Contract Heroes

Understanding CLM: Insights from the Pharma Industry with Angelina Bellanton

Episode Summary

In this episode of the Contract Heroes Podcast, we are delighted to feature Angelina Bellanton as our special guest. Angelina is currently the Senior Manager of Contracts and IP at Ikena Oncology and has a strong background in the pharmaceutical industry. During our conversation, Angelina provides us with a deeper understanding of the day-to-day work of a contract management team. We discuss the significant advantages of implementing a CLM system, including improved communication between legal and finance, streamlined approvals and signature processes, and the importance of a well-designed contract intake form. Our conversation also covers the importance of selecting the right CLM vendor for the organization and providing proper training to ensure that staff can leverage the system's functionalities effectively.

Episode Notes




Episode Transcription

[00:00:00] You are listening to the Contract Heroes Podcast, your one-stop shop for all things contract management. And now here are your hosts, mark and Pepe. 

[00:00:15] Marc Dousette: Hi Angelina. Thanks so much for being here on the Contract Heroes Podcast. Before I flip things over to Pepe, who's gonna give us a bit more of an understanding of what we're gonna be chatting about, we'd love to just understand, your background and, and how you started working with contracts in the first place.

[00:00:29] Angelina Bellanton: Thanks, mark.  my name's Angelina Bellanton . I have been working in the pharma space for about 17 years now. I've been doing contracts probably just under three years of, of that time. I initially started in, in the patent space, which I still continue to work in. I got into it because in my, previous organization, There was a need where the patent work was kind of slowing down a little bit and there was a need to get into, have more assistance in the contract space, and it was something I was willing to learn and be trained on, and that's where I started.

[00:00:59] Pepe Toriello: That's awesome. 

[00:01:00] So in this interview, I mean, we've been talking about how CLM can be useful for a lot of companies in general. Right, but this time we wanna go a little bit more specific. And it's very interesting talking to you, Angelina, because you have experience in this right from the beginning until adopting the CLM system.

And as everybody know, you know, like pharma companies struggle with a lot of complex. Highly re regulated, uh, programs, complex supply chains, and of course contracts are in the middle of everything, right. So, yeah. We would like to start this conversation. Angelina, like, can you just give us like a brief introduction on, on how, pharma company works?

Like, and especially in the contract management team, like, how does a day-to-day work looks 

[00:01:47] Angelina Bellanton: like? One of the things that, a lot of organizations don't think about in, in the very beginning, right, is how to manage or handle their, their contracts. They understand there's obviously an a need and importance to have them in place.

Most companies start off with a, with a SharePoint, 

[00:02:00] you know, just a repository for holding onto their agreements. And actually most organizations in the very beginning don't have any way of, of tracking. And for us, that was a big pain point and why we decided to, to move into Agile Loft system day-to-day looks like basically, we have so many agreements moving in different spaces, meaning.

New request, you know, drafting or negotiating or finalizing certain agreements any given day. I always start with kind of putting out fires, so to speak. Anything that's more emergent, uh, than others. Definitely working a lot in the off system on a, on a daily basis. You know, we're a small organization, but we are handling a high volume of agreements on any given day.

[00:02:43] Pepe Toriello: Well, you said that one of the, of the main pain points was of course, like the communication between finance and legal. Right? So there's a lot of. You know, operation going on, especially during our outreach processes. Like, can you tell us how was 

[00:03:00] this relationship between legal and finance benefited by implementing, CLM tool?

[00:03:04] Angelina Bellanton: Sure. I mean, initially in the beginning we were handling contracts via email, and so we weren't always obtaining, you know, the correct information. And then there was a lot of back and forth that was occurring via email with finance and even the internal contract, requesters, you know, is this budgeted?

Which program does it belong to? Do they have permission to proceed with this particular work or study? And so with the implementation of Agile Loft the approvals were, you know, streamlined where it was, it was visible to the organization, visible to finance, anything under a certain dollar value wasn't going to finance.

But those approvals now are, are, are visible. And then once it's actually been approved, The signature process is also visible to them and as an organization. Before we didn't really have that in place, and now it's also made and facilitated with our auditors the ability to to find agreements and also easily view the approval and signature process 

[00:04:00] right within the system.

[00:04:01] Marc Dousette: Yeah, I think, you know, something else that I, I wanted to, to touch on was, you know, talking about putting out fires, right? That's, that's usually how you start your day. And I, I think we hear that a lot from, from folks that are, are working with,  these tools. And, you know, specifically before, right before they, they were using a tool like Agile Loft and another CLM, I don't think that it changes that you still need to put out those fires, but maybe could you give us some understanding on how it's changed, working on those, those first things that you need to, to come in and assess in the morning.

