The Contract Power Panel Play-by-Play

by Alice Alfano |
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Lets rumble! For Envision 2021, we brought together five contract experts to tackle the biggest questions in contract management. The debate was intense, flags were thrown, and words did fly! All thanks to our panelists: 

 It was surely the debate of the decade, and something you surely can't miss. Here are the top 5 takeaways: 

1. It's the Process that Counts

"Process is part of the value. Process is first and foremost what to focus on. And if you don't get that part right, nothing falls into place." - Jason Smith

When beginning your CLM journey, you have to have a clear idea of what you need to, want to, and can currently accomplish. As Colin put it, understand that process is your number one pillar to success and begin by focusing on people processes before technology processes. 

Involving other stakeholders in a people process assessment can present issues for Legal. As Teju points out, Legal likes to pretend they work in a void. Unfortunately, this stubborn desire to do everything themselves silos them off and causes serious inefficiencies across organizations. Busting down the walls and assessing what issues Legal NEEDS to focus on versus what they can allocate somewhere else is key to having a strong process before you introduce new technology. 

 

2. Lawyer Vs. Non-Lawyer?

"It doesn't feel right! It's just not inclusive. It's not mutually respectful. It doesn't demonstrate value." - Lucy Bassli

The only thing that everyone agreed upon is that the term "non-lawyer" is outdated, disrespectful, and exclusionary. As Lucy points out, without program managers, operations managers, and contract managers, nothing would get done!

Additionally, as Jason explained,  lawyers sometimes use "lawyer" versus "non-lawyer" to designate what is under "the practice of law" and what is not. That's why contract management is ground zero for deciding what should be a legal task and what does not have to be handled by a lawyer. Legal tasks are often bundled together with other tasks that don't require the practice of law, and that hinders innovation. He predicts that if folks stop using the term "non-lawyer", law professionals will have an easier time allocating non-legal tasks to others and increase efficiency

 

3. Continuous Process Innovation

"It's like the Golden Gate Bridge. Once you finish painting the one end, you've got to start again at the beginning." - Steph Corey

Traditionally, Legal professionals have been the decision-makers and doers. But that can present a problem because Legal professionals have been conditioned to avoid risk. Since change is omnipresent and inevitable, this is in direct conflict with how legal professionals were taught to make decisions and get things done.  Undoing years of conditioning isn't going to happen overnight. However, technology can help ease the anxiety in this area.

For example, many lawyers are focused on technology efficiencies. So implementing innovative technology, such as AI, can isolate what tasks actually need to be done by a lawyer and what can be done by other business stakeholders. But don't worry! As Jason eloquently put it, AI is not going to replace lawyers, but the lawyers who leverage AI will replace those who do not. 

 

4. The Need for Community 

"Community is a fluid thing. Add value to other people. It's not just about taking things for yourself." - Colin McCarthy

Being part of a business team, not just a legal team, helps develop an empathetic community approach. As Colin said, it takes a lot of giving for a community to make progress in terms of innovations, improvements, and even increasing the tolerance of change. Without walking a mile in other stakeholders' shoes, a lot of valuable insight into how to improve your process can be lost.

Building on that, Teju explained that guidance and advice don't come from people exactly like you. It comes from those who deal with a whole set of different processes and tasks. For example, she had a Legal Ops client who once said, "I know nothing about what anyone else needs but me." So this person attended a Salesforce conference, a Procurement tradeshow, and spoke with their Finance team to find out what was needed most.

 

5. Complexity Vs. Complicated

"Not everything is simple, but nothing has to be complicated. " - Teju Deshpande

Gone are the days where you can win someone over with a single, shiny, well-orchestrated demo. While systems have become more sophisticated, so have the end-users! As Lucy pointed out, users are now asking all of the right questions before, during, and after implementation. 

That's why Teju's point about the difference between "complexity" and "complicated" is so striking. A system designed to handle complexity while still offering a non-complicated user experience is key when it comes to implementation, adoption, and usage.  According to Colin, that's why companies like Malbek are going to break the industry by encouraging others to support their customers' needs. 

The Power Panel delivered on their promise to be as entertaining as they were informative. If you'd like to see the full debate, check out the recording

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Alice Alfano is a Marketing Coordinator at ...

Allison Martyn is a Business Analyst who ...

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