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A substantial portion of legal work is deeply entrenched in processes: collecting information, shaping it, and delivering it as a consumable legal product. 

Excellence in these processes is not optional but essential to effective law practice, yet many in the legal field remain oblivious to it.

The resistance to adopting a structured approach like process mapping in the legal profession is not uncommon, but it's a missed opportunity. 

With businesses losing up to 9% of their annual revenue due to poor contract management, it’s high time you mapped your contract management process to transform chaos into order, ensuring no detail is overlooked, no deadline is missed, and every contract reaches its destination with precision and integrity.

What is process mapping?

Process mapping is the visual depiction of the work process, showing how tasks are interconnected from start to finish. In contract management, this blueprint becomes invaluable. It clarifies every phase of contract development, review, approval, and execution, ensuring nothing falls through the cracks.

Why should you map the contract process?

“Process mapping assists in identifying where the value lies. Typically only 10-15% of the steps in a process add value, and usually these steps represent as little as 1% of the total process time (taking into account delays and the time where the product or service is static).”

~ Martin Brenig-Jones, Director at Catalyst Consulting
Mapping your contracting process – part one

Advanced process mapping significantly boosts the efficiency of contract processes, a key advantage that any legal department or law firm stands to gain. 

#1 Cut down contract creation time

In-house legal teams often grapple with the time-consuming task of drafting contracts from scratch for each new agreement or negotiation. Process mapping addresses this by enabling the use of predefined templates for common contract types. This streamlines the contract creation process, dramatically reducing the time required for legal reviews and approvals. 

For instance, a mapped process might include a step where departments outside the legal team fill in key details on a template, which then undergoes a quick legal review rather than a full drafting process. 

#2 Leverage contract data for insights

After a contract is executed, you must review its performance to understand how it could be improved in the future. Process mapping facilitates the organization and analysis of contract data, making it easier for you to identify patterns or common issues in contracts. 

For example, if a particular clause frequently leads to disputes or renegotiations, this can be flagged for revision in future templates. This proactive analysis can lead to more favorable contract terms and fewer disputes over time.

#3 Ensure process standardization and compliance

Standardizing contract processes through mapping ensures that every contract is developed, reviewed, and executed in a manner that complies with internal policies and external regulations. 

This is particularly valuable in industries subject to heavy regulation, where non-compliance can lead to significant legal and financial repercussions. A process map can include compliance checkpoints at critical stages to ensure that all contracts meet necessary standards before proceeding to the next step.

Also read: What is Contract Compliance? The Ultimate Guide

#4 Promote organizational alignment

Clear process maps provide a visual representation of the contract management process, aligning various departments around a common understanding of how contracts are handled. This alignment is essential for organizations where contract-related tasks are distributed across different teams. 

For instance, a process map can clarify the roles of the finance, procurement, and legal departments in contract approval, ensuring that everyone knows their responsibilities and how they contribute to the overall process.

#5 Identify areas for improvement

By documenting the contract management process, you can identify inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and unnecessary steps that add complexity without value. 

For example, a process map might reveal that contracts are being routed through too many levels of approval, causing delays. Simplifying this process could significantly speed up contract execution without compromising on quality or oversight.

#6 Facilitate knowledge transfer and best practices

Process maps serve as a repository of organizational knowledge about contract management, capturing efficient methods and best practices. This is especially useful for onboarding new team members, who can quickly come up to speed by reviewing the process maps. 

Moreover, documenting successful negotiation strategies or clause formulations in process maps can elevate the quality of contracts across the board.

Also read: Master The Contracting Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

Steps to map a contract process effectively

A clear, comprehensive, and accessible process map acts as a roadmap that guides every contract from initiation to completion. Here's how you can ensure your process map not only serves its purpose but becomes a critical tool in streamlining your contract processes:

#1 Start with a solid foundation

​​Firstly, clearly define the scope of your process map. Decide whether you're charting the entire contract lifecycle or focusing on a particular segment, such as the approval process. This foundational step is crucial for setting clear boundaries and objectives for your process mapping effort.

#2 The building blocks of your map

  • Detail each process step: List out every action taken from the moment a contract need is identified to its execution and beyond. No step is too small if it's part of the journey. 

Try to immerse yourself in the process from start to finish, essentially following the contract's journey through each stage. Step into the shoes of the contract itself, witnessing firsthand how it's passed between stakeholders, and noting every action it undergoes.