[00:04:28] Angelina Bellanton: Definitely have efficiency. You know, like I said, I mentioned before, we were handling contracts mostly via email. Before there was no protocol, so to say, if, you know, people would internally within the organization, would send an email and just say, Hey, I need, you know, this master service agreement with, you know, x, y, z vendor, or I need an s o W in place.

And then there was a lot of back and forth to obtain the information that we needed in order to proceed. All of that has since been removed. Since we've implemented the system and we're going on now a year of, of having it in place, and it's made things so much 

[00:05:00] easier when it comes to that all, all of the required information that we need is right within the system, and we don't have to worry about, you know, a lot of the back and forth.

It's the same thing for finance. They're able to easily go into the system and view if the PO requisition has been completed. And also, like I mentioned before, they're able to see those approvals. And so the system has definitely saved a lot of time and energy, I think for not only the, the internal business owners, so the requesters, but the legal department and the finance department.

And at the end of the day, even, for our. Our C-suite management as well as they're able to easily view, approve, and sign. And so it allows for all of the work to be streamlined. Of course, one 

[00:05:40] Pepe Toriello: of the, of the first benefits on every CLM system, in this case Agile Loft, is the contract request, right? So how important is to have a well-designed intake form because like in general, some of the fields that you have to feel.

Is like, you know, like title, contract amount, description, maybe the name of the provider in 

[00:06:00] case that you have all the database of your vendors there. Uh, is there any other, like specifics that, that you think will be, important for,  for, for the formal industry so they can streamline from the beginning?

[00:06:13] Angelina Bellanton:I  think it's very important to have a, a robust contract intake form. Um, and we started with, I guess you could describe it as a Google doc type of, um, intake form. Where we used that as our test prior to implementing, um, Agile Loft in the Agile Loft system. And that allowed us to tweak and know what type of information we were looking for, what questions,  we needed to have added.

And I'll be honest with you. Over the year that we've had the system, we've tweaked that a lot. It's an ongoing process where we're adding things all the time. We just updated one of our contract types recently, and that's what I like about Agile Loft . It's so easy to tweak anything in the system that you need and make those changes because it's table based and so that allows.

For us to have the flexibility that we need. So far, I haven't really run into anything where I've been told, no, you can't do 

[00:07:00] that. And so I think that's important for an organization to have that flexibility. Right? And 

[00:07:04] Pepe Toriello: that's something that is very important for people that are starting their journey to look for CLM vendors, right?

There's the technical part, which is sort of like the futures of the system, but the other one that is, I would say maybe. As important as the T part is the consulting, right? Because this is not something that, it will be perfect on the first time. This is something that you need to keep updating because you see that there is like better ways on how you can handle all those processes, right?

And especially for highly regulated industry, all the. Parts of the compliance, right? Because another thing that can be,  very important to talk about is like, this is not just about contracts. You know, like, you know, fill this intake form and then just click bottom and then, and then you, you get all the, the first draft of the contract, but also like compliance.

Right, uh, obligations that you need to, especially if 

[00:08:00] you're going into non IPO or a or, or a public company, there's also reports that you can automate there and re regarding compliance regulations. Angelina, anything that comes to your mind that can be, solved, you see in an automation tool like Agile Loft .

[00:08:15] Angelina Bellanton: Yes. For us it was, so we had our, you know, we went public about a little bit over a year and a half ago, and just trying to figure out what would be the best way to integrate legal and finance, finance being SOX compliant, making sure that we were following our authority matrix that we have in place and how to tie those two things together.

And we were able to do that by creating our approval workflows within Agile Loft. And also it's very automated as far as the contract type and the contract amount. Is kind of the decision maker, but where it's gonna go from that point, right? So if it needs to go to finance, if it needs to go to the SVP or VP of that department, et cetera.

And there was not kind of a one, a one place for that. And now we have that. It's made finance's, life, 

[00:09:00] um, a lot easier as well as the legal department. And we work very closely together in regards to the, also the reporting you mentioned reporting. The reporting functionality out of Agile Loft  has also been very helpful for us in our organization.

And just providing all of those details for finance. When they're doing, they're closing, you know, at the end of the quarter. And also for their budgeting purposes ready to move forward into the next quarter. You 

[00:09:24] Marc Dousette: know, I think we, we brought something up here a lot, or, or you have, you know, when we're talking about finance and are you saying, so is finance actually working out of the Agile Loft, your Agile loft system as well, or are you integrating with another application that they're working in?

