How to Go About Evaluating a CLM Solution

Have you ever found that your company regularly deals with bottlenecks between business and legal departments?

It’s a common issue - you need contracts drawn up or managed, but that often involves a lot of time-consuming back and forth communications. How can this bottleneck be made more efficient? By implementing a collaborative CLM solution that allows you to easily share information between departments. 

Before you jump right in though, it’s important to evaluate options to find the right CLM. What features really matter when it comes to collaborating more efficiently? 

We’ll cover the following items in this blog:

  1. Why do you need a CLM solution
  2. 4 considerations for choosing a CLM solution
  3. How to assess and choose the right CLM solution for your organization

Let’s dig in.

Why do you need a CLM solution?

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 day. 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.

Here are some good reasons why a CLM solution can help to streamline your processes:

A CLM offers scalability

One of the major roadblocks when working between business and legal is that a person can only do so much in a day. If part of that consists of manual tasks or having to communicate information back and forth, you’ve got a natural inefficiency that will cap the volume of work they can get through.

A CLM creates efficiencies that allow the volume of work to be scaled up. By automating key tasks and presenting information in an easily shareable format, it helps to knock out the time spent on manual work.

Track tasks efficiently

Tracking is an important part of contract management. Why? Because you need this data to make a business case for anything from new hire requests to the need for tools to help out. For example, contracts should be tracked from intake to close, so you can benchmark your efficiency.

The tracking features of a CLM help you to calculate your time and costs for the work done. You’ll be able to determine whether any process changes have saved you time and money. Your legal operations team and contract managers are usually well-paid, so it’s important to have this oversight of efficiency.

On a practical level, tracking also helps you to easily see the status of contracts. Who is the current task assigned to and is it on schedule? It’s important to be able to view this information without having to ask for it.

Automate repetitive tasks

There are many tasks you complete when drawing up a contract that could be automated. Some examples include the contract design or template, the addition of clauses to the contract, setting up workflows to get approvals, and tracking changes made to the contract. The right CLM should make automation easy.

Maintain transparency over contract status

What is the current status of the contract? Who is doing what and when? Which clauses need to be added or adjusted? A CLM helps you to take a transparent, collaborative approach to contract management that keeps all information visible to the team members working on it. You can determine contract status without having to chase down files on individual hard drives, or in someone’s desk.

4 considerations for choosing a CLM solution

If you are a General Counsel making a purchasing decision for a new CLM solution, you need to be able to find something that is the “right size” for your organization. Here are some considerations for choosing a CLM:

Ease of use

You don’t want your new CLM solution to be so complex that it makes more work for people to learn it. A good CLM should be user-friendly so that your team doesn’t need extensive training to use it.

Consider it from the complete newbie’s point of view; how quickly can they reach a level of confidence with using the software for their daily tasks? Functionality should be well laid out and obvious for those who need to use it.

Allows for collaboration

Part of the point of investing in a CLM for legal teams is that collaboration should be made easy. This means users should be able to log into the tool and immediately see the most up-to-date information, including any tasks that have been assigned to them. Ideally, any comments or tasks should live within legal documents, where they are linked with the appropriate sections for context. The screenshot below from SpotDraft illustrates this.

Automates repetitive tasks

There are many tasks you do repetitively when drawing or reviewing contracts. A robust CLM will automate those tasks as much as possible. For example, consider redlining in third-party contracts. This can be a time-consuming process, but it is possible to automate with the right technology. Automated redlining is one of the useful features of SpotDraft.

Clear visibility over all tasks

One of the key demands a CLM should meet is visibility over tasks. You should be able to easily view the status of any tasks, as well as assign, manage and prioritize tasks. A CLM should offer you this level of visibility without having to dive deep into complex menus or pull together data from different sources. 

How to assess and choose the right CLM solution for your organization

You may have found a few solutions that meet those requirements we just mentioned, so how do you break it down further to assess and choose the right CLM solution for your legal team? Here’s how we break it down:

#1. Know your own workflow

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 a new tool needs for your company. 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.

#2. Evaluate your current tech stack

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 you 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. Look for reviews and referrals

Who else is using the CLM and what are they saying? Look for other legal teams who are using the software and giving positive feedback. 

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?

#4. Request an introduction or demo

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.

#5. Pricing

Pricing is always a consideration for any CLM solution. One thing to look out for is how transparent pricing is - what is included or not included? 

Many CLM providers have very confusing pricing structures that aren’t as open as they should be. They base the pricing on multiple levels of use which is typical, but sometimes it’s murky when you want to know the differences between each level.

We look for two things:

  1. Can you understand the pricing that they’re currently offering?
  2. 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. Implementation and onboarding

You can always expect some type of onboarding period where you get the CLM up and running, and team members trained to use it. Time to value is a metric that you need to be considering for any sort of 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 until they’ll see 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, at SpotDraft we release new features monthly and are very receptive to feature requests. 

#7. Trial period

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.

Final thoughts

A CLM solution can bring some powerful benefits to business and legal teams, especially in terms of streamlining workflows and eliminating bottlenecks. It’s one way you can maximize the effectiveness of your teams and improve overall productivity.

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.

For any further technology research, here are some good external sources: