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The Four Mistakes That Can Doom Your CLM Implementation

October 16, 2023

CLM contracts lifecycle management

For law departments considering a new CLM system, selecting and implementing one is a complex undertaking. A quick online search reveals countless how-to articles full of advice on what a department should do. But even more important is avoiding ‘unforced errors’ – particularly fatal ones. Four missteps stand out as the ones that most frequently prompt law departments to seek out Elevate for help – after the fact. If you want to ensure your CLM (or any legal technology) implementation goes wrong, here’s how to do it:

  1. Buy Before You Try: Pick a system without first methodically evaluating the market offerings.

The market is full of CLM companies, from big names around for decades to recent entrants offering low-code/no-code AI-powered systems that users can customise and then build themselves. If you select a CLM solution before systematically evaluating the market offerings, the risk surges of picking one that will fail to meet your needs.

To avoid this, first think in terms of evaluation, not selection. A sound approach includes documenting your organisation’s needs and requirements, developing business use cases and demo scripts, scheduling system demos with providers, and using weighted scorecards to evaluate and compare options. Some organisations have project management offices (PMOs) that can conduct these evaluations. Other organisations engage consultants for this assessment.

  1. Make Haste: Begin implementing and ‘go live’ as soon as possible.

Project sponsors and end users are often understandably eager to begin working in the new CLM system. This eagerness can prompt organisations to urge (read: pressure) providers and implementation partners to get as much of the system in place and live as quickly as possible. Doing so risks spending insufficient time and attention on crucial tasks like gathering business requirements, talking with and achieving buy-in from stakeholders, documenting existing and ideal future state processes, and designing and testing the system. Often, the result is a system that fails to meet critical business requirements and does not take full advantage of system functionality. Organisations should always build in ample time for project planning and design. Spending additional time upfront pays dividends in the form of a smoother and more successful implementation that ultimately requires less rework (thereby shortening the overall project timeline).

  1. Same Old, Same Old: Implement your old processes.

Done right, the CLM system selection process ensures the new system will meet most of your organisation’s needs and requirements. However, each CLM system is different, technology constantly evolves, and industry best practices shift over time. Sticking with an incumbent may seem like a way to save time and accelerate implementation, but it can backfire. If the way you presently do things is incompatible with a new CLM system, ‘staying the course’ can make things worse, not better. To avoid that possibility, your organisation may benefit from evaluating and re-designing existing processes to improve efficiency and take full advantage of your new CLM system. These steps involve documenting old processes, mapping the old processes to the ideal future state, and documenting the new design. Not every CLM company provides these services or includes them in their implementation package; some rely on implementation partners like consultants and ALSPs.

  1. Be Unrealistic: Underestimate the time, effort, and resources needed.

CLM implementations are typically complex. They usually require detailed planning and specialised knowledge and skills from people in a variety of roles. Often, a CLM provider’s implementation resources alone are not enough: law organisations also need resources for conducting discovery sessions with end users, gathering requirements, supporting system design and data migration, providing project and change management, testing the system, and more. Underestimating the time, effort, and resources involved can result in delays, frustration, low user adoption rates, and even a failed implementation. Some organisations have the necessary staff and expertise in-house to support critical needs; others must (or choose to) work with external implementation partners such as ALSPs with implementation services ranging from consultative guidance and project management to actual implementation.


Getting It Right Starts with Not Getting It Wrong

Law organisations often choose to implement a new CLM system in response to evolving technology, shifting organisational needs, and increased demands on a law department. Inevitably, challenges accompany such sorts of complex projects. Learning what to do is not enough. Just as (and maybe even more) important is understanding what not to do. Knowing what can go wrong reduces risk and helps ensure your implementation goes right.

For law departments considering a new CLM system, selecting and implementing one is a complex undertaking. Countless how-to articles are full of advice on what to do, but even more important is to avoid these four fatal ‘Don’ts’.

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