Contract Heroes

Turning CLM Setbacks Into Success with James Donald

Episode Summary

Have you ever wondered how large organizations navigate the complex web of legal obligations, contract management, and compliance requirements in today's ever-changing business landscape? The answer lies in embracing cutting-edge solutions that revolutionize legal operations and optimize efficiency. One such solution gaining significant momentum is Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) technology. In this episode of the Contract Heroes Podcast, we are delighted to sit down with James Donald. James is the VP & Deputy General Counsel at Accor in Dubai and has 10+ years' hospitality experience. He has advised on all manner of hotel-related agreements throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Previously, before joining Accor, he led legal and risk in India, the Middle East, and Africa. James is a solicitor of England and Wales, with an economics and finance degree, and a father of twin boys.

Episode Notes

In this episode of the Contract Heroes Podcast, we are delighted to sit down with James Donald. James is the Deputy General Counsel, Global Premium Midscale and Economy Brands at Accor in Dubai and  has 10+ years' hospitality experience. He has advised on all manner of hotel-related agreements throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Previously, before joining Accor, he led legal and risk in India, the Middle East, and Africa. James is a solicitor of England and Wales, with an economics and finance degree, and a father of twin boys.

During our conversation, James shares his background and how he ended up in his current role. The discussion focuses on legal operations and implementing  technology at Accor. James explains the initiatives they have taken to streamline legal processes and improve collaboration between legal and other business departments. He also discusses the implementation process of their contract lifecycle management system and highlights the importance of evaluating and re-evaluating processes. James discusses a significant aspect of their discussion, which revolved around the learnings from a previous CLM implementation. He shares how they have used that knowledge to avoid making the same mistakes with their new vendor, Agiloft. By reflecting on past experiences, James and his team have gained valuable insights that inform their approach to implementing the contract lifecycle management system, ensuring a more successful outcome with Agiloft.




Episode Transcription

Audio V1 - James Donald - Contract Heroes


Intro [00:00:05] You're listening to the Contract Heroes podcast. Your one-stop shop for all things contract management. And now here are your hosts Marc and Pepe.


Marc Doucette [00:00:14] Well, James, thanks so much for joining us today. And before I flip things over to Pepe to give us a better understanding of what we're going to be talking about, we love to get a little bit more information on your background and how you ended up in this role and an inside of this conversation we're going to be talking about today.


James Donald [00:00:30] Thanks for inviting me along, guys, So I'm a lawyer by background. I trained at an American firm in London in 2006. And the way that it works over there is you do a two-year training contract, and I traveled a little bit during that training contract. And at the end of my experience during my training, I ended up living in Dubai. And so I was in the UAE Socios and worked for a couple of years in that law firm. And then I called a recruiter and I said, I really want to go in-house to one. And they were like, Well, okay, you know, where do you want to go? If you could pick anywhere? And I said, Well, either airlines or hotels. And they found me a hotel job. And I ended up at one of the big hospitality players, Intercontinental Hotels, and worked for them for ten years and then moved over to Accor in the Middle East, doing a transactional role, doing a lot of hotel development deals, franchising management, that sort of thing, in a real sort of operational legal role. And then an opportunity came up a couple of years ago when I was speaking to the general counsel and she was like, you know, we want to look at trying to explore and expand our legal operations and and and have someone lead that. Is it something you'd be interested in? And I said, Yeah, I mean, that sounds amazing because there was a lot of things that I would complain about process wise. She asked me if I was interested in being involved in it because I think there was a lot of opportunity of things that we could do. So ended up doing that and started the job a couple of years ago. My job's changed a little bit now and I'm deputy general counsel for most of the most of the business. But the legal operations is a big part of my mandate as well. So I have a team with me and we look at all the different initiatives that we can do to make legal work better and support the business.


