A CLM without dedicated users is like Vegas with no casinos – an empty desert of lost opportunities.  

Encouraging CLM user adoption and change management across the enterprise was the topic of a lightning round panel discussion at our Agiloft Summit 2023 this past January in Las Vegas. 

Hosted by Agiloft’s Steve McKean, the panel featured Rebecca Thorkildsen of Deloitte, Amy Good from HBR, Michael Callier of Factor Law, and Emma Spektor of Ernst & Young. 

“Achieving business objectives around change and new processes and new technologies is hard,” Steve said. “We all know that., Wwe wouldn’t be here if that wasn’t one of the things that we really wanted to address, and adoption is one of the most critical outcomes that must be achieved to get there.” 

Read on to hear some of these bright minds in CLM discuss their perspectives on how to nurture and promote user adoption in the framework of change management. 

1. Everyone knows change is hard

Have you ever been in your local grocery store looking for your favorite juice only to find it’s now located in a different aisle? Perhaps you were frustrated, annoyed, or even a little upset. That’s because change is hard – for everyone, said Rebecca Thorkildsen, Managing Director of Legal Business Services at Deloitte.

“Everybody seems to inherently know change is hard,” she said. “There really is a lot of knowledge about a process that every human being goes through. Even if people inherently know their process [is bad], they know they need to change. It is tough.” 

The biggest mistake she sees made in CLM implementations? Turning a blind eye to change management – not managing the change of a system, but about organizational and personnel changes. 

“My one piece of advice is: Think actively about [change management], don’t neglect it in your projects, even if you’re already down the path and you find that adoption of the system is not getting where you want,” she said. “Think about the softer side, think about the people, and how you can engage them, and each of the different stakeholder needs.” 

2. Identify stakeholders (and detractors) early

Change is a big part of any tech implementation – and CLM is no exception, said Emma Spektor, Principal of Technology and Transformation for Law at Ernst & Young.

“Thinking about change and planning for change early and often is going to be critical to the success of your project and your implementation,” she said. “If you can embed change and change management and planning in your implementation journey, it’s really going to set you up for success in the long run.” 

A few change management strategies that Emma has employed include stakeholder analysis – the process of thinking about and identifying project stakeholders – and detractors. This could take the form of surveys, focus groups, or stakeholder interviews. 

“Who is going to be your advocate? Who is going to help support buy-in for the solution and the project? Conversely, who were your detractors? Who were those that could potentially disrupt the success of your project and the solution, at large? Really engage with them early and often,” Emma said. “What is their perception, versus reality? Because often, there’s a gap between those two things, and the earlier you can identify that gap and start to bridge it, the better off you’ll be for long-term success.” 

Oftentimes, people tend to think of technology as an “easy button” – a magical elixir to all of their problems, Emma said. But until the underlying business processes are streamlined, you’ll just be “taking inefficient poor processes and data, and putting them in a nice shiny tool.”

“So, really making sure you’re doing some of those upfront activities to make sure you’re building out the right processes and data in the solution will really help enable that CLM adoption,” she said. 

3. You are what you say, you grow what you feed, and you get what you measure

Amy Good, Director of Strategic Alliances and Client Development at HBR Consulting, has a saying about successful CLM implementations: “You are what you say, you grow what you feed, and you get what you measure.” 

You are what you say 

Thinking about the messaging behind your CLM implementation is critical to user adoption – and that messaging may need to be tweaked depending on the audience. 

“What resonates with the individual users who are actually in the system may be different than what resonates with management, who approve the business case and the funding for your project,” Amy said.  

For example, some stakeholders may really like that the CLM helps provide enterprise-wide visibility into their department’s duties and responsibilities. But for other stakeholders, they may simply like that CLM reduces their need to nag or remind coworkers to complete tasks or move along a contract. Thus, it’s important to consider the stakeholders’ perspectives and tailor your messaging around CLM appropriately, she said. 

Then, what you do with that messaging is equally as important. 

“What do you do with that compelling message? How do you make it what people talk about it throughout the organization? Taking a compelling message and building it into a common narrative” is key. 

You grow what you feed

Echoing Emma’s sentiments, Amy said it is crucial to identify CLM “ambassadors” or change agents as well as super users and detractors early on. 

“Who’s your change champion? Who’s your executive sponsor? Is he or she actually in the system, whether it’s receiving reports and acting on them, whether they’re actually approving contracts, are they using the system? Are they talking about the system? Are they employing that common narrative to echo throughout the organization?” she asked. 

You get what you measure

“It’s a little bit cliche, but… it’s not just what you measure, but what you do about what you measure,” Amy said. 

Reporting functionalities inside the CLM, like seeing which employees have logged into a system, what product features or functionalities they used, and how many contracts they’ve been able to execute is priceless when assessing user adoption. 

4. No “big bang”

The reason why a majority of implementation projects fail? According to the Project Management Institute, it’s because the projects lack both good project management and sound implementation of a change management model. 

There are many good change management models, but Michael Callier, Vice President of Global Head of Consulting at Factor Law, has whittled it down to five main points.

1. Operationalize compassion.

Recognizing that change is hard and creates real human suffering is key when talking about change management, Michael said.  

“So, an application of compassion. Our job is to recognize that fear, to recognize that suffering, have some sort of desire to do something about it, and then to act on it,” he said. “Oftentimes, acting on it simply means listening, listening with authentic curiosity.”

2. Make the entire process about people.

“The value proposition for change should appeal to the wants and needs of our stakeholders in the same way that a television commercial appeals to customers,” Michael explained. “The folks who will be impacted by the solution should ultimately be involved in its design, and that’s because these solutions that we put in place, whether technology or otherwise, are ultimately designed to enable and empower people, rather than the other way around.” 

3. Don’t just make it about change, make it a change campaign.

“Every good campaign has a theme, a slogan, a theme song, and why? Because campaign managers know that change is about capturing hearts and minds,” Michael said. “So, I encourage you all to pick a project name, a fun one. Find some executive celebrities to step in and endorse your campaign. Find a theme that resonates with your stakeholders and work the crowd.”

4. Not everyone will adopt the change – and that’s OK.

It’s not possible to focus on everyone, Michael said. Instead, focus on the critical stakeholders with the most measurable and acute problems. 

“Solving for them, even if they’re not great in number, will yield greater benefits and greater adoption,” he said. “The idea is these folks will become your fans, they’ll become your advocates, they’ll become your evangelists, and these projects, it’s a long-term journey. You’re going to need those evangelists for the next leg.”

5. Crawl, walk, run.

What does Michael mean by this? “It means no big bang,” he said. 

“The process may last a bit longer, but it will be a good worthwhile investment of time and energy,” he said. “And so, if structured properly, each incremental phase of the project will present an opportunity to learn, accumulate wins, develop some of those advocates and ambassadors, and increase the likelihood of adoption.” 


Whether it’s something small, like adjusting to a new grocery store layout, or something significant, like a complete digital transformation of your contracting process, there’s no doubt that change is hard for everyone. 

But with the strategies outlined above, change management doesn’t have to be impossible. With these tips and best practices, you can help be the CLM champion at your organization and bring about real, lasting organizational change. 

To learn more about how you can be a CLM change champion at your organization, set up a call with us today.