[00:09:37] Angelina Bellanton: We're not  integrated. We use front Deal for our PO process, and so we're not integrated with our system. We have it set up so that. Whoever the finance approver is for, we do it by department. So whoever's their finances approved for that particular department has access and they're able to view and then approve those particular agreements.

Um, once it goes to signature Finance also signs off on the agreement. 

[00:10:00] And so that's kind of where our, our two touchpoints are with them for approval and signature. 

[00:10:05] Marc Dousette: That's something too, if you're out there and you're looking at, at these types of applications, it's important to make sure that you're evaluating what the future could look like inside of your organization.

Because I think a lot of times folks, maybe this is a legal led project. They've never implemented something like this before they start the project, you know, they find a tool that they think they're going to love. But then, you know, six months down the road, eight months down the road, they find out that other teams right doesn't have the flexibility to work with the other departments that are inside their organization.

So I mean, any tips from that perspective on, on making sure that, you know, the tools that you're evaluating are able to, to work with those other departments? Was that something that your team considered at the beginning of the search? 

[00:10:41] Angelina Bellanton: Oh, definitely. And that's actually a conversation I recently had with someone who was a friend of mine who was reviewing systems in the beginning.

Sometimes we're, you know, you have. What do they say? Penny wise? Pound foolish right in the beginning. I don't wanna do all this work. This seems to be costly for us in the beginning, but you hit the nail on the head. You have to think about the organization as a 

[00:11:00] whole and being in a system that you can actually grow into, and that's going to continue to fulfill the business needs, whether you are 30 employees, 80 or 500.

Right? And that was a big thing for us, making sure that. We don't have to go through this process again, basically. Right. So we wanted to find a system that was robust, that functioned for all departments. I mean, I continued to mention, you know, primarily legal and finance because we're the ones that are handling most of these contracts.

I think it was also, it was great for the internal business owners, and most importantly, you should have buy-in. You know, from the top down. So you wanna make sure before you start this process that you, that you've, you know, talked to the correct people and made, made sure that you've got, you know, their, their considerations also, you know, and they're the ones that are saying, yes, we wanna move forward with this because it is a long process.

Is it a difficult, there are some pain points as you know, obviously as you're implementing any new system, there can be pain points. But, you know, if you have that buy-in and, and you take 

[00:12:00] the time to set up the system the way that we did in the beginning, you know, our implementation took. About 24 weeks, but looking back, okay, at that point we were like, wow, this is, this seems to be like a, it's a lot, but honestly the time went by so fast and we were able to make our changes as we went along.

Like I said, we continued to make changes within the system and I think at the end, right before we went live, I was in charge of this project and I was definitely satisfied with the outcome, even the, the amount of time that it took, et cetera, because we took the time to get feedback. I think it's very important to get feedback internally, right?

We met with each individual group, various people from each department. You know, we said we wanna implement this system. What types of things do you guys think will be helpful to you? We were able to get a lot of information from the various departments, even though it may not make as much of a difference to them, right?

They're just going to be inputting their contract requests. Also, as an organization, just understand the importance of having the system and what it was going to do for us. Versus the way that the systems we had in place at the 

[00:12:57] Pepe Toriello: time. Right. And I think that one of the best ways in 

[00:13:00] order to bring those champions or stakeholders into an implementation like this to show them the benefits, a little bit about any KPIs that, that you think, like the finance team or any other department, uh, was looking for in order to make, you know, better business decisions.

Let's think about like the dashboard. Like, what kind of information do you think it, it's important for them when they lock into their user? What's like the first information that they're, they're looking for to have them, the home site or, the 

[00:13:30] Angelina Bellanton: the dashboard, A lot of times for them, they're looking, so they're just looking to make sure that they have the contract amount, which program it runs under.

So we also, we, aligned all of our, our program internal programs with finance as well, so that they're able to easily run reports. View by program, view by dollar value view by vendor, by vendor. And we have some automated reports that we set up for finance. I run reports all the time for them to be able to just double check across when they're, 

[00:14:00] when they're making payments, et cetera.

 and so their dashboards are set up pretty much Everyone's set up pretty similarly. I think I probably have the most unique just because, you know, I've, I've kind of learned to play around with the system and, and create the different fields that I need, but it's, for me, it's very important to see what we have coming up that's expiring, what agreements are in draft, how many we have in review.

Uh, We also, you know, keep an eye on, uh, times for approval, how long it takes for something to get approved and how long it sits in signature, et cetera, to try to make things more efficient for the organization as a whole. Perfect. 

