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Ever felt like you're in a boat without a paddle when looking at your company's old contracts?

You're not alone. Many in-house legal teams face the same challenge: a sea of legacy contracts with no clear direction on how to migrate them.

The contracts and the data are likely to be spread across multiple systems, Excel spreadsheets, and physical documents, making contract data migration a serious undertaking.

To help you get it right, we’ve put together this all-encompassing guide to migrating legacy contract data.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What contract data migration means
  • What are some key benefits of migrating legacy data?
  • 5 steps involved in migrating contract data
  • Tips for implementing a new contract management platform
  • Frequently asked questions

What is contract data migration?

Contract data migration is a process whereby you transfer existing contracts into a centralized contract lifecycle management (CLM) system.

Also read: Contract Lifecycle Management Process: All You Need to Know

This includes the digitization of physical contracts, the conversion of Google Docs and Microsoft Word documents into the native file type supported by your CLM, or simply importing data from a previous CLM into a new one (such as when upgrading to a higher-quality solution).

While the term “data migration” does sound a little techy, in many cases, it simply means importing documents into your CLM and letting the software tool handle the rest.

In others, you may have to do a little setup work, such as choosing how to map over certain smart fields to support the contract systems search functionality.

What are some key benefits of migrating legacy data?

Even in the best-case scenario, where you simply upload documents into your new CLM system and let it do its thing, contract data migration isn’t exactly an entertaining process.

So, what are the benefits of doing it in the first place?

Aside from the obvious fact that if you’re switching software platforms, you have no other choice but to migrate data, here are a few of the benefits offered.

#1 Document centralization & improved searchability

Migrating legacy contracts into a centralized platform simply makes it easier to locate a given document when you need it.

Rather than having to search through multiple Google Drive folders and physical archives to find the contract you’re looking for, you know it's going to be in the CLM.

But a good CLM solution goes beyond this, providing enhanced search functionality (as well as sorting and filters) to make your contract hunt even easier.

Also read: Contract Repository: Everything you Need to Know

#2 Enhanced contract reporting and analytics

You can’t report on the efficacy of your contract management processes or monitor things like contract renewal dates if you’ve got your documents spread out across multiple sources (especially if some of them are physical).

Going through the contract data migration process allows you to clean up your contract data, then centralize it, analyze it, and report on key metrics.

“While making decisions, I listen to the instinct and then try to look for the data that supports the instinct. I think it's very important to be data-driven in any way that you make decisions. It's important to be an evidence-based lawyer, especially in the technology space. At the same time, I'm a big proponent of intuition and gut. For
Ken Priore, ex-Director of Privacy, Atlassian
Mastering the Intersection of Law, Technology, and Privacy

#3 Improved compliance

Lastly, migrating contract data and moving to a centralized and structured data management system helps you maintain compliance with local, federal, and international legislation and makes it easier to action changes to data and contract management protocols in light of legislation changes.

Also read: What is Contract Compliance? The Ultimate Guide

5 steps involved in migrating contract data

So, you’re ready to get started migrating your data into your new contract lifecycle management platform.

Here’s where to begin.

#1 Organize contract data

Make the whole affair easier by gathering and organizing all of your contract data before you start importing.

That means exporting data from existing contract platforms, downloading PDFs stored in the cloud, and organizing all of your Word docs into a single folder.

Smaller organizations can pull together all of their physical agreements into a single location.

Larger companies with contracts distributed across multiple locations or that are using third-party storage solutions should at least itemize and make note of what contract inventory exists.

Also read: How Contract Data Management Helps Maximize Legal Impact

#2 Cleanse and cull

Next, work through existing contract data to cleanse, update, collate, and cull any data that are no longer required.

For example, it's likely that you’ll have duplicates of some documents lying around or have a V1 of a document saved when it's the V2 that’s actually in play.

Similarly, when contract information is distributed across multiple systems, it's likely that you’ll come across discrepancies (such as two different addresses for a customer).
Spend some time updating and cleaning up contract data so that when you do go to import agreements into your new CLM, you’re only bringing across the most up-to-date and accurate info.

#3 Digitize contracts

Now, we start the “official” migration.

