Leading the implementation of a technology-based solution – including CLM solutions – is not for the faint of heart. The project’s fate – and with it, your professional standing – rests on whether users begin and keep using the tool as necessary to achieve the advertised value and benefits.

User adoption of CLM solutions and other software is hard to predict, and measuring progress can be challenging. But failure is obvious to everyone, whatever form it takes – people circumventing the tool, complaining about the burden of using the system, or failing to use it properly.

The High Cost of Failure

For those who championed a CLM project, failed user adoption is excruciating. With buyer’s remorse comes scrutiny – of both the decisions that generated the result and those responsible. But the money has been spent, and many companies resign themselves to hobbling along for years with a system many do not use, and few use to its full potential.

At Elevate, we know this scenario well. Numerous customers come to us in the wake of a failed CLM implementation stymied by poor user adoption. These customers are in a double bind: they are already on the hot seat, and if they fail to salvage things, the repercussions will undoubtedly be severe. Their anxiety is acute. They face the prospect of failing their organisation, losing face, taking the blame for throwing more money at the original problem, being on the receiving end of endless internal complaints and criticism, and going through the frustration of starting all over.

Sooner or later, each of these customers asks us, “How do we get our people to use this tool?”

De-Mystifying User Adoption

We have answers. Our team’s decades of collective experience with successful user adoption have de-mystified the process. It comes down to human behavior and a plan.

The fundamental fact of user adoption is that most humans don’t like change. Getting people to do things differently requires persuading them that doing so will deliver tangible benefits, and soon. The benefits must be so enticing that the effort involved seems like a small price to pay. In some organisations, this can be quite a tall order!

So how do you address human nature and drive successful adoption? Time and again, it comes down to three “Rights”:

  • Enlisting the right people
  • Doing the right planning
  • Selecting the right technology

The Right People

All successful implementations begin with having the right people involved. For CLM, this means people from every part of the organisation involved in the contracting process, particularly subject matter experts (SMEs) who know not only how things are done but what isn’t being done (or done well). These are the people best positioned to craft a reworked contracting process. SMEs help with data gathering for meta-data fields, mapping approval processes, identifying contract templates, and clarifying where the request for a contract kicks off. Everyone must have a seat at the table to discuss all the aspects of your organisation’s contracting and help design the new process. This includes contract administrators, salespeople, your legal team, and IT application owners.

Another crucial – and often overlooked – group is leaders with a stake in the project. This stakeholder team serves as the steering committee and should include the leaders of business units directly impacted by contracting, plus representatives from Legal and Finance. The involvement of these stakeholders helps ensure the steering committee will play an invaluable part in driving change within your organisation, including removing roadblocks and making critical decisions as unanticipated issues (and there always are some) arise.

The Right Plan

After assembling your team of SMEs and the steering committee, planning can begin. It starts with readiness work, particularly creating a team to review and analyse existing processes and materials. This means gathering artifacts like your signature policy, approval matrix, and contract templates; understanding who maintains legacy data, its format, and its location. One tip during this process is, after collecting all of your templates, examine them as a prelude to organising meta-data capture and creating a clause library. Another critical step is to review the documentation of your current process. If no such material exists, you need to take the time to whiteboarding the process as it actually functions.

Getting buy-in requires having substantive conversations with your IT team and those who own currently deployed applications to understand their requirements, black-out periods, and other competing initiatives. You need to understand what technology is already in place, how it’s used, and where the process can and does get stuck. Time spent doing so will accelerate and shorten design sessions. It will also help in selecting the right technology.

Even more important, it will provide tremendous insight into your users’ pain points. Remember: solving pain points drives successful user adoption.

The Right Technology

It goes without saying that selecting the right technology is a critical component of successful adoption. It can be bewildering given the many CLM tools in the market, each with unique strengths. But not every CLM is compatible with every use case. Some CLM tools are better for sell-side because of their CRM extensibility. Some CLM tools are better for buy-side because of the pre-built connections to ERPs.

This is where your planning pays off: you need to understand your organisation’s use cases and the end-to-end contracting process before you select a vendor. Otherwise, it is practically impossible to meaningfully evaluate CLM vendors. The result can be failure. One recent example of botched technology selection occurred when an IT team purchased technology for the company’s legal team. Only after deployment did these heavy Microsoft users discover that the solution’s redlining functionality could not handle their third-party use cases. The legal team never fully adopted the tool because negotiating via email was quicker.

Success Comes in Threes

Elevate is often called upon to find solutions for failed CLM implementations. When we dig into the reasons for failure, time and again, “the three Rights” come to the fore. Always involve people across your contracting function. Plan ahead and take time to prepare for the next steps. Select the right technology based on your organisational use cases. Taking the time to do all three steps will pay dividends during the pre-implementation and launch phases.

In Part II of this post, I’ll share tips for driving user adoption during the implementation and rollout phases. Meanwhile, it pays to think in threes!