Pepe Toriello [00:02:18] Awesome job. So having this conversation is one of the main benefits of going to pull events like the one we are having in Vegas. We met with James during an event and it's amazing because dude, you can meet like a lot of people. We had a couple of beers there and talking about legal operations  and we just decided, well, I ask you, thanks a lot for has that been our invitation to come to talk about your experience in and about the legal ops? And this is something that we want to talk about during this episode, legal operations and of course, technology, how you can implement technology, because Accor for the people that don't know of them, just Google that,it is a huge company. They have like a lot of hotels they're in. And I can't imagine how complex it is to, you know, to streamline all your processes. And we want to cut this conversation, James, just if you can tell us about any recent initiative you have taken to, of course, streamline the legal process within your organization, and how will these changes foster collaboration between legal and other key business departments?


James Donald [00:03:33] Sure. So you're right. For those who don't know Accor, it's an enormous hospitality hotel management company. And we have something like 40 plus brands. And it's, you know, all across the different spectrum, all the way from luxury to budget. We're all over the world. And the way that we've always acted, I think, as a business is to be quite decentralized. So we were always we always had quite a few regions. Each of those regions would act quite autonomously. And the way the legal department worked certainly was that you would have the legal teams in each region report up into the business of each of those regions. Which basically meant that you had a lot of legal teams acting close to the business, which is great. But then aligning on some of how do you get alignment across all the business activities that you're doing at a global level? That was a little bit harder because you had each region staff, write their own processes, do their own thing according to their regional business needs. So when I came into this role, one of the things we identified was that there was a big opportunity to align in different areas across different things within legal and to better support the business. So what are the key things that we wanted to do to look at how we best support the business and what we started mapping it out? When I joined this role a couple of years ago and we realized there's a lot of low hanging fruit. So it was almost like, what do we go after first? The real key initiative that we'd undertaken prior to my joining the role was to look at the CLM solution, which we can talk about a bit later. When I came in, it was like, right where we've got this CLM solution that we were halfway through an implementation process with and we were using that to get all of our contracts, particularly for hotel management and hotel franchising was all about different flows into one place. But then what was all of the other stuff that we could do? And we realized, for example, that we had a lot of different templates around the world, know legal templates that we use because again, you know, each region was doing their own thing with templates, designing templates as they saw fit for their region. But we didn't then have a lot of consistency and alignment across those. We said, Right, well what can we start doing? What can we look at? And we've since rolled out like a global hotel management agreement that everyone now uses across the board. We've looked at implementing a single NDA for everyone to use, which we're using the one NDA platform for that and getting things to look the same and use the same terminology and feel the same. So it feels like everyone's on the same page with us and then we've done all, you know, we've done stuff on policies as well, looked at sort of what policies we have because historically, again, we've where we've had policies, they've been regionally implemented. So if you had a legal review policy, it was kind of a regional legal review policy that would apply to just that specific region. And we looked at and we said, right, well, how can we expand this? How should we take all of these different policies that we have and align them and create one policy so everyone is doing the same thing? So we looked at that and we're doing it at the moment for commercial contracts. So you've got the bulk of a lot of legal work is done in hotel management, hotel franchising contracts with third party owners. But a lot of other stuff is done on just your general day to day commercial contracts. So we wanted to find some rules of engagement, keep it quite simple and enable the business to self-serve a bit more. So we go to them and we say, Right guys in the business, Well, here are some templates for the training. His guidance about what we do. We're looking to have a support this process as well. But then we give them the opportunity to just kind of help themselves in many cases and do a lot of the basic stuff themselves. And legal comes in at certain points in that process as required. And then as I say, like CLM is our big is our big project. That's what we really started on four or five years ago. We didn't have a single source of truth for all of our contracts. We didn't have more than one place. As we all know, data is the new gold. So how do we extract all this rich contract data? How do we leverage it? That was the whole way of looking at it. So some of the key initiatives that we've undertaken.


Pepe Toriello [00:07:59] Right. And what I really like about what you're saying, James, is that and before we jump into the CLM  implementation, because right now, while you're talking about it's something that we've been discussing a lot during our recent episodes. Oh, there's he said a lot of people like Lucy Baley, and everybody in the space called it like the CLM readiness. You know, like you need to get all your templates, especially when it's going to be a global deployment because as you said, they're like regional, they're like different processes, the regulations, the different countries, they're all different. They have different kind of, you know, compliance obligations. You know, leasing or franchise agreements is not regulated the same in the different countries. But one of the things that I would say is the most important is especially with the processors and they really like that you called up about the legal review policies. You know, it's like in our experience, I don't know if it's the same with you guys, but it's what does legal need to review, right? What kind of work can be done directly by that, by the commercial department so they can become like let's call it self-service. So my follow-up question, James, would be like, like how did you work with this and did you did everything in-house, or do you think it is important to have like an external consulting firm that has some experience in this? Or how did it go during this CLM readiness?


