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5 Ways Legal Operations Create Business Value Through Better Contract Management

By DocuSign

Page Reading Time: 4 minutes

One of the most frequent (and frustrating) charges for a legal department is to find work that can “create business value” across the broader organization. With a goal that nebulous in definition and scope,  it’s easy to see how initiatives to create value are difficult to get off the ground. Even projects that seem likely to provide clear benefits across multiple teams can be delayed or left unfunded without a direct line to track revenue impact. Legal operations teams are the ideal driver for these legal-led initiatives, as they are uniquely positioned to help define, align and track cross-functional value.

Overseeing the adoption of a digital contracting process and platform, is a legal-driven initiative that will provide significant company-wide benefits. But to make a compelling business case for a digital transformation of this scale, legal operations professionals need to draw a clear line between contracts, the data that can be tracked from them, and profitability. In some cases, legal operations will need to translate existing processes into dollars and cents so they can illustrate improvement. In others, they need to track new data points in order to illustrate financial impact.

In this post, we’ll highlight a few ways that a better agreement process can directly create business value and align to larger enterprise goals. It’s part of a bigger conversation about why legal teams (and legal operations in particular) should drive contract transformation. At the core of this discussion is a law department that is empowered with data about the way contracts are searched, created, negotiated, executed and managed throughout the entire organization. As you read through, consider the data your department currently has access to and the additional data you would need to collect to make your case and how you can easily digest and report on that data.

Cost reduction

An extremely straightforward way to increase business value is to find and eliminate unnecessary cost. Every dollar of eliminated waste is a dollar of business value. With a modern contract management platform that serves as a searchable repository for storing agreements in one place, it’s easier than ever for legal operations to give the business more visibility into obligations, unwanted auto-renewals, help consolidate duplicate contracts and flag rogue cost centers.

With robust search and analytics functions built into the repository, contracting teams can also pinpoint specific contract language that leads to penalties, litigation and disputes. By highlighting these problem areas, legal operations and contracting teams can make adjustments that minimize similar costs going forward, and can also lead to reduced outside counsel spend.

Data-based workflow decisions

Digital systems do far more than just create consolidated data about the content of contracts, they track data about and uplevel the contracting process itself. Now, central contracting teams can look at the agreement process from end to end and begin collecting data about contract turnaround time, error rate, volume by geography, hours spent servicing each line of business, etc. For key questions about how dollars are spent or saved in documenting the terms of business agreements, legal contracting teams can use the workflow data generated to find a metrics-based answer.

Integration of your CLM tool and processes with other critical business systems further amplify the value of data generated from an agreement platform. Linking data from other systems—customer or vendor management, payment, compliance, HR, etc.—helps legal understand their own workflows better and uncover areas for business partners where handoffs can be simplified.

Increased speed

Time is money. The faster and simpler you make it for your business to complete contracts, the faster you can achieve desired business objectives and the faster you can generate revenue from those activities. An easy way to increase speed is to replace manual handoffs with automation. Rather than relying on a contract creator to route an agreement to the correct internal approvers, a well-designed digital system can automatically send the document to the next responsible party and alert them to their tasks in the systems where they do their work.

Integration with other systems plays a vital role in increasing the speed of contracting as well. When a sales user can pull contract data and pre-approved clauses directly from their CRM and self-service clause library, legal teams can spend less time on correcting errors during the review process. When changes and alerts can be delivered directly through Slack, teams will spend less time searching email for the latest version of an agreement. And when this time savings are scaled to hundreds of contracts per month, it’s easy to see how deals get done more quickly, directly contributing to the bottom line.

Better forecasting

Earnings forecasts have a lot of financial ripple effects through an organization. Legal teams have an opportunity to create business value by contributing to these forecasts with high-confidence data on terms contained in both completed contracts and agreements currently under negotiation. With a clear understanding of the content of those agreements, dollar value and obligations therein legal teams can create accurate predictions of both revenues and costs related to contract fulfillment, leaving far less gray area in the overall forecast.

This is just one example of how a digital contracting platform can help legal operations teams align to the larger goals of the enterprise and set up metrics to track progress. Using real-time data about the company’s contracts, the legal team can create a powerful recommendation engine to help leadership respond to the current business conditions.

Employee resource efficiency

Using traditional methods of contract management, legal team members spend far too much time on repetitive tasks that don’t take advantage of their unique skills. A modern contracting system supported by AI can eliminate much of that busywork, by reducing hours spent searching for the correct contract language, enhancing reporting, decreasing immediacy biases, and making negotiation suggestions based on predetermined risk levels. In the same way that spell check and track changes have become a routine part of contract creation and revision, intelligent contracting analytics can become ubiquitous for legal teams that manage far-reaching contract ecosystems.

With redundant work significantly reduced, legal operations professionals can help create more effective legal teams that have the ability to focus on new projects or further develop their special skills. More effective use of internal resources could also mean less reliance on outside counsel, which is a significant cost savings, as discussed above.

To learn more about how legal teams can create business value with better contracting practices, meet with us at CLOC’s Global Institute in Las Vegas May 9-12! You can visit us at Booth 401 or attend our interactive workshop on “How Simple Can Contracting Get” at 10:30am on May 11th in Monet 3 & 4. 

In the meantime, please check out our quick guide to contract management best practices.