Enterprise organizations are increasingly turning to digital transformation and automation, and it’s not hard to see why. With proven benefits like time savings to manual processes, cost savings from reducing both paper and labor, and increased opportunities to ensure compliance and reduce risk, it’s clear why leading edge organizations are accepting the trend as part of a competitive strategy.
But according to an IDC study from 2017, 60 percent of digital transformation initiatives will be unable to scale due to a lack of strategic architecture. What’s the point of engaging in digital transformation or automation if you’ll have to abandon your new system as you grow out of it?
A critical step in building a scalable initiative is planning a complete integration. Without the ability to integrate systems, it’s much more difficult to automate manual processes, especially for contract lifecycle management (CLM). Integrations in CLM allow legal, procurement, and sales teams to work together as a single cohesive unit, rather than siloed departments.
Integrating CRM, ERP, and CPQ systems with a CLM system can be difficult, time-consuming, and riddled with problems. But with the right methods and processes in place, it’s possible to build an integrated, scalable digital transformation system without the headaches.
Here are five tried-and-true tips for ensuring a successful integration between your organization’s teams as you move your CLM into an automated, digital system.
1. Have the appropriate stakeholders in the room.
In order to fully integrate the systems you need to make your automation attempts successful for the long-haul, it’s important to talk to every stakeholder in an in-depth fashion. In fact, it’s worthwhile to spend weeks talking with a large group across multiple meetings throughout the company to get the answers from all stakeholders and truly understand what those answers mean.
This deep internal exploration of your company may be time consuming and somewhat difficult, but the benefits will outweigh the hardship in the end. It’s especially important to gain a full view of the contracting process within your company, including what employees are doing now, where they want to go in the future, what pieces can be divided into phases, and what the current pain points of the process are. By including all stakeholders, including technologists, it will be easier to see how the contract system fits into the enterprise’s overall plan for technology usage and roadmap.
2. Work one-on-one with your technical team to cover all requirements.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but before you select an automation system, it’s important to vet the integration team thoroughly and get them involved as early as possible. Giving your IT group (or individual) ownership over the project will help ease the transition in a number of ways. This aspect of the process is as important to success as the features and fit of the system itself. Hopefully your technical services resources have deep, real-world integration experience. Recognizing their importance and embracing them as one of your own will help ensure a successful integration.
3. Document your requirements for complete knowledge transfer.
Very few people like documentation, because it’s generally difficult and feels unrewarding. But it’s an extremely important piece of ensuring the long-term success of your CLM integration. Documentation can help ease the process of adjustments and fine tuning, especially in the beginning. Plus, documentation will enable better support and adoption as the team grows and evolves. Dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s in documenting your integration to make sure you don’t miss any requirements.
One way to make documentation easier is to think of it as knowledge transfer, which is what it’s designed to be. Use it as an instruction manual for the hypothetical person or persons who will have to replace your team if they go on a honeymoon for two weeks, or leave the organization entirely. This knowledge transfer will let your integration live on, regardless of what happens to the team or its individual members.
4. Don’t skimp on user acceptance testing.
User acceptance testing is extremely important to the success of your CLM integration. Obviously, it will allow you to confirm that the integration and systems are all working as needed to keep business flowing, straight from the users’ collective mouths. But another benefit is that you’ll learn of any errors before it’s too late. Start testing as soon as your integration is in a staging environment. Once the integration goes into production, it will be much harder to make changes. Testing will also get users accustomed to the system before they have to use it in an official capacity, which can help with adoption down the road.
5. Check your system status regularly.
Most CLM systems offer error logs, and many will keep you up-to-date with email statuses. Don’t ignore these emails, and stay on top of these status reports, especially as you ramp up your use of the integrated system. This way, you can be the first to know if anything changes in your integration, and rest assured that everything is operating as smoothly as possible. If an incident occurs, you can get it to your technical team for review before anyone else notices a problem (hopefully).
Completing an integration to improve internal CLM processes is a big step towards creating a digital, modern workplace that encourages innovation. As contract lifecycle processes move more and more into the cloud, tracking, visibility, analytics, and management will become increasingly important to reduce risk and assure compliance. By following these tips, you can help future-proof your integration for the upcoming technology changes that are guaranteed to happen down the road.