Q&A: How One General Counsel Succeeded in CLM Adoption And Implementation

Q&A: How One General Counsel Succeeded in CLM Adoption And Implementation

9th April 2020

Q&A: HOW ONE GENERAL COUNSEL SUCCEEDED IN CLM ADOPTION AND IMPLEMENTATION

 By Jerry Levine, General Counsel at IPsoft

IPsoft is a disruptive artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive technology company, with operations in 15 countries. Its New York City-based organization was founded two decades ago. And following many years of managing enterprise technology infrastructure for global businesses, it evolved into a leader in AI and cognitive technology.

Perhaps you may have heard of IPsoft’s Amelia, the world’s most human-like digital AI colleague. Amelia simultaneously serves thousands of customers, employees, and executives around the clock on their computers, phones, and other digital devices. Its DigitalWorkforce.AI marketplace also serves digital employees who possess both generalized or specialized skill sets, including HR coordinators, IT service desk engineers, and health-care risk analysts.

When Jerry Levine joined IPsoft as their first in-house general counsel (GC) in 2015, the organization didn't have a contract lifecycle management (CLM) system in place for their sales, legal, and operations teams. When it finally sought a CLM solution that prioritized the needs of a general counsel and their corporate legal team, IPsoft ended up choosing ContractPodAi.

In the following Q&A with ContractPodAi, Levine explains the role of in-house legal teams in selecting, implementing, and running a CLM system. He also discusses how to encourage lawyers to embrace a CLM fully, along with his own experiences with ContractPodAi before - and after - CLM implementation.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE CONTRACTPODAI OVER OTHER CLM SOLUTIONS IN THE MARKET?

When I was evaluating the different AI-enhanced CLM solutions in the marketplace, I was happy to see that ContractPodAi’s founders come from the legal services sector and have expertise in contract review outsourcing.

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF IN-HOUSE LEGAL TEAMS IN THE SELECTION, IMPLEMENTATION, CUSTOMIZATION, AND ONBOARDING OF A CLM SOLUTION?

When a company like ours selects a contract management system (CMS), we must have a general counsel involved. If the GC does not use it, then the rest of the legal team won’t use it either. Then it becomes a major problem of zero adoption. I can’t stress this enough: the GC must be involved in the selection and decision-making around a new CLM.

IF THE GENERAL COUNSEL IS VITAL TO CLM IMPLEMENTATION ON THE CLIENT SIDE, WHO IS IRREPLACEABLE ON THE VENDOR’S END?

Your engagement manager. My relationship with ContractPodAi's engagement manager is very important to me and my colleagues. They help tremendously and facilitate communications between our two teams.

Engagement managers are the people who you can get on the phone and say, "Here is what I want to see." Then, they show us how to configure what we want in our application. It is not enough for the paralegal to just run with it as is. We need the expertise and support. Now, every day, we’ll get a user to test it out to see if what is being suggested meets our business use case.

DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCES WITH OTHER CONTRACT MANAGEMENT VENDORS BEFORE YOU STARTED WORKING WITH CONTRACTPODAI.

I haven’t worked with many other vendors. One of the other contract management providers I tried working with promotes its system as “a digital CMS for modern GCs and their teams.”

They simply weren’t responsive enough to our needs as a fast-moving technology company in the high-growth AI segment. They were slow to respond to feature requests to meet our functional development needs. Their support help desk wasn’t responsive enough to meet our individual needs either.

WHAT ARE THE CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS OF CLM IMPLEMENTATION?

It bears repeating. When lawyers are not involved in the selection, planning, and implementation of a CLM, the project is not going to go anywhere. If the in-house legal team is really big, then delegate the CLM project to one of the attorneys who have real ‘skin in the game.’   Establish and maintain a close working relationship with Customer Success Managers

If a GC is not involved in the selection process and rollout, it is an immediate sign that the company needs to fix the problem. Get the GC on board before moving forward.

