I never dreamed of the journey that lay ahead of me when I received a phone call over 5 years ago asking for assistance with a contract management software acquisition. At that time I was the procurement representative at Eastman Chemical responsible for software acquisitions. A six sigma black belt had been leading a project to improve contract management for our sales agreements and one of the outcomes was we needed a more robust contract management system than the existing repository software we had been using.
The project team had identified several requirements for sale contract management, such as:
- Ability to have reusable templates
- A library of clauses
- Electronic workflow for review and approval of contracts
- Contract compliance monitoring and control
- Extensive reporting capabilities
- Integration with our ERP system for master data and revenue data.
These needs were worked into a Request for Information that we sent to about 10 different contract management software companies. After receiving the initial responses, we narrowed the list down to four packages we thought might be able to meet our requirements. At the same time, our scope grew exponentially! I recognized the value a system like this could have for procurement agreements. Soon the procurement organizations signed on, next our legal organization saw the benefits of replacing our existing enterprise contract repository software, by the time the four candidates arrived to demo their products, we had a full blown enterprise project for contract management software. About the same time, I switched assignments and assumed the role of Contract Manager for the sales organizations, along with being the overall business lead for the implementation of the software.
We ultimately selected Upside Software’s product. There were some areas like sales that wanted to use all the functionality, but other areas, where they wanted to continue existing processes and only use the software as a repository and take advantage of better reporting capabilities. In Upside we found a product that could be configured to meet the diverse needs of our many functional areas. In January 2009 we implemented the first version.
Were there lessons learned? Absolutely! We did a big bang event; everybody went live the same day. In hindsight, we should have phased it in slower, running pilots. While the Upside product was the most user friendly we saw and the software generally performed as expected, we underestimated the change management issues we faced. Trying to meet the needs of so many different user communities added in complexity that wasn’t there before, needed complexity, but complexity none the less. We identified some very necessary enhancement that would make the user experience better. In April, 2011 we upgraded to the most recent version of the software (to date) in order to improve the user experience. The upgrade did provide a greatly improved user experience for searching, one of our big needs.
We were now starting to reap the rewards of the implementation. The integration with our ERP system allowed us to easily see the contracts where sales did not match the contract commitment. Contract managers received email reminders of compliance activities associated with their contracts. Reporting allowed us to monitor who had not completed compliance activities, but also allowed us to quickly report on different aspects of our contracts. Unfortunately, like any package software, there were still things we wished were included.
Upside held annual conferences for companies using their software to hear about enhancement needs, but I wasn’t sure this was the best approach to identify what was important to many users. Over the years I had collected business cards at the conferences. Last year, I sent an invitation to the contacts asking them if they would like to form a user group. About the same time, SciQuest acquired Upside, and Upside was rebranded to Contract Director. Which leads me back to the journey I have been on. Five years later, I am now the elected leader of the Contract Director User Group (CDUG). CDUG has about 30 member companies that work together to provide a common forum where business and technical users of SciQuest’s Contract Director software expand their business network, prioritize user issues, provide a common voice to influence software development, offer technology insight and leverage best practices by exchanging knowledge, ideas and experiences. If you are a Contract Director user, we invite you to stop by our table at the NextLevel conference, or visit our website www.cdug.webs.com for more information.