Turning CLM Setbacks Into Success with James Donald

In this exciting episode of Contract Heroes, we spoke with James Donald, the Deputy General Counsel at Accor. James is a lawyer by background who eventually found his way into the hospitality sector. 

Throughout his time with Accor, he has learned their legal processes inside and out. Alongside his team, James tackles legal operations with the goal of making legal work better and supporting the business as a whole. This has, of course, led them into the realm of CLM. However, their first round of CLM implementation didn’t go as smoothly as planned.

Join us as we dissect what went wrong in Accor’s first round of CLM implementation and break down how James and his team are now using that experience to facilitate a more successful technology implementation with Agiloft.

How is a CLM solution helpful to companies like Accor?

Accor is an enormous hospitality hotel management company with over 40 brands located all over the world. In such a large organization, different regions within the business need to be able to govern themselves. James explained that the various legal teams spread throughout Accor have always been quite good at meeting regional business needs. But with the staff in each region often writing their own processes, global alignment became difficult.

CLM technology can be great for establishing and maintaining contract standardization across a lot of different regions. The problem that many global organizations like Accor run into is that they don’t start from one common source of truth within their contracts. 

Before implementation takes place, the different templates and processes spaced out among the regional teams need to be reconciled, simplified, and consolidated as much as possible.

What went wrong in Accor’s first round of CLM implementation?

James spoke about a few key issues that arose in the first CLM implementation. Let’s briefly break down each one in more detail.

Lack of CLM readiness

CLM readiness may look different from organization to organization, but it should typically involve consistent processes and templates across the entirety of the business. As James explained, Accor didn’t have that at the time of the first implementation.

“So when you’re trying to load lots of different templates into a solution or you’ve got lots of different processes that vary regionally, of course it’s really hard to get that to work when there’s so much complexity,” he said.

James suggested asking these questions as part of the pre-implementation process:

  • Where do you want to go with your system?
  • What are you trying to achieve?
  • What are your current processes?
  • Can your current processes and systems support a CLM?
  • What can you change to enable your processes to support a CLM?

No challenges on needs vs. wants

James explained that, during Accor’s initial CLM implementation, they were unsure what they actually needed compared to what they thought they wanted.

The example he provided involved digitization. Hotel management and hotel franchise agreements are generally pretty large, running from 40 to over 100 pages and spanning up to 2 decades. Obviously, they contain a ton of data that could be useful to various departments throughout the organization. 

The mistake they made was trying to extract too much metadata from their contracts. “It’s just this tendency for when you’re investing in a program to want to get the most output and do as much as you can.” James stated that you need to be clear on what you want to extract and what you want to capture going forward.

Here are some of the questions James suggested asking in regards to digitization and data extraction:

  • Are you looking at post signature obligations more?
  • Are you trying to digitize a lot of your contracts?
  • Do you want to be able to manage digitization internally?
  • Do you want to be able to use admin services that come from the provider?

James added that a good CLM consultant and IT team are extremely valuable assets throughout the implementation process as well.

Tips for successful CLM implementation

Here are some of the key takeaways James mentioned as part of his team’s continued success with their current CLM implementation.

Start with the minimum viable product

We’ve mentioned on the show before that oftentimes a phased approach is the best way to tackle CLM implementation. James and his team have also found that trying to first deploy the minimum viable product (MVP) in terms of their CLM solution has been very helpful.

During the first failed implementation, the team pulled in too many complex agreements at once. This time, they decided to focus on the baseline first before building up to include more complexities.

“You just want the base elements to be correct to begin with because that alone has such an enormously powerful impact on the organization… The bells and whistles and the cherries on top maybe move the needle an extra 10%, but the base moves at 90%. So you get the base rate and everything else follows.”

Understand the business you’re in

Part of the goal for a CLM implementation is to never have to do another one ever again. In order to avoid a failed implementation, you need to gather feedback from across the organization to make sure the tool you choose will meet the needs of the entire business.

James told us that not only did his team spend time pre-implementation talking with other departments about their needs, but they have also continued to pull feedback as the process progresses forward.

He spoke about the importance of understanding the business priority as well. With a CLM solution in hand, legal can offer assistance in business development by essentially speeding up the rate of contracting while still maintaining quality and protecting against risk.

Leverage available resources

James insisted that having conversations about what you need from your CLM solution before you embark on an implementation journey is critical. He suggested checking out the CLOC (Corporate Legal Operations Consortium) website to learn more from others’ experiences with implementation, including testimonies and common pitfalls to avoid.

He also stressed the importance of having a good consultant to help you choose the right tool. Not only can consultants ask the right questions to help you pinpoint what you truly need, but they can also leverage their experience with the complex and deeply varied CLM market to suggest vendors that may be a nice fit for your organization’s needs.

This episode of Contract Heroes is sponsored by Koho Consulting. Koho helps organizations of all shapes and sizes find employment and manage their chosen CLM tool. Whether your project is buy or sell side led, Koho can help you navigate the waters of the CLM space to make sure that you’re getting a product that’s going to fit like a glove years to come. 

Click here to schedule a consultation today!