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Workflow Automation for General Counsels: How to Save Time, Money, and Deals

Jessica Alden Workflow Automation

‘Workflow automation’ refers to technologies that use predetermined processes and rules-based logic to complete certain tasks on a recurring basis without the need for ongoing user input. Workflow automation has proven beneficial in many industries, not least because it has led to time and cost efficiencies. General counsels can achieve these efficiencies themselves through automation tools in Contract Management Software, also known as Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) software. They stand to gain not only savings in time and money, but also improvements in deal completion. Indeed, automation can save deals that might otherwise expire because of missed deadlines, poor organization, or ultra vires lifecycle progressions.

What is workflow automation?

Workflow automation is a way to delegate certain manual tasks to a computer. The software allows a user to input various processes and rules so that the software will perform repetitive tasks itself in future. These tasks can be anything from entering appointment bookings into a shared calendar to sending a document for approval.

For most, the broad applications and benefits of automation are immediately clear. For example, it might take a user several minutes to check an appointment booking system for new entries, cross-reference those entries with those in a shared calendar, check availability, and then confirm the booking on both ends of the process. Workflow automation software can be set up to do this task in milliseconds. It might also take a long time to prepare a document for review, check authorized parties have access, send it to the relevant stakeholders, and ensure document receipt. Again, workflow automation can do all this in seconds.

How to get started with workflow automation in Contract Management Software

Most general counsels will now be familiar with contract management software. In the past few years, companies of all sizes have adopted the software as a means to improve their CLM process. Indeed, an increase in teams' productivity owing to the reduction of unnecessary paperwork is still a major attraction. For some, it might be a mystery how contract management software automates workflows, and how it may save considerable time, money, and deals in the long run.

In this regard, below we share three best practices for using contract management software to automate workflows:

  1. Set up automated alerts and notifications: Contract management software allows users to set up alerts and notifications. This can serve to improve the management of contracts in a variety of ways. Indeed, different types of alerts and notifications can be set up depending on the contract, contract type, user, or role basis. Not only do these alerts and notifications help users to stay on top of progress in deal-making, but they also allow them to review changes to the status of negotiations and key documents when they occur (or do not occur by a set time or date). Further, notifications may detail upcoming or missed deadlines as well as changes to scheduling. Having, say, an automated email sent to stakeholders when actions are complete (or not, for that matter) saves general counsels considerable time in general oversight activities, allowing them to spend their time on higher value activities.
  2. Push contracts/changes for approval/review: One reason for delay in negotiations and other key aspects of CLM is that documents sit on desks for hours, days, weeks, or even months at a time without progress. Rarely is there a good reason for this. Indeed, it tends to be the case that general counsels are too busy to stay on top of every minute aspect of the contract lifecycle. The good news, though, is that it is very straightforward to set up contract management software to automate this aspect of contract lifecycle management. If a clause changes, for example, a notification pings to the party who must then review it within a certain time frame.
  3. Route contracts for signature (wet or electronic): When parties reach prima facie agreement on the terms of a new contract, they breathe a sigh of relief as the complex negotiations come to an end. But general counsels know that such agreement is not the end of their work, but the start of a new part of it. When agreed, contract management software can route the contract for wet or electronic signature. This speeds up the formalities of contract conclusion. In turn, this sets in motion the contract implementation, monitoring, and management activities.

Is coding experience necessary for workflow automation?

The best contract management applications on the market have removed the need for complex code and instead allow users to create and manage workflows either through a visual interface or one that only requires logical, non-technical input.  When it comes to workflow automation in particular, the best CLM software allows users to:

  • get information and understand contract progress on an attractive user interface
  • enter commands via intuitive workflow builders (that look like a flow chart)
  • create custom alerts and notifications without back end editing
  • visualize processes in easy-to-understand formats

Summary

CLM software has proven itself invaluable in many respects in the day-to-day life of general counsels. In handling the complex administrative tasks involved in CLM, the software frees up time and resources. When used for workflow automation, these benefits compound, leading to improved deal completion rates as well as more efficient resource management.