Advanced legal technology boosts productivity and mitigates risk, but deployment challenges frequently prevent enterprises from seeing the technology’s full potential. The good news is that you can navigate obstacles by working in phases and engaging with stakeholders and users at every step. Ultimately, it all comes down to clear communication and collaboration -- with your legal team leading the charge.
Drafting contracts in Microsoft Word and emailing them to clients remains the default operating procedure for many in-house legal teams although customizing standard legal documents -- like sales contracts and nondisclosure agreements for multiple clients is time-consuming -- even when they are using templates. Typos, copy-and-paste errors, and compliance risk become inevitable; long email chains can create confusion when tracking revisions. Version control then becomes difficult. Final copies can disappear into the ethernet and unencrypted documents can tempt security breaches.
Such occurrences cause too many companies to avoid using the full potential technology has available to them. This widening problem points to why we must start treating legal tech deployments very carefully, because they represent major culture shifts for entire organizations. As our companies migrate to the cloud and embrace digital communications, they seek safer and more sophisticated systems that allow them to quickly process documents without sacrificing quality.
How modernizing technology can help your legal team and bottom line
Nearly sixty five percent of enterprises say that better contract management solutions mitigate legal risks to their organizations because such systems provide a single source of data and truth.1 Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) solutions solve typical issues for enterprise companies by using AI to help legal teams assemble, automate, approve, sign, and manage thousands of contracts and documents.
However, as with adopting any new technology, implementing a new CLM solution can be challenging. It requires you to completely rethink workflows designed for a paper-based world and create systems and templates that users outside of your legal department can access. The secret to doing so successfully is approaching it as a culture change as much as a software change.
The Culture Change: Encouraging Interdepartmental Collaboration
Forty five percent of CLM implementations fail to deliver a return on investment.1 The main reason? Users throughout the company resist the new technology and continue using the old system. Sometimes, the new technology is selected hastily and doesn't have the right features to meet users’ needs. But more often, the issue stems from poor communication, unclear goals, and insufficient training resources.
Introducing a new CLM system impacts teams beyond your legal department. Users in IT, sales, procurement, and finance will access it daily, and they all have different requirements. Failing to consider all teams’ perspectives leads to technology mismatches that can ultimately doom CLM adoption.
For example, suppose your sales team wants a platform that integrates with Salesforce,2 but your CLM system doesn’t have that feature. A failure to consider the ramifications in advance will frustrate users and diminish the productivity the system is meant to deliver.
But imagine you’ve done your homework and selected a tool that will benefit everyone in your organization. You switch it on, organize a training session, and turn your attention to other priorities — only to discover a month later that most teams still aren’t using the new tech.
When you haven’t brought users along for the ride from the start, you should expect opposition. Hesitant users believe the new CLM system will require them to jump through extra hoops to do their jobs. Others are simply too busy with other work to set aside time for learning the new technology. They default to the old, familiar processes because it’s faster than pausing to watch a training video or ask for help.
As a result, individuals or teams that refuse to transition to the new system become roadblocks, preventing receptive users from fully embracing it. After all, there’s no incentive for the obstructionists to learn something new if they can force others to accommodate them.
Just as you can’t change employees’ schedules or benefit plans without pushback, you can’t switch integral tech platforms and processes without some resistance. But you can minimize dissatisfaction and ensure return on investment by treating your technology rollout as a culture change and overcoming obstacles with clear communication.
However, as with any organization-wide change, you need to walk before you run. By taking it slow and engaging your legal team at every step, you can transition to a new CLM system with minimal disruption. Explicitly communicate goals, challenges, and expectations throughout the transition process, and look to identify and resolve pain points as they arise.
A 10-step guide to smooth implementation – getting your culture on board
A CLM deployment is a major project for any organization, and one you don’t want to undertake again anytime soon. Using a methodical, phased approach will help you resolve pain points early to ensure stakeholders and users are always aligned.
- Assess stakeholder readiness. Before you even begin looking at CLM options, make sure leaders at your organization are open to change. If key decision makers in the C-suite,3 IT and legal aren’t aligned on switching systems, your organization isn’t ready for a new solution. Big technology deployments require culture shifts, and it needs to start at the top.