James Donald [00:09:34] Sure. So I think when we go back, so we input into this, they start to implement the CLM solution we bought it four years ago. The implementation process took a lot longer than I think any of us were expecting. And there was a bunch of reasons for that, both on the vendor side and on our side. But one of the things we realized, I think, is exactly that the CLM  readiness we didn't really have, we didn't have these consistent templates. This is only something we've done in the last couple of years. 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. So we realized that that was something we should have done probably more of. And I think it's we did work with a consultant on some of this stuff, but it was really on the main implementation part. I think there was a real benefit to working with a consultant on the pre-implementation part. Like what do you want to do? Where do you want to go with your system? What are you trying to achieve? Some of these questions because everyone wants, I think, a CLM and they realize and they're starting to understand a lot more the value of having a CLM. Some of these questions are just assumed like, Oh yeah, we need a CLM and we've got to do this  and this is why we need to have  because everyone else has one. I think to really sit down and consider what you're doing, how are you doing it? Whether you've got the right processes and systems in place to enable a successful CLM is a big part of that and then looking at where you can step change some of that before there is a big implementation process that begins.


Marc Doucette [00:11:14] I think we really answered the question James, but it sounds like the doing the CLM project or going out there and evaluating tools and purchasing something was kind of the catalyst that made you actually take a step back and say, Hey, we need to reevaluate our processes. And is that something I mean, first off, is that how that kind of went down?


James Donald [00:11:34] Yeah, it is sort of.  I think we when you think about doing a CLM, there is a lot of there's so much opportunity and it's such a you can have a lot of stuff that can be done in a CLM. And I think we were very happy to have, first of all, just get all our contracts in one place and extract some data from legacy contracts. That's already like a that was already a big thing for us to to have that initial based platform. But yeah, certainly just having that, being able to do that was was really important.


Marc Doucette [00:12:04] And I think, you know, we want to kind of jump in to hear next is some of the issues that you did face in the implementation or maybe we can highlight some of the issues that the team faced, maybe some things that you didn't know going in that now, you know, you might have a much better understanding on so that anybody out there that's listening who might be either searching for tools about to start their implementation, you know, they can get an understanding from somebody who's been through it before, but what to watch out for. So, you know, I think at a high level, what are some of the things you might caution other folks on when either they're evaluating tools? Are there specific questions you think that they should be asking? And the second part, which we can dive into a little bit later, is more so around things to watch out for when you actually do get into the implementation.


James Donald [00:12:47] Sure. I think for us, we learned a lot during that initial process and this is why I think it's really important to have the right consultant on board early. See, you can challenge you on some of these decisions that you think you need to make. So, for example, the contracts that we were trying to digitize, well, first of all, we're taking legacy contracts, hotel management and hotel franchise agreements, big agreements like they run from 40 to 100 plus pages. So there's a lot of data in there. And they're 20-year agreements in many cases. So they explain how you're going to run and manage the hotel system on behalf of a third party owner. So there's a tendency to want to take lots of data out of there to give every department in the business as much information as they need. So one thing that we did, which we definitely wouldn't do again, and we're going through another CLM  implementation now and we've been very clear about this is do not take too much metadata. Be really clear on what data you want to extract from those legacy contracts and what do you want to capture going forward. We took 300 plus pieces and then you realize that when you're trying to do an extraction of legacy data, over 5000 big agreements, that is a huge undertaking that was that we hadn't appreciated. So it was all manual extraction. There wasn't really any AI in place. So you're looking at manually extracting through an offshore outsourced resources services team because we didn't have the capacity to do it internally. 300 plus pieces of data out of each and every contract, new numbering 5000. That's just to do the getting new legacy stuff in there. That ended up being such an enormous piece of work that extended out the timeline of the project so greatly. That was something that we learned that we shouldn't have done. And so I would just say to people, you might need you need 300, you probably don't need 30 or 40. 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. That was really one of the key ones. And then I think as well, not having the right global policies and templates in place, we talked about briefly, but then buying, picking the right system. Understanding what the differences are because it's a complex market. There are lots of players out there. I think it's this is why I think the value of a consultant is is imperative and getting the right person on board to help you through that process is what do you want to be able to do are you looking at post signature obligation more? Are you trying to digitize a lot of your contracts? Do you want to be able to manage that internally? Do you want to be able to use admin services that come from the provider? A lot of this stuff helps you to set up that success going forward. And then the last thing I would also mention is that I think it's incredibly beneficial to have the right team involved in terms of we have an IT  person who is wonderful, a guy called Richard Dudley, who is just a genius when it comes to working with our CLM provider, who we're now working with to implement a new system. And he understands all the questions to us. And I think having an I.T. person in your team is really valuable.


