Deploying a Contract Management System Part I of II:

Dan Townsend
Dan Townsend | Sales Director North America

Project Scope and Phases

Introduction

Contract Management is a corporate function that relies on a series of steps, sometimes referred to as a lifecycle, that need to be thought out in a logical manner. For a successful contract execution to happen, each phase of the lifecycle needs to be harmonized with internal processes and people. There is no ‘one size fits it all’ solution that can cover all possible scenarios out of the box and work for every company. The rollout of a contract management system needs to be divided into clear phases to allow for thoughtful reflection on the goals, objectives, and a defined scope. This will provide for better project management, cost control, delivery of best practice improvements, less stress, and ultimately better user adoption. Contracts must be managed with an agreed upon discipline and a sanctioned corporate policy covering the whole lifecycle of contracts from their creation to closing.

However, before the process can be defined the organization needs to give some serious thought on the project scope and phases of the rollout.

Scoping of the Implementation

One of the first key steps in deciding on the scope of the rollout. In most cases the following question should be addressed by the Management Team to determine how you want to rollout the system:

Do you want to rollout the system across the whole organization at once (referred to as the big bang approach) or do you want to phase the rollout over a period of time in logical groupings like business unit, contract type or system functions?

This is a significant question as the decision will impact the team of resources assigned to the project. A big bang approach will generally require full time resource assignments, whereas a phased approach can be done, in most cases, on a part-time basis.

RECOMMENDATION: While there are pros and cons to both types of rollouts, we would recommend a phased rollout as opposed to a big bang approach. A phased rollout tends to be easier to manage and you can apply the learnings from each individual rollout to make the next phase a little bit smoother and the risk tends to be more manageable.

Deciding on the Phases

On the assumption that you will go with a phased approach, the next major decision you need to make is on what kind of ‘phases’ would you like to undertake. Below are the more typical ways in which you may want to rollout the system:

  • Across one of the functional lines of business (e.g. Sales, Procurement, Legal, etc.)
  • Across geographical boundaries (e.g. one country at a time or groups of countries (Europe, North America, etc.)
  • Across one or more Contract Types (e.g. Non-Disclosure Agreements or Purchasing Agreements)
  • Repository first, then add integrated Authoring, eSignature and Workflow.

There isn’t a right or a wrong answer here. One of these options isn’t necessarily better than another, they are just different approaches.

RECOMMENDATION: What we typically recommend starting where you have the most ‘pain’ as the basis for the rollout phases. For example, most organizations have a large volume of Non-Disclosure Agreements. The sheer volume of these agreements tends to be overwhelming so developing some automation will have a strong payback and take a significant load off the Legal Department. The use of Request Questionnaires (to initiate the contracting process) and accessible libraries of templates (to leverage pre-approved language) lets the user get an NDA executed much quicker and, in most cases, does not need Legal involvement. If there are a large volume of NDA’s across the organization or if there is a lot of frustration getting these contracts executed in a timely manner, it might make good sense to pilot the rollout using NDA’s in the first phase. A companywide rollout of all NDA’s can be a major win; it is generally a low risk type of contract and most employees deal with them on a regular basis. As such, if we can roll this out quickly and the users see the benefits, this can be a quick win for the project and allow you to build on that success into other phases of the project.

However, if there are other real business issues being caused in other areas such as difficulties getting Procurement or Sales contracts to the execution stage in a timely manner, then you might want to rollout out one of them first. Or if you have had an Auditor’s report identify major deficiencies in the way contracts are created or managed in certain countries you may want to pick the countries with the most difficulties and start the rollout with them.

The point that we are trying to make is that our experience has shown that the most successful projects are ones that are phased, and the order of the phases is based on where the biggest gains can be made as quick as possible.

Don’t underestimate the need for building on success and broadcasting that success. If you start with an area or contract type that is ripe for change and this delivers a solid improvement on the process, you need communicate that success and its benefits so that the other areas that have yet to implement the tool start to buy into the program.