  • Identify decision points: Contracts often require decisions to be made, like approvals or reviews. Mark these clearly on your map. They're the crossroads where your process can either speed up or get held up
  • Pinpoint key stakeholders: Who's involved at each stage? Identifying roles, not just individuals, clarifies responsibilities and ensures accountability throughout the process

#4 Making your map a beacon of clarity

  • Use straightforward language and symbols. Your map should be understandable to someone outside of the legal department. If it's not clear at a glance, it's too complicated
  • Ensure completeness: Every detail matters. From initial drafts to final signatures, missing steps can lead to misunderstandings or compliance issues
  • Accessibility for all: Your process map should be easily accessible, ideally housed where your team can find and reference it quickly—think shared drives or intranet pages

Bonus tips for a process map that delivers results

  • Use standard symbols: Stick to universally recognized symbols for processes, decisions, and documents. This universal language keeps everyone on the same page
  • Feedback loops are your friend: Invite input from those who use the map. Continuous improvement keeps your process relevant and efficient
  • Leverage technology: Consider using digital mapping tools. They offer flexibility, ease of updates, and can often integrate with other contract management software for seamless transitions between steps

Advanced tools and technologies for process mapping

“The tool is not going to help you if you do not have the buy-in of the individual on the other team. It has to be collaborative, even if you're working with challenging circumstances or personalities. Realize that the process has to exist before adding technology tools.”

~Jesimin Berman, Director of Legal Ops & Compliance, Papaya Global
Shaping Efficient Legal Frameworks

Once simple flowcharts, process maps have grown into dynamic tools, thanks to technology. Early on, process maps were akin to sketches. They got the job done but lacked detail. 

Fast forward to today, and we're using sophisticated digital tools that offer not just complexity but clarity and efficiency. These advancements mean that contract managers can now pinpoint inefficiencies, streamline negotiations, and enforce compliance with unprecedented precision.

Here are some tools you can use to build a process map for contracting.

#1 ClickUp

This tool stands out as an all-in-one productivity platform, offering Whiteboards and Mind Maps for collaborative process mapping. Its flexibility and vast Template Library make it suitable for any team size or industry​​.

#2 Lucidchart

Lucidchart is renowned for its user-friendly diagramming capabilities, supporting a wide range of diagrams including process flowcharts. Its real-time collaboration feature facilitates seamless team input on projects​​.

#3 MindMeister

The tool specializes in visualizing ideas and concepts through mind mapping, offering an intuitive interface for creating hierarchical diagrams. 

#4 Pipefy 

Pipefy focuses on process management, enabling users to automate repetitive tasks and track progress through visual workflows.

#5 EdrawMax

This is a tool noted for its versatility across various diagram types, making it a solid choice for creating detailed process maps and flowcharts with an intuitive drag-and-drop functionality​​​​.

#6 Miro 

Miro offers a collaborative whiteboarding platform ideal for real-time teamwork. It integrates with popular tools like Slack and Trello, enhancing workflow and connectivity​​.

Creately, Google Drawings, and Gliffy are also valuable tools offering diverse diagramming capabilities, from basic shapes to extensive templates, catering to various mapping needs​.

Also read: Top Tools To Upgrade Your Contract System

High-level process map for the contracting process

You can use and customize this high-level contract process map to fit your organization's specific needs. It's a straightforward template designed for you to make it your own.

Download Now

Steps to Optimize Contract Processes Through Process Mapping

Optimizing contract processes through process mapping involves a series of strategic steps designed to streamline operations, reduce inefficiencies, and enhance compliance. Here's how to approach this transformation:

#1 Perform an initial assessment

Begin with a thorough review of your existing contract management process. Identify where delays or bottlenecks occur and pinpoint areas that cause frustration or errors. This step lays the groundwork for meaningful improvements by highlighting what's not working.

#2 Identify steps that don’t add value

With the process outlined, critically evaluate each step against the value it adds. Drawing from Lean Six Sigma principles, categorize activities using the 'TIM WOODS' framework.