Pepe Toriello [00:16:15] Right I would say that we've seen this in a lot of change, right? There's a problem, especially because the first approach when you start talking with businesses, with the sales team and they want to close a big one. Right. But the thing is that when you go there, this is I can't remember who was our guest she didn't like this analogy is like started dating right. Doing the demos and everything. This is all cool because demos, this is like very controlled environment and everything will look perfect. But then during the implementation, that's where you maybe where you get married. And then when you're going to start having some of the, some of the issues there and you need to have everything clear from before. Right? And I think one of the one of the main challenges for having a successful implementation is that, first of all, you don't have to do everything at once. I mean, of course, he maybe in couple of years, in five, ten years, you would need those 300 data inputs from your contracts. But right now, let's face it, just let's go with phases. Right now, what do you need inside this hundred pages, franchise agreements You need maybe you only need 40 you and you need 20 or maybe ten. You just have them on the system and start working. Because one of the things is that even if the implementation goes smoothly. The adoption is the next challenge, and they have a very complex system in place. Even when you have hit all your requirements from the beginning with the scope of work and everything. But if it's very complex, the adoption is going to be a nightmare because instead of having just three or five sessions of training to use the system, it's going to take a year just so that people can start looking for it. So I would say that's a good approach. And I think with that experience right now that you're changing the CLM   platform, this is something that you already have, right? As an experienced end, it will be like a completely different way on how to approach during the implementation phase.


James Donald [00:18:38] Definitely. And we are really taking the idea of launching a minimum viable product.  So for this time around I forget which tech startup book that talks about this but you know you get your you get your base product out there and then you iterate and you build upon it and you become more complex through time instead of trying to do everything upfront, which I think we tried to. And when you try and do that, as you say, the adoption we had, a lot of people would just say, Look, we don't understand this. It's very complex. This is not really working for us, which is why we made the decision to switch.


Marc Doucette [00:19:13] Yeah, I mean, I think that's something that we talk about a lot too, is that crawl, walk, run approach and making sure that you're breaking this down, that you're getting important. Maybe some folks that are going to be using the system or you need to train them the end users, right, right out of the gate. You want to make this process as easy as possible for them, for them to use. And if they're in other departments who, you know, maybe aren't going to be what we would call like a power user of the system, maybe they shouldn't even be in CLM tool maybe we just need to integrate with other applications that they're familiar with so that they can stay where they used to be and really don't really need to interact with the new interface, like the legal or procurement teams might have to.


James Donald [00:19:55] And I think that's right because if you think like an organization like mine and many big international organizations, there is so much IT stuff out there like it's just constant. There are more programs being launched. You know, we've got a big new counterculture platform that's been launched that's had a lot of investment behind it. But people are bombarded with new systems. So there's a real question to be asked about, well, can this can what you need to do you live in an existing system with some sort of interface that allows you to push and pull data between them. And that's something we've learned as well.


