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Madelyn Janse van Rensburg | 02 Sep 2021 | 7 min read
How To Successfully Implement Contract Management Software
Rolling out new software can be exciting for your users, full of the promise of making their lives easier. However, if the solution doesn't deliver, those feelings of exhilaration can come crashing down hard. You're left with bitter users and a big price tag for a system nobody wants to use.
How can you avoid this nightmare scenario? We've written a list of thirteen steps on how you can make sure your software implementation goes off without a hitch.
1. Get all stakeholders involved from the start
It’s important to remember that user buy-in doesn’t come guaranteed. You can have the best contract management tool that money can buy, but if your users fail to see the value of it, your implementation will fail.
So how do you go about getting user buy-in? Firstly, you need to make sure they are part of the process.
Consult with everyone across the company who is involved in contracts in any way, not just a select few. Ask them the right questions, such as their pain points and how they are hoping to benefit from the new solution.
Since these users will be engaging with the solution on a day-to-day basis, they will have the best understanding of what is needed. This wealth of hands-on information will help shape the final product to meet requirements.
On the other hand, if you exclude these users in the planning and information-gathering phase, this will cause problems further down the road. If they feel a system has been imposed upon them - one they had no say in, and might not meet their needs - they will be reluctant to embrace it.
The result? A weak adoption of the technology, making the whole process a waste of time and money. You will also likely be worse off than when you started, as the users will have diminished faith in your ability to understand and meet their needs.
2. Everyone needs to understand benefits and the “why”
If everyone understands the “why”, they will be willing to come on board with the process. If management can paint a picture of what successful contract management software can do for the company, the users will be eager to pursue the benefits (such as speed, accuracy, transparency and better governance).
An organisation today can’t afford to stick to legacy systems, disconnected manual spreadsheets and old databases, as the risks are potentially devastating –
loss of business
loss of trust
loss of reputation
3. Reality vs the sales pitch
Sometimes people abandon new software as they didn’t get what they were expecting – or were promised – from the initial demo. In short, reality didn’t live up to the sales pitch.
To solve this, make sure employees have a clear idea of what they can expect from the contract management software - and make sure you confirm yourself with the supplier what it is meant to do. This way, everyone involved will not be left disappointed.
4. Planning: “Be prepared!”
As mentioned earlier, the initial information gathering must be thorough so that the contract management software is designed to the needs of the company. Create a brief that focuses on big picture requirements, integration issues and high-level process stories.
Make sure the scope is not more than you need. It is easy for people to ask for functions because they sound nice, rather than it being something that will get real use. This is a good way to blow out your budget. At the same time, don’t cut corners to save money.
Ensure that you have a clear road-map of where you are going and how you are going to get there. Begin this by auditing your current situation, budget, costs and needs.
If you don’t properly prepare, this will result in a sub-par software solution. So, take the time needed for this stage. It may be tempting to charge ahead to save time, and therefore money, but this will end up costing you more in the long run.
5. Don’t see your new system as a one-feature wonder
Many companies decide they need a contract management system only after things start to go wrong, such as a failed audit due to missing documents.
Rather than trying to fix random problems as they arise, understand the whole contract process lifecycle of your organisation and purchase a system that takes care of multiple pain points.
6. Change either the software or your processes
Often, users are not keen to change the way they do things to fit in with the new system. A flexible solution can be configured around the way a company does things.
That said, sometimes a software implementation can be seen as a chance to improve on existing processes. In this light, it might be worth seeing if your users are willing to try a better approach in order to make sure the new tools don’t go to waste.
7. Choose the right contract management solution to get user buy-in
As a software buyer, you need to fully understand the potential problems before choosing a contract management solution, such as making sure the solution is configurable, it’s compliant to your region’s legal framework and there is sufficient documentation or an online knowledge base.
Look for software with your needs and your users in mind. Users are often not IT people, so the system has to be intuitive, easy to use, and have the necessary powerful functions. If the toolsets are not working optimally, the users will give up on them.
Choose a Contract Management Solution (CMS) that can develop and grow with your company, and keep up as best practice evolves. It must be able to scale to the next generation so look for a reputable vendor who can offer you maximum flexibility and scalability. Spend time understanding the software features each potential vendor can provide, and ask them about their project implementation methodology.
Learn all about contract management solutions with The Ultimate Guide to Contract Management Software.
8. Integration issues
It is important that the CMS can integrate with the existing software used by the company, including its sourcing or procurement platform. Also, it must be able to work on multiple devices, especially mobile ones. Contract management solutions are seen as a bridge between front end tools (CRM’s, pricing tools, etc.) and back end tools (ERPs, HR, financial, etc).
9. Change management and the implementation journey
How you implement your CMS could make or break the whole process. Management needs to clearly define who does what, when and how, as well as expectations. They also need to present the solution in the best possible light, emphasising the benefits to people so they become enthusiastic and willing to embrace the new technology.
Clearly communicate the ‘Go Live’ date to help the team best prioritise activities. When implementation drags on indefinitely, it can result in a lack of commitment and interest.
10. Communication, feedback and monitoring
It is vital to let people talk and contribute to the process. Throughout the implementation, the champions need to track how well the uptake is, and users need to know what is going on.
Have feedback from those on the ground to see where there are gaps in understanding, how the software is helping and what its performance is.
11. Don't bite off more than you can chew
Once you’ve realised the value of a solution and how it can benefit your company, you might be tempted to do as much as you can, as soon as you can. However, diving in and implementing the entire system right from the start can become exasperating to users who are trying to process the change.
During implementation, one of the most common pitfalls that companies can fall into is not using a phased approach. A phased approach delivers wins early on, builds momentum, and ultimately improves the likelihood of sustainable success.
Pinpoint the right people to be trained. These people can then train others. Even if they don’t, a trained user is more confident and likely to embrace the system.
13. Don’t mistake the beginning for the end
Wrapping up your implementation should not be the final chapter in your relationship with your vendor. Along the road, issues may arise with the system, refresher and new user training may be needed, new features will be released, and a variety of other support topics may require frequent interaction. With this in mind:
• Keep your internal team and the project sponsor in the loop to answer questions and address any concerns.
• Ensure you’ve selected a vendor that places a high value on relationship building and whose extensive experience is at your disposal.
• When your system is live and fully functional, keep up the dialogue and continue to communicate with your vendor. The vendor will also benefit from your feedback on the implementation process and how it could be improved.
Proper technical support post-implementation is central to keeping your users on board with the software. Lacklustre technical support will result in frustrated users who might not want to use the product, especially if the issues are hampering performance.
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