search, makes contracts accessible, and eliminates the need to dig through old email threads or random folders.
Makes your organization audit-ready by pulling data automatically in minutes instead of manually sorting it
Provides instant access to contract status and notifications for upcoming renewals, expirations, or contract actions
Analyses and reporting
For tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) and contract performance, many modern CLM solutions offer analytics dashboards and reporting capabilities. By using these tools, stakeholders can gain a better understanding of the procurement process, identify areas for improvement, improve efficiency, and demonstrate their work tangibly.
Other tools integration
It is possible to integrate contract management systems with other business tools, including CRMs like Salesforce or Hubspot, collaboration tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams, and cloud storage solutions. A comprehensive view of contract-related data is provided when working with multiple platforms through integrations.
Choosing the right CLM software
CLM software is a significant investment. Once you identify the need for it in your business, carefully review the different solutions available. It is crucial that your chosen solution aligns with your business needs and how your team operates in order to achieve a return on investment (ROI) and ensure contracts don’t fail completely.
When evaluating contract management solutions, consider the following factors.
- Identify problems you want to solve by taking stock of your current processes.
- Discuss the issues facing internal stakeholders.
- In order of necessity, list the features and integration requirements.
- Determine your budget and expected return on investment.
- Obtain recommendations from internal and external CLM experts.
- You should review competing solutions thoroughly, attend live demos, and participate in free trials whenever possible.
- Identify customer support and software implementation processes and compare them to the level of support you need.
Including internal stakeholders who will ultimately use the platform in the evaluation process helps make the process as thorough as possible.
Achieving success with CLM
The majority of CLM implementations fail because of inadequate planning and a lack of acceptance within the organization. Businesses often find a disconnect between the processes of different teams and individuals. Some people use the software as intended, while others prefer manual workflows or are unaware of the options available.
Your employees may be reluctant to use CLM software, resulting in lower adoption rates and implementation failures. The key to successful adoption and achieving ROI lies in thoughtful planning and an organized rollout.
Start by creating an appropriate plan that carefully considers all stakeholders involved, the goals you want to achieve, the processes you want to streamline, and your expectations for the implementation timeline. You will then be able to successfully implement your new solution.