Pepe Toriello [00:20:28] Exactly. We were talking about exactly this with our volunteer. She's senior research forester and they released a couple of weeks ago the first wave report for their CLM  and one of the main things that they take into consideration to consider who are the leaders in the space is of course A.I because right now is like super hot topic, you know, but the integration, the integration is is a very important part of the system because even if you have a system that is very flexible to say, you know, as you off or whatever, and you can build a lot of things in these systems, like maybe it's possible to run your own CRM inside a platform like Agiloft but the thing is like if you really spend a lot of money, you have Salesforce, for example, for your sales team. You don't need to reinvent the wheel. You already have something running there. What do you want to do here is like, know how to integrate both systems in how they can communicate. Because one of the things that happens with huge organization like Juris is like they have different softwares for different departments and they just became like silos. They have their own databases inside. And what you want to have there is how you can synchronize that information. So whenever a new lead, it's come in, okay, how can you put that information inside your CLM  system? And that's one of the main reasons why integration, it's one of the key elements and a good one you got to know and that the important part of having a good consulting firm who can do that integration and can support you to give you some examples like what other kind of integration they have do, because maybe it's not just with the Salesforce. You also want to have an integration with your ERP system because you want to know which purchase order are related to one of the contracts. That's another things that you get to take in mind when you're starting to build your CLM. And again, it doesn't have to be at the beginning. Maybe you can start with a minimal bio probe with the out-of-the-box once everybody is okay and they feel comfortable using the system. Okay. Let's see how we can integrate it with the CRM. Let's see how we can integrate it with our ERP system. This is a key element on how to have a successful implementation and avoid all those pitfalls.


James Donald [00:23:04] And this is really where I think the value of a really good consultant comes on who can help you look at the market and go, Right, well, what do you want out of this? And really critically assess what each of the providers can offer and then get you to look at not just the beautiful demos which you write in, what you say. Everyone does a beautiful demo, but you want to be able to examine it for your needs and test it in accordance with what you want, and then ask these questions about what haven't you thought about? You know, I'm a lawyer with a lot of transactional experience, but I don't know a lot of these questions I haven't thought. I try to think laterally based on this stuff, but I need pointers and guidance and so does my team to help us think, right? We'll consider this and consider that and that. And that's been invaluable.


Marc Doucette [00:23:53] Right. I mean, you know, we do talk about this a lot often, too. But in something else that we've seen recently is more of this post go live support or using organizations, using consulting firms to be the system admin and I think is the space matures I think we're seeing more of this, so you know James I didn't know if your team has had this discussion if you've look into or even know yet, because you're still going through an implementation, like does your team want to be those, those system admins that continued to build out the solution as, as the organization evolves? Or have you considered bringing somebody on to, to manage the system for you would be able to make those changes and do the things behind the scenes to allow your team to continue to focus on their day-to-day jobs.


James Donald [00:24:38] It's a really good question because while I have I'm very fortunate to have a wonderful I.T. centric person in my team, Richard, you know, if he's doing the system admin for this for forever to come, that takes him away from other big projects that we would like to look at. There are many things that we can do, not just around CLM and my team as a plus to play in all of those. So we haven't decided exactly what our long term strategy is yet. Our implementation ends at the November and will have gone live with the whole organization. We called it a phase at one A and a phase one B implementation. So phase one was really the lift across of the existing data that we had in the system. And phase one B is more of the wider CLM tools that we never really implemented in the first go around with our previous CLM provider. So at the end of November, our system will be live the whole organization, to the extent that the whole corporate organization will be on it and we'll be able to do things like NDAs, etc. out of that for the whole organization, which is really nice. But then we do have a question to ask about what is our long term strategy around that. And I think there's a very valid argument to say that. Do you internalize those and what cost is that of doing that and what opportunity cost is if you can't do other stuff versus if you take someone on the outside?


Pepe Toriello [00:26:04] And I think that kind of approach can be used as an analogy where you work with external counsel. So with the law firm, right, you have to hire the fintech lawyer where maybe you only have one deal, right? I mean, for example, or, or a compliance lawyer or whatever, maybe for just for that you can hire somebody else to do it. And in that case, your Richard, the I.T. guy can be of a project manager because he understands the system he's been involved in to the implementation. But certain things that you can do by yourself, right? You do need somebody to update your templates because that's just like editing a word document or maybe building approval workflow because instead of having two approvals now, now you need three. That's just something that you can configure. So you do you get a thing like how can you be auto efficient for certain things but if you want to move over to something that is going to be more complicated, like an integration, for example, you don't need Richard to get trained four months to do this where you could just hire somebody and do it in a couple of weeks, right? Yeah.


