Taking the Tech Out of It: Contract Heroes with Trayce Marcelle

On this episode of Contract Heroes, we’re taking you back once again to the CLOC Global Institute Event in Las Vegas for another special guest interview with Trayce Marcelle. Trayce is the head of U.S. Legal Operations and Technology Consulting at LOD + SYKE. She has over 20 years of experience in legal operations management consulting, working with complex organizations on large projects that revolutionize the way they use technology. 

From remediations of improperly implemented solutions to custom CLM builds, Trayce has done it all, and she shared tons of expert insights with us throughout our conversation.

Find out what the tech can do for you

With so many CLM tools already available on the market and even more on the horizon, it only makes sense that tools have begun to specialize. Every tool does at least one task really well. That’s why, according to Trayce, you have to find out what the technology can do for you rather than adjusting to technology you already have. “No code solutions let you configure the product in a way that supports your need,” she said.

To illustrate this, Trayce gave an example about one of her clients. She explained that the company had worked with a lot of patents and struggled to manage them internationally because country law changes so often. If they couldn’t find a way to track and manage those changes, they would lose their patents. 

So, they found a CLM tool that had country law inherent in it. From there, they went on to build a patent management system around it. Since patents were their most important obstacle, they sought out a tool that provided a solution to that problem and molded it to work for them.

The main issue with all this? Most organizations don’t know what they want, much less what they need. They might not know what their main obstacles are, leaving them without a clear starting point. It’s in these cases that Trayce advocates for “taking the tech out of it.”

“If you take the tech out of it and have a conversation about your end result, your world will open and allow you to see what the tech can do for you rather than adapting to the tech you have.”

Trayce went on to emphasize that those conversations about the end result need to include other departments outside the legal team. All contract stakeholders will have requirements that they want the tool to meet. By bringing them into the conversations early, you can gain a full understanding of what everyone wants from the system before you build it. Knowing what you want also empowers you to measure the success of the tool in the end.

Actually bringing in those other departments can sometimes be difficult depending on the culture of the organization. In some instances, everyone will already be excited about the change, but in others a lot of folks will want nothing to do with it. 

If you want to create champions for the system and get people talking about it positively, you have to engage with the stakeholders and really listen to what they want so you can better manage expectations. Communicate what is and is not possible in Phase 1 of implementation. Then, demonstrate that you’ve heard their concerns and explain how you will address them as well as how you will achieve their requests throughout the process. 

Slow down before you speed up

Research conducted by the Boston Consulting Group indicates that 70% of digital transformations fail. These failures often come as a result of attempts to jump straight to technology without first forming an action plan for the entire implementation. In light of these facts, we asked Trayce how she goes about communicating to organizations that they often need to take a step back before they can push forward.

Trayce emphasized the importance of prioritizing, especially for companies that want to implement a million different functions at once. She suggested asking questions like:

  • What aspects of the contract process bother you the most?
  • What is most important to the people to whom you are responsible?
  • How will you be measured?
  • How will those you report to be measured?

Have conversations about these questions to locate the business problem that resonates the most. Bring in other stakeholders for these conversations, as they will know parts of the process that the legal team does not know. The focus has to be broad enough to make the whole group successful.

In an ideal implementation scenario, the process might play out like this:

  • Take the technology out of the discussion.
  • Choose and document a complex business process in the organization.
  • Build a demo based specifically on that documented process.
  • Allow everyone in the demo to score it based on how well it meets the proposed needs.

To help companies figure out what they’re seeking, Trayce also suggested allowing data to help guide the way. As long as your current processes aren’t broken, try to get the technology into the users’ hands early. Instead of wasting time crawling through hundreds of contracts, identify 10 to 15 metadata fields that will give you a good view of your contracting universe. As employees use the product, they will get a taste of the value and efficiency it brings while it simultaneously produces data to give you direction on the next phase.

NDAs are a great place to earn a quick win in this manner. Start by automating a basic NDA, then work with different regions to make the NDA specific to them. Eventually, you can start using it as a demo and build outward, allowing the clause library to evolve organically over time as well.

Trayce also pointed out that, while slowing down is important, taking a year to plan an implementation can be detrimental. Throughout the course of a year, contract processes and templates will change and new people will be hired. This is something we’ve seen in our own experiences as well. Starting with a simple contract like an NDA helps you get the ball rolling and figure out how to build a solution that can adapt with you as those changes occur.

For organizations who truly have no idea where to begin, a company like SYKE that only does CLM can provide a starting point. They often offer up ideas based on companies in similar industries that they have worked with before. For example, the organization may not know what they want a particular workflow to look like. SYKE can show them what they’ve seen from similar businesses and help them progress from there.

Changing the perception of CLM

With failed implementations being as common as they are, many teams unfortunately face a lot of dissent when trying to move forward with another implementation in the future. In those cases, hyping up the other stakeholders might feel impossible, especially if they have come to hate the system that is currently in place.

To combat these issues, Trayce mentioned the importance of changing the perception of CLM and contracting for the dissenters. Ask for input from everyone to make the next tool more successful than the previous one. Spend time locating the gaps and problems in the current processes and explain how you can make it work differently and better: “Change their perception of the way that it does work and the way that it can work.”