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A huge percentage of CLM implementations fail. It’s easy to think this is because you didn’t choose the right fit or that the team jumped the gun on investing in a CLM too soon. However, usually the cause is the implementation itself; specifically, lack of strategic planning in the rollout of the new tool.

The most important aspect of CLM implementation is one that’s often forgotten — facilitating adoption by business users.

While the legal team may be immediately able to see the advantage of a new CLM solution, business teams such as sales and procurement can be slow to adopt. But a well thought-out implementation plan accounts for this and will help you ensure that you see ROI on your CLM investment.

From defining the contract management system’s role within your company to setting up an effective project management system for organizing the adoption process and meeting deadlines, there is a lot that goes into deciding how to implement a contract management system and ensure it is successful.

This guide goes over everything you need to know before implementing a CLM software, with first-hand insights into what CLM implementation looks like at SpotDraft.

Other resources in this series:
Is CLM a Good Investment to Overcome Legal Challenges?

CLM Assessment Guide: How to Choose a Solution That Actually Works for You
Also read: 8 Top Contract Management Software Platforms

Implementing a contract management system starts with planning

The very first step towards successful implementation is a successful plan. Usually, your CLM provider would already have a system in place to help you get things up and running swiftly. Still, there’s a lot you can do on your end to help things move without delay.

An effective CLM implementation plan mandates open and proactive communication on both sides —- the CLM users and the CLM service provider. This includes accurate and prompt handover of the materials your contract management system implementation team needs to help you get started with your new tool. Before we go into what the CLM rollout process actually looks like, let’s first discuss some things you should keep prepared in advance.

Checklist for efficient contract management software implementation

Infographic detailing pre-implementation checklist for efficient CLM adoption.
  • Identify the pain points you want to solve and the CLM features you want to prioritize to get started.
  • Which teams will be using the CLM software? Identify a core team, usually the legal team, who need a higher understanding and admin access of the tool, and the larger team who will be invited once everything is set up.
  • List out the types of contracts that you want to optimize in the form of templates.
  • Establish an internal owner of the whole project within your team, who will be your SPOC with the CLM provider and who your team can reach out to with questions.
  • Set down tentative timeline expectations for implementation and free up availability of your team for training sessions.
  • Prepare your historical contracts for migration onto a CLM repository.
  • Evaluate your tech stack to figure out the integrations you need, such as Salesforce, Hubspot, etc.
  • And importantly, plan for the future and for scale, and try to convey both present and future needs.

Open communication about these basic considerations helps in setting the framework of your implementation plan and allows the process to run smoothly.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to know everything to ensure proper implementation of your contract management system, but advance preparation can help you accelerate the software rollout process. More than anything, it’s important to commit to the new processes you’re bringing in and set the right foundation from the beginning.

Avoiding CLM failure: Best practices and tips to become a CLM implementation success story

While your CLM provider will usually drive the implementation of a new contract management system, ensuring its success is a joint effort. To that end, here are some best practices for avoiding CLM failure.

5 best practices for a CLM implementation success story

Plan ahead and open the channels of communication

The key to successful CLM adoption is to plan and get everyone on board. This means working with your team leaders and division heads to ensure everyone understands the benefits of CLM implementation and what unique challenges may come up.

Outline your expectations and plan your CLM implementation in phases, in order of priority.

Is setting up contract templates as soon as possible important to you more than migrating all your historical contracts? Communicating this to your implementation team will help them personalize feature implementation according to your most immediate needs.

Rapid onboarding requires a clear step-by-step approach. Remember that you’re not onboarding only one employee. In some instances, you must get sizable groups to start using CLM software, so planning is vital.

This can be as simple as creating a centralized document outlining things like:

  • Who oversees the CLM implementation process?
  • What teams are expected to be onboarded, and in what order?
  • What’s the expected timeframe for the CLM rollout to the first team?
  • What’s the contingency plan if adoption is unsuccessful?
  • How will you get all your historical contracts on the CLM?

The more detailed you can be about responsibilities, expectations, and timelines, the fewer hurdles you’ll encounter throughout the process.

Invest in training for your team members

A rule of thumb is that the more complex your contract management system is, the more you’ll need to invest in proper training. If you skip training and go straight to rollout, you’ll risk contract mismanagement and add to your team’s already full workload.

Don’t be afraid to invest in CLM training, whether it’s something your CLM provider offers or an in-house effort. Training your employees to use a new tool helps you save time in the long run —because your team will make fewer mistakes.

If your new CLM tool comes with training materials such as videos and guides, set aside some time to go through them and bookmark them for the future so that you can go back whenever you have questions.