James Donald [00:27:17] So I think it's all that sort of cost benefit of how we resource these things let the legal operations team in Accor for a big organization. I think after being at Accor I realize it's a reasonable size. Three of us that work on legal operations as Rachel as well who works the coordinator and there are question marks about well if she did for example the business admin around this, how much does it then take away from her helping with templates which Rachel has like a background in doing professional support work as well and as a paralegal. So a lot of the time that she can help to work on templates. Well, that would be taken away if we, if we did the on that. So you're absolutely right.


Pepe Toriello [00:27:59] One of the successful or hallmarks of ability of a general counsel, of course, is the ability to continually improve the operational effectiveness. And this is something that it goes very close in to the CLM  space. Let me tell you why I think that, because CLM is not something that is just like a policy that doesn't change. This is something that goes, and it's going to keep evolving because you're always going to see new bottlenecks maybe in a couple of monitoring a year, maybe some processes it's going to become you will know how to make it more, more efficient. But how can you ensure that your team process are both efficient and capable of supporting the dynamic needs of the organization? I mean, between the legal and the other commercial departments?


James Donald [00:28:50] And I think we've thought about this alot, particularly with now moving to a new CLM platform, redoing an implementation, the cost that brings both in terms of time and financial costs for implementing that system, making sure it's fit for purpose. And what we want to do is really get the businesses involved as much as possible. Giving feedback and asking for and receiving whatever people have to say about it. So we did that with the first system and we received feedback and that informed us what we were going to do with our replacement system. And the real key here is we never obviously want to do another CLM implementation. I haven't got any hair, but if I did, it would be all gray because it's a lot of time and a lot of effort and so feedback, right? So we're going around the business and saying, What is this that you want out of this? What are you expecting out of this? And we're doing this early on in the process with workshops, etc., but we've got a plan to run that through the process as well with pulse surveys and that sort of thing. And it's not just obviously with the CLM that we're doing that we are spending a lot of time really trying to understand the business. If there's one thing that I can suggest young in-house lawyers do is to really understand the business that they're in, because there's often a criticism that I hear about, Well, do they really understand me? Right? Do they really understand what my challenges are, the business person's perspective, when they're trying to get something done. The lawyer will come in and in many cases try and remove even if there is a tiny amount of risk, we move that risk to nonexistence. And I think there's a there needs to be an understanding that you need to understand the whole business priority and what's going on. So it's like my grandmother used to say that you have two ears and one, right? You have to is you should listen twice as much as that you speak. So and I think lawyers can generally do better the way this with we're really spending a lot of time just getting that feedback. And to give you an idea, right, the business development team and legal work very closely together because what business development is obviously trying to do is sell new hotels and flag a new hotel into one of our brands. And a lot of that is the speed of contracting becomes very important. So from the day that a non-binding MOU memorandum of understanding or a letter of intent assigned to the day that you get that wet in court digital signature on the final contract, how can we speed up and improve that process while protecting the values, the organization and through speaking to them a lot of it is about getting the right templates, getting the right processes in place, understanding what can be done by self-serve, by the organization that doesn't necessarily need to involve legal and what doesn't. And be extremely clear about it, because I'm sure we all have examples anybody listening to this who's worked in-house will have examples where the business can often go, Hey, I've got a contract. I don't know what to do with it because it's a legal contract and I don't read these things. So here it comes to you and then you start to try and unpick what it's trying to do, that contract and what the objective is whereas if you can be clear to the business and say, Look, we've really thought about this, we think that these are the sort of things we need to get involved in and these are the sort of things we don't need to get involved in. Then the business is like, great, we can free up some of your time. We can speed things along at our end and it becomes a great collaboration in terms of moving the speed of contracting forward, which is the real goal in all of this.


