In some regards, a contract is like your kid. You create it with high hopes, watch as it grows and evolves, get the community involved to shape it, and finally release it to the world—more or less independent, but at least fully formed—with a sigh of relief.

Given those parallels, it’s no accident we use the word “lifecycle” when we talk about contracts. But just like with humans, successfully seeing a contract through to completion is less about the raw material you’re given than it is how you manage it. Contract lifecycle management (CLM) is key to all the things that matter most in a business: greater efficiency, cost savings, accuracy, and speed.

Achieving those objectives, though, is often easier said than done. Legal teams occupy a friction-filled position within the organizational structure. They have to square the larger business goals with the labor-intensive and under-appreciated merits of due diligence. At the same time, they need to keep agreements, partnerships, and contracts compliant, standardized, and properly vetted—for all teams and departments.

Management is a nice idea, but how do you find the right system? Automating those processes can alleviate much of that concern.

Automated contract lifecycle management tools are exceedingly helpful in removing the burden of manual work and chaotic processes while enabling better business outcomes. With virtually one click, any authorized user can create contracts and documents, populate them with pre-approved clauses, track and audit changes, sync data updates back to the CRM, and obtain the necessary approvals and signatures at key points along the way.

So what? Automation is a great in theory, but unless you lay some important groundwork first, it’ll mostly go for naught.

A guide to CLM automation success

When businesses commit to an automated solution to CLM, they improve visibility, reduce risk, and, more importantly, simplify and speed up the entire process start to finish following these steps:

Step 1: Know your business

An intimate understanding of your business—its quirks, stakeholders, hierarchies, and objectives—is foundational to everything else. Ignoring or downplaying the particular rules and roadmaps of your business is grounds for headaches and missteps along the way.

Start by:

  • Understanding and documenting your pain points, and prioritizing your needs
  • Knowing how you want your contracting business to function before implementation
  • Laying out all requirements that have to be met
  • Determining what success looks like and how you’ll measure it
  • Finding the individuals in your organization who will directly benefit from the project and involving them at the outset

Once configuration is underway, make sure you’re continuing to meet all requirements all the way up to rollout, including database configuration, document rules, and alert templates.

Step 2: Use solid project management practices with a phased implementation approach

Stick to the important tenets of project management throughout implementation and rollout, including planning, timeline, resource management, and status reporting.

A pilot program using a phased implementation and rollout—by functionality, organization, or both—accomplishes a few things:

  • Ensures efficiency and effectiveness
  • Eliminates the need for re-work
  • Helps you realize immediate and sustained benefits from the software
  • Ensures a smoother transition by gradually introducing system functionality, while adding incremental value to your business with each phase

Step 3: Provide training and support

For all its magic, automation software isn’t worth much if people don’t know how to use it. That’s why it’s imperative to provide targeted, roll-based training to all your users, along with ongoing support to encourage greater adoption and continued proper use of the system.

Step 4: Create and distribute targeted, effective reports

There’s a wealth of data and insights locked into your contract information. Untapped, it does nobody any good. But the right reports can do wonders, assisting management with budgeting and decision-making, and keeping the organization aware of—and onboard with—the value of your contract system.

Step 5: Perform regular audits

Use standard system reviews and reports to regularly audit the software. And if you find an issue, act quickly and communicate clearly on the problem areas. When the system is being used consistently and correctly, the higher the quality of data you will have at your fingertips.

Step 6: Actively manage your system

After go-live and through your steady state, make sure you’re getting the most value from your software:

  • Use a change control board to evaluate and update your system
  • Stay current with new functionality provided in regular system updates
  • Close the loop on communicating updates, new features, and new use cases so everyone stays on the same page

Better management, better contracts

These days, contract lifecycle management is hardly optional. Just like with child rearing, you have to dutifully manage everyday measures to see overall results.

But not just any management system will do. Conga’s automated technology gives businesses the keys to rein in chaotic contract processes, streamline workflows, and drastically reduce manual effort, while improving communication, data-sharing, organizational insights, accuracy, and speed.