[00:14:34] Pepe Toriello: And another thing that we discussed in our last call engineer and, and one thing that I, that I really liked was about the training.

On the system. Nobody touches the platform until they're all well trained. And I think that that's very important for the adoption, right? Because they need to know how to work. It is not just like, okay, so this is your access information and then just play around and then come back with questions. You need, you need to get trained and 

[00:15:00] also to see the benefits.

And once they see the benefit, it's easier for them to know, okay, okay, so I gotta learn this because this is gonna save me some time, right? It's gonna save us, some money on, on the. Budgeting for the procurement people. Can you tell us a, a little bit on, on how this training looks 

[00:15:16] Angelina Bellanton: like? Obviously the out of box Agile Loft is, is or any, contract management system is going to be different than the end product.

So once we actually had our system established and we pretty much decided what it was going to look like and, and the functionality. Then I created a, a training manual,  with screenshots and step-by-step procedures on how to use the system. That works for some people, and some people are more hands-on and they wanna have also the individual training.

But every person, regardless of whether or not they may or may not be using the system, gets trained. As part of our onboarding process. And that's very important. And as you mentioned, no one gets their, their log on until they've actually been fully trained. Another point piece of that is the continued education, 

[00:16:00] right?

So we continue to offer trainings. Sometimes people, you know, they have lag times between using the system. Maybe they enter something this month and then they don't use it again for another couple months. They may reach out and I'm always readily accessible and available to a system and, and to maybe walk them through if they have a question at that time, but also set up.

Additional trainings, and we also do quarterly meetings with our departments. Um, just check how the system's functioning for them, see if there's any, anything that may make their life easier with their requests, et cetera. And then we've been tweaking, obviously, the, the training manual as we go. 

[00:16:34] Marc Dousette: I think that's something that's super important that an a lot of people understand is that, The things that you don't know at the beginning of an implementation aren't gonna be the same things that you don't understand.

At the end, at least the goal with, with us and, and with Agile Loft is we want you to be hands-on during that implementation process. You need to be in the system, you know, looking at things that have been changed and testing them out to make sure that they're, they're working the way that you want. Because although, you know, we're very hands-on those first couple of weeks while 

[00:17:00] we're working together.

You might actually get in there and understand that you want something done differently than you thought you originally did. And I think that that's why it's so important to continue to always be evolving with these, these training manuals and having, you know, either someone internally or externally that is going to manage this system.

And that was gonna be my next question. So, Angelina, are you, is or is there somebody else that's, that's managing. Your Agile Loft instance in inside of the organization, does that fall to a, a particular person? So 

[00:17:28] Angelina Bellanton: we continue to work with our, our outside implementation team. And you know, we have set up that we have, you know, a certain amount of hours with them every month.

So anything that's really complicated, and when I say complicated, I mean if we wanna change, you know, an improve a workflow or something that's more than just a simple edit in one of our tables and we reach out to them. I think one of the important things that we did as well is we invested in a sandbox.

Environment. And so our IT department, although small, they work within the sandbox environment. A lot of times we'll do testing in there before we go 

[00:18:00] live. It's a new system also for them to learn, right? So we, a lot of times I'll meet with,  IT person and we'll, I'll say, look, we, we wanna do this. Do you think this is something that you can actually do?

Or should we reach out, back up, you know, to our implementation team? Sometimes we play around and we try, if we're unsuccessful, then we'll reach out. We have a variety of options. As far as the daily use of the system, most people know to reach out to me. This is my second implementation I did at my previous organization, and this is my second implementation here.

We actually, we joke around internally within the organization, we say Angel Loft often instead of Agile Loft because of the customizations, you know, that we did to the system. So I think it's a, it's very robust and I think what I like most about it is it, it can suit just about any organization. My previous organization was much larger.

And, you know, we did a transition from a, from one CMS to another here. We had kind of,  we went from like a SharePoint type over to a CMS that didn't really suit our needs. And then, you know, 

[00:19:00] then moved over to Agile Loft. And so I always recommend when I speak with anyone about the system, it's always important to kind of look at your needs now, but also look at your future needs because every organization is evolving.

You know, look at a lot of people. Start the use of their contract management system because of the pandemic, cuz everyone was remote and no one had access. And so a lot of people decided we need to get a contract management system at that point. And businesses are just evolving every day. Our needs evolve and change, you know, daily, weekly, monthly.