Marc Doucette [00:32:53] Yeah, and I think I mean, the moral of this right, is working together with departments being collaborative. So that first off, I mean, everybody understands what others goals are inside the organization. So you're all on the same page. But secondly, I mean, this is going to set yourself up for success in the future as well. And having the ability to continue building out your processes and whatever application you're using, I think that's huge. And the last question, I think little I guess the topic that we wanted to discuss, James, was more around, you know, how are you measuring success? And I kind of want to take this in a different direction, though. You know, we can talk about KPIs and I think that there's probably a great conversation to be had there. But, you know, I'm curious because this is your you know, the second go at this, are you changing has your definition of what done and success looks like? Is it look different than it did when you initially had the first implementation that failed?


James Donald [00:33:47] Yeah, great question. I think when you go to market and you speak to vendors about what a software solution. I'm not just talking about CLM,  any software solution can do for you. It can often sound like you're changing the world. You know, everything changes. It's going to be perfect. And we all know that getting the basics right is the first step to do this rather than It's great to have all the bells and whistles and the cherries on top, but you just want the base elements to be correct to begin with, because that alone has such an enormously powerful impact on the organization that the bells and whistles and the cherries on top maybe move the needle an extra 10%, but the base moves the moves at the 90%, so you get the base rate and everything else follows. So we've been very considerate in this new go round of what we want our objectives to be.


Pepe Toriello [00:34:50] And it is.


James Donald [00:34:51] It's very tempting to say, Oh, we can do this and we can do that, or we must try this. And it just imagine if we can do that. But then there's a voice in my head. And I've really encouraged our collaborative partners on this to call it out, just to say, well, look, just let's get this right and move forward and iterate from there. So do I think they've changed the objectives from a high level? No, we still want to do more automating of contracts, basic contracts. But we realized that perhaps at the start, the start of this five years ago, four years ago, we were looking at automating very, very complex contracts. And that we realize is hard. You know, if you've got a 100 page management agreement with so many variables, you realize that's an incredibly challenging thing to do versus a two-page NDA or a ten page services agreement where there's a lot fewer variables that you can deal with. So I think on the automation part, we probably have shifted on the post signature part. We've also probably shifted like as I talked about, the 300 method plus methods we took at the start, I always use as an example, we would take a piece of metadata about how many swimming pools a hotel has. I can promise you this has no bearing on on how we license or bill or manage that hotel really in the grand scheme of things. But that was one of the things that we wanted to capture. So we're reducing that. So we're taking far fewer pieces. Meditation, be more consistent, consistently apply them and careful in what we pick not just on the management franchise agreements but on all the agreements. Why do we really need this or do we really just need the start date, the end date, the fees, whose being billed, the basic stuff because that basic stuff takes you to 90% anyway.


Marc Doucette [00:36:38] Yeah, I you know, I think we definitely would agree on that. Right. And I you know, I mean, we keep saying this right, but finding that MVP product, making sure that you get the load of the heavy lifting done right at the beginning or in that initial phase and making sure that you lay the groundwork for future phases. Well, James, this has been a fantastic conversation. We really appreciate you joining us. I guess, you know, final question to wrap up, any other points or tips you'd like to suggest for any of the listeners out there that might be going through a similar process as you?


James Donald [00:37:08] I think the real key one, honestly, is to have the right conversations before you embark on this process. That means leveraging the network that you have. Clock is a fantastic resource. You know, I joined the legal operations world, I went to clock and last year for the first time I thought it was just a wonderful, wonderful introduction full of people who were extremely happy to share their experiences, good and bad, to help you avoid pitfalls. So I would definitely say leverage that, pick the right consultant and take your time. I think there are a ways to say we need this and rush into it and I think a little bit of money spent and a little bit of time taken to assess, really assess deeply the market about what each vendor provides. The pros and cons, pays huge dividends going forward.


Marc Doucette [00:38:04] I totally agree. I think we're definitely on the same page there. Well, James, this is this has been great. We really appreciate you coming on again. And thanks so much for being here.


James Donald [00:38:13] A pleasure. Thanks, guys.


Marc Doucette [00:38:15] All right. Thanks, everybody, for listening to another episode of Contract Heroes. This episode of Contract Heroes is sponsored by Kojo Consulting. Kojo helps organizations of all shapes and sizes, find employment and manage their chosen CLM tool. Whether your project is buy or sell side led, Kojo 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. If you'd like to learn more about Kojo, visit their website at