Actually, I spoke with a colleague about another attempt to select and implement a contract management solution. But the GC wasn’t involved in that CLM selection process. Let’s just say you cannot leave this to IT or the business users, alone. The legal team has to have a stake in it, too. That’s because the fully configured CLM application has to work for lawyers first while supporting other users in sales, finance, or IT if need be.  With an effectively implemented CLM platform, “you adapt to it, or it adapts to you.”

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO A GC WHO ISN’T WILLING TO TAKE ON THE RESPONSIBILITY OF ACQUIRING, DEPLOYING, AND HELPING TO TAILOR THEIR COMPANY’S CLM SOLUTION?

It’s true. Most GCs will argue that they just “don’t have the time." Yet, if you don’t make the time to define what you want and need at the beginning, then you will end up getting “whatever” you get after the fact. In other words, investing time in the software selection process and getting involved in the deployment of the contract management application will pay off. Think of how much time you won’t have when it comes to trying to fix the CLM solution to mirror your business processes over the long-term.

In-house counsel’s time may not be billable like outside counsel because they don’t send an invoice to the business. Nevertheless, a legal department’s and a GC’s time is very valuable, and it should be spent wisely. I was very involved with the implementation of IPsoft’s CLM, and I’m glad I was!

SHOULD A GENERAL COUNSEL BE INVOLVED IN DECISIONS AROUND CLM USERS' EXPERIENCE, DIGITAL WORKFLOWS, AND OTHER TECHNICAL DETAILS? 

Yes, they should. Even if you are not a technologist, you need to help define the look and feel, capabilities, and other aspects of the contract management system. GCs need to get to a point where there is solid stakeholder project buy-in.

If you let the vendor define the entire CLM system, then what you will get is the general practices that work across many other companies. It won’t reflect your unique business processes. This might be fine for some application functionality. But for your own needs - your unique business processes - the GC needs to be involved.

WHAT DOES “GETTING INVOLVED” MEAN IN THE CONTEXT OF THE CLM BUYER’S JOURNEY, FROM SELECTION THROUGH TO IMPLEMENTATION - AND BEYOND?

Getting involved means being an active project participant from end to end. It improves the chances that the project will be a success for the legal team and beyond. Make sure to ask the vendor about the software’s capabilities. This should be from a corporate legal perspective and from that of your business colleagues. Establish and maintain a close working relationship with Customer Success Managers (CSM).

When I worked with ContractPodAi’s CSMs, I defined the application layout - how my colleagues and I would access the needed information from the various application screens. It’s important to make it easy for your attorneys to find the fields and contract information that they need at any given time.  The biggest problem is the sales team needing to check in with the GC throughout the implementation

DO YOU THINK EVERY GENERAL COUNSEL NEEDS TO IMMERSE THEMSELVES IN A CLM PROJECT TO THE EXTENT THAT YOU DID FOR IPSOFT?

No, your CLM project team doesn’t need the GC at every single step. But GCs do need to be there at the start. They need to create the vision of the CLM product and solution. The biggest problem that you will encounter is the sales team checking in with the GC throughout the implementation. That’s to ensure that the fields, workflows, and processes are aligned with their industry’s needs around contract compliance, revenue recognition, and risk management.

EXPLAIN THE EFFORT THAT GCS, LIKE YOU, PUT INTO HELPING THEIR BUSINESS SELECT, ACQUIRE, IMPLEMENT, CUSTOMIZE, AND MAINTAIN CLM SOLUTIONS LIKE CONTRACTPODAI.

Ultimately, software like ContractPodAi's CLM application is here to make contract management easier at every stage. And the more we use our own CLM, the less human intervention is required for contract assembly, review, and other functions. It pays off in the long-term.

It’s like how an animal won’t just willingly jump into a lion’s mouth when the latter is hungry. The lion has to work for their meal.

My message to general counsels is simple. If your business is preparing to acquire and implement a CLM solution, and if you don’t ask questions or become engaged, then you simply won’t receive the results that you and your team need. So get engaged!

 AUTHOR:

Jerry Levine Jerry Levine
General Counsel at IPsoft

 

 

 

 

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