- Understand the full cost of implementation. The most expensive part of implementing a CLM system isn’t the technology itself, but rather the process of deploying it. Transferring data from your old system to the new one is labor-intensive, and companies that plan to handle it internally often put it on the back burner. It’s expensive to pay a third party to load, transform, and clean your data, but it’s well worth the cost to have accurate and accessible documents on day one.
- Budget for ongoing training, too. Change is overwhelming for everyday users, and you need to invest in training for everyone to adopt the new system. Remember that implementation is not a one-time task. You’ll always have new employees who need to be trained and new use cases cropping up. Or consider the possibility of a merger and acquisition — you may have dozens of users and thousands of documents that need to migrate to your system. Head off frustration and disorganization by putting comprehensive training and processes in place.
- Win over naysayers early. A few squeaky wheels can have an outsized impact on budget and schedule. Identify key users who might object to the new system and hear them out. They might have real concerns you haven’t considered or input that will strengthen your rollout plan. But if the naysayers are just generally opposed to switching systems, take the time to explain how the CLM system will benefit them personally day-to-day and how the resources you will provide will make the transition smoother.
- Envision your long-term technology strategy. Your new CLM system needs to be able to talk to your other key tech platforms — the last thing you want is a patchwork system that causes more, not less, frustration. Additionally, consider how your needs might evolve as you add new clients and users, and whether the technology can keep up. Selecting an AI tool that can grow with you ensures minimal disruption in the future.
- Designate digital champions. Digital champions are members of your legal team who set the tone for the CLM adoption. Lawyers understand how the technology can benefit their work better than IT, so they’re best positioned to align their colleagues. The most effective digital champions are usually in-house corporate attorneys who are involved in the implementation process from the beginning, working closely with your general counsel (GC), IT and technology partner. They can troubleshoot functionality before leading the onboarding processes for other users.
- Take advantage of your customer success manager (CSM). Your CSM is your contact on the technology partner’s side, and it’s their job to make sure the deployment goes smoothly. This person works directly with your GC or digital champion to configure the AI tool to meet your organization’s specific objectives and compliance requirements. This can be a heavy effort up front, but it’s necessary to get the full benefit of the system’s smart functionality. In fact, always ask potential technology partners about the level of CSM support they offer ahead of time — a good relationship with your CSM goes a long way for a successful rollout.
- Work in phases to onboard users. It takes time to get everyone up to speed with a new platform. Switching all users over at once, before they understand the new system confuses them and bottlenecks their workflows. Instead, take an incremental approach by training a small group of superusers first. These users can help identify problems early, make recommendations and serve as resources for their colleagues. From there, stagger onboarding by department and problem-solve issues as you go.
- Set key performance indicators (KPIs) and incentives. Setting and sharing KPIs gives users visibility into the problems the CLM system is meant to solve and aligns everyone on common business goals like productivity savings. Managers can also incentivize users by adding the skill of adoption to their personal performance metrics and offering awards and recognition.
- Over communicate and ask for feedback often. Take every opportunity to update users about technology changes and expectations. Remember most users aren’t sitting in the meetings when decisions are made, so changes can feel arbitrary to them without that context. Emphasize how the new tech benefits your entire organization. Create formal communication channels so users can offer feedback as they begin using the system, so you can make improvements.
Tech deployments take time and resources
No doubt advanced technology is accelerating and we see no sign of it slowing down. When used accurately It speeds up productivity, improves quality and mitigates risk, but deploying this technology is a growing challenge that too often prevents enterprises from reaping the technology’s full potential. Oversights and mistakes slow down planned operations. But you can solve the obstacles. Work in phases, engage with stakeholders and users through every step. Get your legal team to lead the charge with clear communication and collaboration.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matt Gould is the General Counsel at ContractPodAi® and leads the legal team. As the former head of legal transformation at ContractPodAi, Matt truly understands the needs of clients and how the use of legal technology can help them achieve better business outcomes.
Matt is a solicitor with more than 20 years of experience as a general counsel. He has led global in-house legal teams in the telecommunications and technology sectors. For a few years, he was General Counsel, EMEA, at Telstra Corporation. Matt holds an LLB (Law and Politics) degree from Birmingham University and is a member of the Law Society of England and Wales.
- Article by Kumud Bika, ContractPodAi
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