“I must have missed it. Could you send me that contract again?”
Usually, legal teams are constantly bogged down under manual paperwork and slow-moving contract processes. And while business teams are often quick to pass judgment on this being the nature of the legal function, the truth is that it’s often the inefficient systems in place that give legal a bad rap. Think of it like this – with potentially hundreds of tickets and requests landing in your email inbox, wouldn’t it be easy for a few things to slip through the cracks?
Thankfully, the traditional contract collaboration and management process is no longer the only choice you have. By implementing a collaborative CLM solution, you can ensure efficient and automated cross-functional collaboration.
In our previous article, we outlined challenges teams face that can be eased through CLM software. Before you jump right into implementing a system, however, it’s important to evaluate your options to find the right CLM. What features really matter to your business and how can you select a solution that will help you achieve all your requirements?
This guide will outline the steps for CLM assessment and selection of the right solution based on your team’s requirements.
Other resources in this series:
Is CLM a Good Investment to Overcome Legal Challenges?
How to Successfully Implement a Contract Management System
7 steps to assess and select the right CLM for you
Most companies start to notice “symptoms” as their volume of contracts, or other matters between business and legal, pick up. For example, you might be spending a lot of time trying to gather and communicate information. You might find that you’re doing repetitive tasks and that manual work eats significantly into your time. For many, a feeling that you don’t quite have the tracking and oversight you need is also a clear symptom that you need to find a better way of doing things.
Once you decide to treat these symptoms and streamline your contract management processes through a CLM software, you must make the important decision of choosing the right one for your team. A CLM software is a serious investment, and so it’s crucial that this decision is taken with careful evaluation. Here’s our advice on the steps and checkboxes to tick off while you’re evaluating various CLM solutions.
#1 Figure out why you really need a CLM and assess the internal blockers you must overcome
Where does your team need help? Is it optimizing approval processes, creating a repository for contracts, or something else? When evaluating a CLM, or any other kind of software, it’s important that you’ve broken down your own workflow and identified the “must-haves” that the new tool must include. Your chosen CLM should align as closely as possible with your internal workflow.
A CLM should be flexible enough, or intuitive enough, to work with your ideal flow. It might not be an exact match, but for the purpose of evaluation, you can definitely eliminate CLM solutions that are nowhere near your desired workflow.
Additionally, it’s important to keep scale in mind before onboarding a solution. A CLM system that seems perfect right now might not cater to all your anticipated needs a couple of years down the line. Does your potential CLM specialize in a particular service or does it provide end-to-end contract lifecycle management features? It’s better to align your long term goals with the product you’re evaluating now so you don’t have to start your search again later.
#2 Evaluate your current tech stack to identify where a CLM can step in and check if relevant integrations are available
You’ve probably got an existing tech stack of tools that you use within your daily workflow. Evaluate your current solutions and see how you can leverage them as far as possible. Identify what is missing in those that you need a CLM for.
This is an important point because businesses tend to invest a lot of time and money into technology solutions and many companies find they’re not using them to their full potential. Your CLM should fill gaps in your current stack, rather than doubling up on features you already have.
With that in mind, do you intend to keep the solutions you already have? If so, integrations with a CLM can go a long way toward streamlining your processes. Look for a CLM that integrates with your other tools of choice. For example, SpotDraft has a public, open API which means developers can create integrations for other software. We also have webhooks to help with the integration process.
#3 Gather names of CLM options and look for reviews or referrals
Once you have your requirements in hand, it’s time to gather some options that may fit the bill. If you know legal teams already using a CLM, you can even approach them for feedback and referrals. Websites like G2 are also a good resource, where you can view reviews and compare software based on listed information.
Some specific reviews to look out for include comments on how well the CLM operates with their workflow and how easy or difficult it was to implement. If reviewers are giving an idea of how much more efficient the CLM has made them, that’s even better.
Adjacent to reviews, look at the overall credibility of the CLM provider. For example, what events do they attend or sponsor? How active are they in producing content on their website or social media? Do they demonstrate deep knowledge of the legal profession?
SpotDraft has the best customer service, is extremely responsive, and offers a clean UI. They are constantly working to make their product better and their SalesForce and GDocs integrations are FANTASTIC! I've never worked with a more responsive team.
— Customer review for SpotDraft on G2
#4 Request demos from CLM providers and consult internally regarding your requirements
A CLM will play a big role in daily life at your organization, so we’d always suggest requesting an introductory call or demo as part of your evaluation. It’s not just the software itself that you’re analyzing here, but the responsiveness and level of service of the software company.
Look for things like how quickly they respond and whether they actually answer the questions you ask. Do they show that they understand your requirements? Any demo should be catered to your specific needs. You should also consider involving team members who will end up using the CLM software in the evaluation process, as they might have specific pain points against which you can gauge suitability of the CLM software.
#5 Consider the pricing according to your budget, needs, and CLM features
Pricing is always a consideration for any CLM solution, being a considerable investment. An important thing to look out for is price transparency during your evaluation process and compare the value of different software in terms of price vs features offered.
For example, at SpotDraft, we offer free customer support via dedicated customer success managers, rather than charging support as an add-on service, which could be important for companies that value quick service and resolution.
When considering the pricing, look for two things:
- Can you understand the pricing they’re currently offering?
- Do you have a clear picture of what you’d be paying in the future if your company and usage of the software continue to grow?
#6 Enquire after the implementation and onboarding process of your shortlisted CLMs
You can always expect some type of onboarding period where you get the CLM up and running, and your team members undergo training to use it. Time to value is an important metric for any implementation journey. How long before you can expect it to be fully operational?
Some CLM solutions have lengthy implementation periods — we’ve seen some that run from six months to a year! For businesses, this is generally too long a wait before seeing value from the product.
Here at SpotDraft, we implement within six weeks and actually see time to value within the first week because you start using the platform from week one of signing up. Look for reviews or testimonials about this aspect too.
Another thing to look out for is how receptive the software company is to feature requests. Do they turn new features around regularly? For example, SpotDraft releases new features monthly and are very receptive to feature requests.
#7 Check for a free trial period to give the platform a try
If you’ve shortened your list to two potential CLM solutions, look into the availability of a free trial period. It’s important to determine whether what you’ve found out on paper matches up with the experience in real life.
You may also want to directly speak to references who use the solution. Devise some key questions that will help you to determine whether the CLM suits your own needs.
CLM software assessment and comparison based on use case
Consider an EdTech company with three main goals from a CLM solution:
- Managing educators on their platform
- Streamlining vendor contracts and ensuring cost control
- Enabling sales teams to close contracts faster
On the basis of these goals, they might create a feature checklist that looks something like this:
- Contract repository
- Custom reminders
- Audit trail and version control
- Bulk contract campaigns
- HR, payroll, and finance integrations
- AI-assisted review and auto redlining
- Automated approvals
- Clause library
- Contract editor
- Definition and error check
- Native eSignature tool
- Assisted historic contract migration
- Access control
- Insights and reporting
- Dedicated account manager
Once they have this checklist, evaluating the available options becomes a matter of merely checking off boxes and comparing the pricing for value.
Next step: Implementing your chosen CLM
Once you’re done with the assessment stage and have chosen your ideal CLM, it’s time for implementation. We have another in-depth guide to help you understand that process, with insights from the people at SpotDraft who actually help our customers implement their CLM software.
A new CLM solution is an investment, so it’s important to evaluate it as such. Know exactly what you need and how a solution will be delivered to meet those needs. If you’d like to speak to us about your requirements, just request a demo here and we’ll be happy to guide you through the process.