Figure out CLM rollout phases and integrate with every function

Integrating contract management software with other business processes is critical. This includes functions like sales, procurement, finance, and human resources management (HR).

When it comes to contract lifecycle management software, there are two ways to do this: synchronizing your data manually or using a tool that does the synchronization for you. Automation helps import changes from disparate systems into the contract management system. This can save time and keep your team organized while working on contracts.

Ensure all these systems are talking to each other during your contract management software implementation. This includes setting up integration points and testing them to ensure everything works as expected. Plan for data migration and test integrations throughout the process.

Ideally, you should also involve the business teams in the buying process to ensure buy-in from the people who will be using the team to actually close contracts and conduct business operations.

Make space for errors and feedback

Inevitably, your CLM management software implementation will have some wins and losses. Yet it’s paramount to frame this as an opportunity to learn from errors and be receptive to feedback.

What about your contract management tool isn’t working right for your team? What are the major complaints business users have?

Start by introducing the system to a select groups of users and gradually roll it out to more and more employees. If there are any issues with the implementation process, address them quickly with your CLM provider so as not to disrupt workflow unnecessarily.

Deployment should occur gradually over time to avoid potential integration issues. Schedule regular system check-ins with your IT team for any software updates or repairs to be made smoothly.

Remember that it’s best not to adopt a contract management system overnight. Take your time and ensure everything goes smoothly before moving on to the subsequent implementation phase.

As you receive feedback, you’ll be better able to configure processes and reflect on your CLM tool of choice. In some cases, it could be that the tool you’ve chosen to implement falls short of all the features your team needs to ship work, manage clients, and cover their legal bases.

If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to reroute back to square one and find a tool that’s a better fit. In the long run, it’ll cost less to retrace your steps and try again than to force a tool that doesn’t bring as much value as you initially thought.

Reduce delays on your end to ensure timelines can be met

It’s important to keep your things ready if you want quick implementation. The fastest and most efficient way is to handover all materials swiftly and in one go — staggered handover will only cause delays and back and forth, making you question the experience during the implementation process.

Even if you don’t have all the materials prepared for handover, try to work through them in order of priority and have the next batch of information ready for your implementation team. For instance, if you’d like your contract templates to be set up first so your team can start using the platform, make sure you have the final versions ready before implementation begins.

If you need more time, you could get started with a different feature instead, such as migrating your historical contracts into the system.

Quick look into CLM implementation process at SpotDraft

“I was most impressed by their incredibly professional and organized implementation process. SpotDraft is a solid solution, and it seems like they are only just getting started.”

G2 Reviewer
8 steps to CLM implementation at SpotDraft

At SpotDraft, every company is assigned dedicated customer success managers who support our users right from implementation to ongoing support free of charge. When we create a CLM implementation plan, it largely begins with understanding the items on the checklist outlined above.

A typical contract management system implementation process with SpotDraft might look something like this:

  1. The SPOC from your team gets on a call with your customer success manager to help us understand your pain points, and set requirements and expectations for the implementation process.
  2. Inviting the core users to the CLM. Your workspace is accessible from day 1, so you can get started with exploring and using the platform.
  3. A detailed walkthrough of your workspace and admin console training for the core users.
  4. Alongside all this, our team creates action items in order of priority, and requests relevant materials, such as historical contracts, contract templates, or integrations required, to begin setting up your workspace.
  5. Once your new CLM software is ready for inviting the larger team, it’s time to bring them onto the workspace. This could include the sales team, HR, procurement, etc.
  6. We set up personalized training sessions for your business users to walk them through the features they’ll be using.
  7. Once the initial set up is finished, we make ourselves available for any support you need going forward and any additional requests you may have!

CLM implementation done well: Hear it from SpotDraft’s Customer Success Team

“I think communication and proactive effort on both sides are the most important aspects of successful implementation. For example, one of my customers right now has a clear cut demarcation of work and clearly defined who the point of contact will be from their team. She reaches out on Slack almost every other day with information, questions, and whatever they need, and I feel like having that is very important.

It’s also important to align expectations so that we’re on the same page in terms of handover of materials, expected deadlines, and action items.”

Chalormee Basu, Customer Success Manager - North America at SpotDraft

Final thoughts

While figuring out how to implement a contract management system isn’t the most straightforward task to tackle, such tools are worth integrating into your existing workflows to cover your legal bases as you revise, update, store, finalize, and sign contracts.

There’s a lot that goes into successful CLM implementation, and we hope this guide was able to answer your questions. If you’d like to discuss taking charge of your contracts and implementing a contract management system for your business, reach out to SpotDraft for a demo today.

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