Follow the steps provided by your contract lifecycle management tool to import and digitize existing contracts. Depending on your CLM software, you may need to scan and upload physical documents in a certain file type (such as a PDF) first, though some have this capability built in.

This can be a time-consuming process, so larger organizations with a huge backlog of agreements to digitize may choose to run this process in batches.

For example, you might begin with all of your employee agreements, proceeding through the following steps until these are complete, then returning to this stage to do the same for sales contracts, investor agreements, and so on.

#4 Define fields, elements, and tags

One of the biggest benefits of using a modern CLM platform is its ability to convert unstructured contracts into structured data. This supports enhanced searchability and reporting functionalities, as discussed above.

To enable this, you’ll need to tell your contract management platform what kind of data to capture. Here, you’ll select items like contract types, renewal dates, and service fees, creating smart fields and tags to help you locate contracts once they’re in the system.

The most adept CLMs use NLP (natural language processing) and artificial intelligence to speed up this process and automatically detect common data points.

#5 Contract upload and structuring

The final step in the legacy contract migration process is to upload your contracts and structure your storage architecture.

This involves designing folder hierarchies and choosing different storage methods depending on what’s made available by your contract management system.

“Your crucial knowledge of the business is built from your day-to-day experience, but without tangible data, you cannot show your team’s value to the business. Your presentation should inform management about the project status, key issues to resolve (if applicable), money or resource needs, and an overall summary of future initiatives to grow the business from your department’s perspective. If you can implement legal ops tools to assist with these metrics, all the better.”
~ Jesimin Berman, Director of Legal Ops & Compliance, Papaya Global

Shaping Efficient Legal Frameworks

Tips for implementing a new contract management platform

Getting stakeholders across entire organizations to move from legacy contract workflows and management strategies to one based on a modern CLM platform isn’t exactly easy.

Here are three helpful tips to guide you through the process and ensure a successful migration.

#1 Create a backup of existing data

Before you move any data into your new contract management software, perform a data backup.

Export data from your existing contract repository, save copies of documents to external hard drives, and upload contract templates to a cloud-based storage solution. This way, if something goes wrong during the migration process, you can always revert back to your current operating procedures.

Also read: Contract Storage: Tips to Store Your Contracts Effectively

#2 Design a migration testing protocol

Legal teams undergoing a data migration initiative would do well to first take a step back and design a protocol for testing the success of their migration program.

A phased approach is the best move here, especially for larger organizations.

For example, a national corporation moving to a digital contract management solution might do so in batches, one branch at a time. Having used, say, their Austin branch (one of their smallest) as a trial run, they’re able to test the effectiveness of the data migration process put in place.

If any errors (like data corruption) occur, they can identify the issue, fix the process, and run it again before rolling it out to the rest of the organization.

#3 Update SOP documentation

Once the data migration process is complete, anyone who touches contracts (from legal to leadership to sales to HR) will have to adapt to new processes.

As such, updating your SOP (standard operating procedure) documentation to reflect those new workflows is going to be important.

Since you’re already engaging in digital transformation by moving to a CLM platform, consider using a knowledge-based platform like Slite or Notion.

Frequently asked questions

What is contract data?

Contract data is all of the information contained within your company’s contracts. It includes details like customer contact information, expiry dates, and sales contract values.

What is contract data management?

Contract data management is the collection, storage, protection, use, and analysis of the data stored within a company’s written agreements.

What is the contract migration process?

The contract migration process is a set of stages that companies follow when transferring data from one system to another, or when digitizing physical agreements and uploading them to a CLM.

Learn more about the contract migration process here: 5 steps involved in migrating contract data.

What is smart contract migration?

Smart contract migration involves the use of automation, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing to improve and accelerate the migration of contract data between platforms.

Expedite your contract data migration with SpotDraft

Migrating contract data over to your new CLM might be a large and important undertaking, but that doesn’t mean it should be a painful one.

By choosing a contract lifecycle management solution powered by Microsoft Word-based AI contract reviews, support for multiple document formats, and the ability to scan and digitize physical agreements, you’ll make the process a whole lot more straightforward.

Discover the right CLM for your needs here: How to Buy a Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) Platform that Actually Works for you.

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