Carrot or Stick? How to Foster CLM Adoption Across Your Company

So, you’ve decided you’ve had enough. Piles of contracts, lost documents, a mess of clauses, and constant pings from colleagues to review one or a dozen standard agreements. It’s time to choose the CLM system everyone’s talking about, or sweep up the dust off the one hidden in the depths of your legal department.  

The problem is, you can’t realistically keep your CLM solution closeted within the legal team. Ultimately, sales, procurement, marketing, and HR will all have to adopt your new tech to keep things running smoothly. 

Then how do you foster CLM adoption in a way that works? Should you impose your shiny new workflow on departments with a heavy stick, or instead try to win them over more gently with a tasty carrot?

In this article, we’ll help you decide which  CLM adoption strategies will work best for your company. Let’s start by considering where resistance to adoption may come from in the first place.  

Why don’t other departments want to adopt your CLM system?

Implementing a CLM system company-wide can be a challenge for many reasons: system complexity, a lack of tech knowledge, the need for additional employee training, and overall organizational resistance to change. But there are also more subtle obstacles that prevent other teams from embracing a CLM solution wholeheartedly.

  • Departments are used to existing processes

For any team, CLM requires a change in the way they work. For example, your sales team is probably used to delegating some of their agreements to the junior legal for manual checking. They’ll wait for a review, and then, once they’re sure everything’s fine, send the contract to the client. With CLM, this workflow will change. Yes, it will become faster and more efficient, but how can sales know that?  

  • CLM is convenient for lawyers, not other teams

Another potential problem with CLM is that it’s convenient for lawyers but may not be so handy for the rest of the company. CLM systems are not a one-size-fits-all solution for all divisions and units, which means that implementing a solution can actually increase the workload for some teams while reducing it for others. 

  • New tech means new security challenges

There may also be concerns about storing sensitive data. Even if your legal department is happy with platform security, other departments may be wary of vulnerabilities.

  • The benefits aren’t clear

Sometimes the biggest obstacle to CLM adoption is simple: teams don’t understand its benefits. They may think there are easier ways for them to reach their goals without learning to use an unfamiliar and complicated system. 

If you’ve decided to implement a CLM solution, you probably have a few arguments up your sleeve against each of these points. Still, the problem remains: how do you counter resistance to tech in practice and get your workflow up and running?

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Five ways to encourage CLM adoption

At AXDRAFT, we’ve seen the strategies organizations use to implement new legal tech, and each of them has its pros and cons. Let’s review them.

  1. Confine all contract work to the CLM

Think about the stages of your contract lifecycle. When do other departments need Legal’s help the most? During the drafting phase? While negotiating with the client? Or somewhere else?

One quite brutal adoption strategy is to define these crucial steps and refuse to give any assistance with them outside the CLM system. 

With this “heavy stick” solution, all templates, drafts, and legal details are confined to the platform. As a result, other teams are forced to turn to it to get things done. However, bear in mind that aggressive tactics are likely to be unpopular and will probably create a rift between legal and your other teams.

  1. Get C-level support and involvement 

An alternative strategy is to ask C-levels and top management for help. If you can persuade them that the company needs a CLM solution, their word will outweigh the opinions of people further down the line. 

Work on explaining the benefits of the new tech to stakeholders, and leave dealing with their subordinates to them. Outline the existent situation in the company, describe the problems and bottlenecks, and clearly explain how a CLM solution can help. For example, you can highlight the following problems in a workflow without CLM:

  • Contract quality suffers due to manual processes and human mistakes
  • Delays in contract review and approval extend the sales cycle and impact company revenue
  • Compliance tracking is difficult and can lead to fines and penalties from regulators as well as reputational damage
  • Long contract stages result in higher costs and missed deadlines
  • An unclear document access policy can cause data leakages

Use some demos to demonstrate your point. Run the numbers and show that the investment is worth the money.

This strategy isn’t that forceful, but teams will still feel pressured if they don’t see the whole picture. They may argue that their workflows and needs weren’t considered when the company implemented the new system, and that the company doesn’t value their input or opinions.

  1. Implement discrete phases with separate tools

You can also use a “small wins” strategy: break the CLM adoption process into smaller, more manageable steps. Each phase can involve a separate tool or specific workflow stage.

For example, you can start by partially automating the drafting process with a standalone tool like AXDRAFT’s QuickDocs, which helps non-legal units create standard agreements by themselves. This will show teams that they can take ownership of simple tasks and, as a result, finish some of their contracting work faster.   

After people start understanding the benefits of automation, you can add more modules like document storage, a clause library, metadata search, an automated review workflow, and so on. 

The caveat is that not all CLM solutions are module-based or can be integrated step by step. Sometimes, you’ll need to combine several solutions to cover all your needs, and this doesn’t always work smoothly. Also, a process like this may turn out longer and more costly than immediate integration. 

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  1. Base CLM adoption on needs analysis

If you’re still choosing a CLM system, you can start by gathering feedback on contract lifecycles from all departments, not just the legal team. What are people’s issues and bottlenecks? How do they feel about communicating with lawyers? Analyzing their answers will show you which CLM features will help solve their pains.

As an example, a legal review of your sales department’s transactions may be a bottleneck in sales deals. A CLM solution can address this problem by offering customizable workflows to automatically send documents to relevant stakeholders for review.

This strategy is effective, but it takes time and effort. You have to conduct research across the company, and run interviews and test sessions. However, a big advantage is that it can highlight all sorts of long-term problems — not just CLM-related ones — that might have been lurking in your organization. 

5. Improve interaction with your existing CLM

All the scenarios described above suppose that your company hasn’t introduced a CLM yet. But what if you already have a system?  In this situation, you can encourage other teams to use it by showing off its perks:

  • Conduct training sessions

Run workshops for employees to learn how to use the software. Share tips on how it can help them save time in their daily work routines.

  • Make legal more approachable

Other teams often view legal as conservative and unapproachable, which increases tension and resistance to your offers from the get-go. You can start breaking the ice by simplifying rigid and boring legal language for your non-legal colleagues. GPT-3 can help you with that — the AXDRAFT team experimented with it and loved the results.  

  • Develop guidelines and playbooks

When you have clear processes and transparent workflows, all departments know what to do in different situations and where to find the necessary information. Everyone understands their responsibilities, level of access, and timelines, which creates a huge efficiency boost. 

Above all, remember that most people aren’t suddenly going to begin using a new tool on their own initiative or to please you. Your colleagues are going to need your help, and you should take an active role in helping them adopt your new technology. It’s in your best interest after all, isn’t it? 

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So, carrot or stick?

A CLM system can be a valuable tool for any organization. However, even with the benefits it brings, it’s common to struggle with implementation. People usually resist change, and sometimes you have to make quite an effort to introduce something new. 

Forcing teams to adopt new technology can have its benefits: you can get everyone on board quickly. But this can harm the atmosphere in your organization and the relationships between legal and other units.  

The carrot strategy is simple: offer employees a clear benefit that they can’t resist. With the right platform choice, you don’t have to invent anything — a solid CLM has useful tricks for every department, from sales to HR. All you have to do is make them clear and give people proper training and onboarding. 

AXDRAFT’s all-in-one contract management platform has a bunch of carrots to get you started. If you’d like to learn more, hop over to our free demo and see how you can begin meeting cross-company needs with our easy-to-use features and modules. 

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