And so it's important to have somebody within the organization, you know, who's kind of that point person and can look at those things. And I guess, You know, for lack of a better word, make them happen. Right. And just kind of knowing where you can reach out. Our implementation team has been great and we've been fortunate that, you know, like I said, any questions, any changes we've wanted to make, we've been able to do so.

And so I think overall that's made the entire organization and, and our entire business happy. Right. And it's, it's made people's lives easier. And 

[00:20:00] so I think when you are kind of satisfying various needs across the entire company, it's hard. To not say that this was, it was long and maybe a little painful, but at the end, it's, it's been an excellent outcome for us.

[00:20:12] Marc Dousette: That's fantastic. And I, I think, you know, being through this a few times, it really sounds like you, you,  understand what you're doing now. So I would, I guess I would ask for any other folks that are out there, you know, in your industry that are, are starting this, this type of process and are gonna start evaluating vendors.

What two tips would you have for them if they're starting to, to look and evaluate? 

[00:20:30] Angelina Bellanton: Um, like I mentioned, it's really important in the beginning to understand, You know, look at your needs now, but also look at what you think your future needs may be. Because in the beginning you may find a contract management system that initially is, you know, cheaper to implement, or maybe, you know, their annual fees are less, but then you know it's only gonna be useful maybe for a year or two.

And then at that point, you have to start looking at other contract management systems. Do you want something that's gonna suit your needs now? And in the future as you continue to grow, I 

[00:21:00] think that's a big, big point that a lot of people don't think about at this point. Well, we're small, we don't wanna spend a lot of money.

And you know, that's not to say I think Agile Loft is very competitive and, and, and the pricing, et cetera. But you know, a lot of times we just wanna go with the cheapest thing and just kind of get something in place and, and move on. If you take the time in the beginning and you really think about. Your internal processes, you really think about what do we need on that contract intake form?

How do we wanna give accessibility to the system? And you take the time in the beginning, you're really going to save yourself in the long run because no matter how big the organization gets, you're gonna continue to be able to work with the contract management system that you have in place. You have a variety of license options.

we have, we give people access, like I mentioned, after they're trained and we also have power users, et cetera. There's so much flexibility with the system. I just think it's very important in the beginning to kind of really sit down and think about how is this going to benefit us Now, you know, you don't wanna just 

[00:22:00] put out the immediate fire.

You wanna make sure that you're looking at the, the system as a whole and how can we, how can we grow into this system? Or are we gonna, are we going to grow out of this system? Which I think is what happens to a lot of organizations. Sorry that was a long-winded two kick. No, that 

[00:22:15] Marc Dousette: great. I think those are, you know, a couple of points that we always try to, to hit on as well.

So I think those are fantastic tips. you 

[00:22:23] Angelina Bellanton: need to do the work in the beginning, right? And I think sometimes in both implementations that I've done, you look at this and you go. This is gonna be a long, kind of a long haul, right? When you have that initial phone call and you kind of map it out. But actually, if you do the work in the beginning, you're gonna reap the benefits all the way.

[00:22:39] Marc Dousette: Definitely. And, and you know, like we've talked about, right? Very important to make sure that you have whoever's doing the services, the implementation piece, you know, knows what they're doing and is a good fit to work with your organization because Yeah, you know, if you don't have that, then there, there's gonna be a lot of time that's burned and, and, uh, the, the project might just, just not be successful.

[00:22:56] Angelina Bellanton: So, and that's a good question to ask too. Um, now that you mentioned that 

[00:23:00] point, I had worked with, um, the consulting organization that, that we selected. I worked with 'em before, so we had good, um, rapport with them. But it is important to ask that, you know, how that consulting group works, how hands-on they're going to be, the kind of access you're gonna have with that particular implementation team, et cetera.

And I think that makes also can make a big difference in your experience with implementing the system. So you are correct. It's definitely important to make sure you have a good implementation partner. Totally agree. 

[00:23:29] Marc Dousette: Totally agree. Okay, well thank you so much for joining us. I think this has been a fantastic conversation.

I think there's a lot of organizations that are out there that are in the, the same. Spaces you that are, are, are having these issues and, and need some guidance. So I think this is gonna be a great episode and a lot of people are gonna be able to learn from this. So thanks. 

[00:23:46] Angelina Bellanton: Well, awesome. And thank you guys for inviting me.

I appreciate it. And it's, it's been great. It was nice to meet you guys with, you guys Agile Loft Summit as well. Yeah, 

[00:23:53] Marc Dousette: absolutely. Well, hey, thank you so much for joining us and thanks everybody for listening to another episode of Contract Heroes.