Like highways, contracts often take many twists and turns, leaving the driver confused how to proceed.
Luckily, there are guardrails available to help steer you in the right path and avoid catastrophe.
Building these guardrails into the contract management process was the topic of conversation during BISSELL’s mainstage presentation at our recent Agiloft Summit 2023, held this past January in Las Vegas.
In the session, attendees learned how Agiloft’s Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) software enabled BISSELL’s Samantha Sharbaan and Heather Drouin to increase transparency and efficiencies to boost revenue, mitigate risk, and guard against compliance failures with an agile system that moves to the speed of business and quickly responds to ever-changing regulations.
Implementing ‘guardrails’ for CLM success
When BISSELL first implemented Agiloft CLM two years ago, they thought of all the stages of the contract process and where things could go off track, Heather said.
“We had very strong process, so we talked about how we would merge Agiloft with our process,” Heather said. “So we put up some guardrails. Guardrails help from transitions that were really important. So we looked at when a contract is requested. We looked at training first. We looked at when it’s requested reviews and negotiations, signing, and all the way to the repository, and each step we were intentional with the guardrails that we put up.”
One example of these “guardrails”? User roles and permissions.
BISSELL is a global company with employees scattered across the world, Samantha explained. Because of this, the company decided to give all employees access to Agiloft CLM, creating a single source of truth.
“As you can tell, Agiloft has been really helpful for me since we’ve implemented it, in allowing me to be able to really get contracts from around the globe, whether it’s in China, or Dubai, anywhere that we have,” Samantha said. “We’re all on the same system, the same process, with some tweaks depending on the regional area.”
However, BISSELL did put restrictions and limitations on their users’ accounts, ensuring only the right people have access to the right information. The team created three different roles: the alternative business user, the approvers, and the Legal team.
Assessing and balancing speed and risk
BISSELL was especially concerned with establishing guardrails to protect the beginning of the contracting process where the most things can go wrong: the contract request.
Prior to implementing Agiloft CLM, the Legal team fielded contract requests via email, oftentimes receiving blank emails with documents attached, Heather said.
It was very important to BISSELL that all contracts be requested via Agiloft, ensuring a 100% adoption rate.
“We kind of forced the issue,” Samantha explained. “We just said [the contracts] aren’t getting paid if they’re not Agiloft, so that helped it along.”
The team streamlined the requesting process so that they could gather enough pertinent information while not overwhelming the requester, Heather said.
“We asked them to do some due diligence, firsthand. Who is this company you’re working for? How did you find them? How did they come to you? And there’s places in the record to put that,” she said. “There are certain required fields they have to fill out before they can hit submit, and there’s some things that are optional.”
Another important guardrail Samantha and Heather built was their Contract Types. The contract request form asks for specialized information based on what type of contract is being requested. The Contract Types are analyzed for their level of risk, with low-risk contracts being fast-tracked for approval accordingly.
To assess risk, the Contract Request form asks users questions like:
- How much are they spending?
- What are the termination possibilities?
- Are other projects relying on this contract?
- What happens if the deliverables are late?
This approach has helped BISSELL whittle down their legal review turnaround times to as little as two days.
“This is where we’re really looking out for the risks, before we even start the negotiations, and we’re aware of these things, but there are certain tools within Agiloft that even help us because as a Legal team, we need guardrails sometimes, too,” Heather said. “We handle a high volume of contracts, and we have a very quick turnaround, so we need our own guardrails to keep us on track, and balance speed, and risk.”
Streamlining approval workflows
After the contract goes through legal review, it is then routed back to Samantha and she either processes it for a signature or sends it through the approvals process.
“So when it comes to approval workflows, again, we did not build in a secondary approval workflow,” Samantha said. “In our approval, all of the subject matter experts that touched it, all of the Legal approval that touched it, everybody will get the approvals at one time, including the business. I do a lot of sequencing to make sure that the right people are getting it at the right time, and that is moving along quickly.”
BISSELL also required that all contract requests include detailed approval notes, especially by the Legal person who touched the contract. That way, even if no one else put in an approval note, the executive approver can see what’s happening with the contract record.
“The requester really is required to put in the contract description, they’re required to put the detail. If I get a contract that is submitted that doesn’t have the appropriate amount of detail, I will send it back, and they know me for that,” Samantha said. “So they will ask me if they have enough information, or if they’re not sure, they’ll set up time on my calendar, and we’ll talk through it.”
Experiencing the power of CLM
BISSELL’s contract repository doesn’t hold just their contracts. It also holds the whole record, including emails, approval notes, general notes, and status updates. There might be notes from an approver that would say “Next time ask for a 10% discount,” or “Make this only a two-year term.”
“So when it comes up for renewals, or it comes up for expiration, we can look at those notes, and use that to our advantage the next time we negotiate,” Heather said. “We know how the negotiations went. There might be a note that said this company was very difficult on this, so push back on this point. We put all those notes.”
Heather said that BISSELL “doesn’t keep many secrets” when it comes to their contract data.
“Our repository is open to everyone at Bissell to see. They can see all of the emails, all of the discussions, all of the approval notes, and the spend,” Heather said. “The only thing we don’t keep in there, are severance agreements, and employment contracts, where they have personally confidential information like, salary, but everything else is in Agiloft, and can be searched.”
BISSELL also built in automated reminders, which help push contracts along the approval process as well as alert the Legal team to any renewals or expirations.
Before Agiloft, Heather said, BISSELL accidentally renewed a $60,000 contract for a product that nobody even used.
“So it was $60,000 wasted that could have been prevented if we had Agiloft in place,” Heather said. “And now it is preventable, because they can see that expiration, they can manage those, and they can be proactive, and avoid the auto-renewals.”
BISSELL also relies heavily on Agiloft’s reporting and dashboard capabilities to capture and visualize the data stored in their contracts.
“While [the $60,000 contract] wasn’t a lot of money, relatively, there was a lot of discussion over how do we keep this from happening again,” Samantha said. “And so in addition to the 30, 60, 90 reminders on the dashboards, they also get an email saying, you have a contract coming up for auto-renewal. If you would like to take action, do this. If not, no further action needed.”
The team has also utilized Agiloft CLM to help them create a status time report for how long it takes contracts to get through the entire process, from initial request in Agiloft to the time of signature. On average, the process takes the Legal team about 10 business days, information which that they used to inform contract turnaround timeframes.
Enjoying CLM success with Agiloft
Working with a small Legal team at BISSELL, Samantha said the team’s contract turnaround times were largely due to their use of Agiloft.
“I don’t think I mentioned this, but we have a very small Legal team, so globally, all of the contracts are handled just by about eight people. So in general, it’s really amazing that we’re able to do all that in 10 business days,” Samantha said. “And a lot of that is due to Agiloft. Pre Agiloft, we were on Excel, and Outlook, and SharePoint. Agiloft has really allowed us to streamline, and to make everything consistent.”
“Implementing Agiloft has really been a game changer for us, and allowed us to work faster, and smarter, and spend less time on emails, and doing administrative work, the stuff that we’re not necessarily trained to do,” Heather said. “We’ve added value to the company now, more than we could before, so it has really changed the way we do business.”