Transport: Moving parts of a contract around for inputs or signatures

Inventory: Accumulating unfinished contracts or preparing them too early

Motion: Spending time finding necessary information, often due to inefficient contract management systems or inadequate template libraries

Waiting: Delays while awaiting feedback or approvals from stakeholders

Over-production: Creating more contracts or detail than what's actually needed

Over-processing: Going over contract drafts multiple times unnecessarily

Defects: Employing the wrong contract template, vague wording, or incorrect authorizations

Skills: Using highly experienced lawyers for tasks that could be adequately handled by junior staff or even non-lawyers

Remember, not all non-value-adding steps are waste; some are necessary for regulatory compliance or other essential reasons but should be optimized for efficiency.

#2 Set the goals you want to achieve from your contracting process

Once you've identified the pain points, define what success looks like for your team. This could include faster turnaround times, reduced errors, or improved compliance rates. Setting clear, measurable goals will help you track progress and keep the project on track.

#3 Redesign the contract process in the form of a map

With your goals in mind, use advanced process mapping tools to redesign the contract process. This is where you can really start to make changes, reimagining each step to eliminate inefficiencies and streamline operations. Consider incorporating technology solutions that automate repetitive tasks or simplify complex procedures.

#4 Train your team and ensure adoption of the process map

Rolling out your new process map isn't just about making it available; it's about ensuring it's adopted and used correctly. This means investing in training for your team and possibly implementing change management strategies to address resistance and ensure everyone is on board.

#5 Monitor and improve continuously

Finally, recognize that optimization is an ongoing journey. Regularly review the performance of your new contract process against the goals you set. 

Solicit feedback from users, and be prepared to make adjustments as necessary. Continuously looking for ways to refine and improve the process will help you stay ahead of changes in the business environment and regulatory landscape.

Best practices for sustaining optimized contract processes

Keeping your contract processes running smoothly isn't just a one-and-done deal. It's about continuously tuning and tweaking to make sure everything stays on track. 

Here's how to keep your process maps and contract workflows in tip-top shape, while also ensuring the whole team is on board with the improvements.

#1 Keep your process maps fresh

Imagine your process map is like a garden. Just like plants need regular watering and the occasional trim, your process maps need regular check-ins and updates. 

Set a schedule for reviewing them–maybe once a quarter or after major projects wrap up. This way, you can catch any new bottlenecks or inefficiencies that have cropped up and adjust accordingly.

#2 Make updating a team effort

Process maps aren't just the domain of managers or the legal team; they're a tool for everyone involved in the contract process. 

Encourage feedback and suggestions from all levels. Maybe a junior team member spots a redundancy that no one else sees, or someone from another department suggests a tweak that could save everyone time. Foster an environment where this kind of input is valued and rewarded.

#3 Embed process optimization into your culture

This might sound big-picture, but the attitude towards continuous improvement starts at the top. If leadership champions process optimization, it sets the tone for the entire organization. 

Celebrate the wins, even the small ones, like shaving a day off contract turnaround time or reducing errors by a percentage point. This not only boosts morale but also reinforces the value of everyone's efforts towards optimizing contract processes.

#4 Leverage technology smartly

There's a tool out there for just about everything these days, and contract management is no exception. Whether it's utilizing AI for drafting and reviewing contracts or employing digital signature platforms for quicker approvals, technology can be a game-changer. 

However, it's not just about having the latest gadgets; it's about knowing what works best for your team and your processes. Regular training sessions can help everyone keep up to speed with the tools at their disposal.

#5 Make process optimization part of onboarding

When new people join the team, include a run-through of your contract processes and the rationale behind them as part of their onboarding. 

This helps new team members understand the importance of these processes from the get-go and encourages them to contribute to ongoing optimization efforts.

Elevating your contract management with Lex by SpotDraft

  • Lex by SpotDraft
  • Lex by SpotDraft covers a wide range of legal services, including contract review, contract extraction, contract creation and optimization, contract negotiation, contract centralization, CLM platform evaluation and implementation, and legal process mapping and consulting. Check the full list of services here.

Navigating contract management can be complex, but it doesn't have to be a solo journey. Lex by SpotDraft is here to support you with a suite of services designed to simplify the process. From the initial review to the final signature, we cover everything you need to manage contracts effectively.

Our approach is about providing you with the tools and advice to make contract management smoother and more efficient. Whether you're looking to create, negotiate, or centralize your contracts, or you're in need of a thorough CLM platform evaluation and implementation, we're here to help.

And it's not just about the contracts themselves. We're also keen on optimizing your legal processes. With our consulting services, you can fine-tune your workflows, ensuring that your legal operations run like a well-oiled machine.

For a closer look at how we can assist, click the button below.

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