Blog posts related to contract automation, including announcements of new releases of the Weagree Wizard

Release 4.3 – Extra functionality, less complexity and more flexibility

User-friendliness: less complexity and more flexibility

Last Friday, Weagree released our spring 2015 contract creation software update containing numerous new features. These features, rather than making the administrator tool more complex, bring about more flexibility and less complexity in the template building process.

Being – as ever – focused on user-friendliness, we are proud to present the following new functionality:

1.     Significant improvements of the Q&A-functionality:

a)     Answer-visibility. The visibility of individual Q&A answer options can be set with reference to a minimum user authorisation level. The result is that certain answers to Q&A questions will be unavailable to users of a lower level, whilst higher level users may still opt for them. Apart from the obvious filtering effect, it will make it possible for a legal department to delegate contract creation to the business.
b)    Tick boxes. These are selectable Q&A boxes, allowing to tick one or more options (or none at all). Since Weagree’s prototyping we had no specific need to introduce tick boxes: single tick box (‘clause inclusion’) had been there since the beginning; listed tick-boxes could easily be dealt with differently. Their availability adds to the flexibility.As part of this functionality, we also provided for a solution to determine how ticked elements should be separated (e.g. commas or semi-colons), and to automatically place a penultimate separator (“; or ” or “, and “) in the correct (penultimate) place.
c)     Dropdowns. Apart from country lists, we never had a specific need for dropdown-questions. The availability of this type of Q&A-question will improve the perception of the users: they use considerably less screen-space than radio buttons (which have the same function), but they may also reduce a user’s inclination to change the default selection.
d)    Lookup lists. An unexpectedly powerful solution comes with the introduction of lookup lists. Whilst the user is presented with a list of simple Q&A-answer options, the selected answer can put several related answers in the correct place.

Example 1, if the sales manager selects one product from a list of products, the fields addressing product ID, packaging form (bottles or cans, trays or pallets), unit price, volume discounts will be inserted automatically.
Example 2, if the HR manager identifies a function title (e.g. director, team manager, co-worker shared service center or secretary), the applicable question addressing the correct range of salary scales can be triggered: for the director 10-12, and for the co-worker and secretary the salary scales proposed during the Q&A will be limited to other ranges.

e)     ‘If unanswered‘. It is at times difficult to answer a Q&A question during contract creation. Particularly with dates, the signing date is unknown. Thus far, it was impossible to replace the date with a non-date text element (such as a thick blob (much thicker than here). Drawing an unanswered question to the user’s attention by marking it is now possible.

The implementation of these changes has been done in such a way that an administrator will intuitively pick the most suitable option.

2.     Improved workflow:

a)     Subtab my colleagues: it will be possible to pick up your colleagues’ work when they are away or have left the firm. This functionality requires being switched on (per user).
b)    Re-routeability of a contract entry (divertability / rearrange). We expanded the workflow capabilities by allowing an approver to create a contract and to push it back to a ‘submitter’. This functionality enables a shared services center to answer part of the Q&A-answers, to reroute the contract entry to an HR manager and to receive back the (answered and) submitted Q&A for finalisation and approval.

3.     Insert pictures. We made it possible to insert pictures in the contract text (e.g. a picture of the general terms and conditions), as well as on the cover page, headers and footers. Obviously, this leaves your current tailoring of the contract house style unaffected; it gives greater flexibility in positioning a logo.

4.     Inline numbering. Sometimes, a clause lists a number of items, within the paragraph separated by “(a)”, “(b)”, “(c)” etc. To facilitate that such items are inserted or deleted as a result of the Q&A (or if you want to have your contracts ‘the royal way’), they can now be numbered automatically. If an item is removed, the others renumber automatically.

5.     Various optimisations for users in:

a)     the underwater screen;
b)    the knowhow-management functionality and the clause library;
c)     although (slow) ‘speed’ is by no means an issue in the Weagree Wizard: performance improvements if several users generate a contract at exactly the same time.

6.     Various optimisations for administrators:

a)     in the template creation tool, upon opening a template, an automatic check whether all settings are set (and if not, the administrator is automatically prompted to fix it);
b)    a filter on accessibility of templates (i.e. administrators will only be able to modify templates from groups of which they are a member);
c)     optimised design and arrangement of icons (colouring and positioning of buttons are slightly more intuitive);
d)    several technical improvements allow a multitude of administrators to insert templates (or to work together on one single template) at the same time;
e)     inserting and handling tables.

7.     …and yes, a few bug fixes.

 

WHAT’S NEXT?

  • Connectivity with external applications (e.g. Effacts, SAP, Salesforce, Ariba, Oracle, public companies registries, and ‘easy ones’ such as Sharepoint and WorkSite). We will start with the most challenging one, because it is complex and not web-based: SAP. Our solution will obviously be highly user-friendly and will enable multiple-source and multiple-target connectivity. Our software development company is a certified SAP-partner. They will set up an SAP-demo portal connected with the Weagree Wizard.
  • Multilingual interface. All text labels anywhere in the Weagree Wizard will become customisable and translatable (e.g. in Dutch, French, Chinese), as is already possible with the Q&A and contract text.
  • Maximising flexibility in the user interaction design!
  • Focus on knowledge management. As you know, the success of contract assembly depends on the quality and number of model contracts. We will create solutions by which our experience in this field will become better accessible, and which empowers you to work on your model contracts.
  • Last but not least, we have tripled the workforce for realising these projects. This increased programming capacity also improves the response time of our technical support.

Weagree Wizard: upgrade of the administrator tooling

Yesterday, we released a new software upgrade of the contract assembly wizard: version 3.5.0!

Especially for administrators, the new upgrade of the Weagree Wizard means a considerable upgrade.

Inserting templates will become more user-friendly. And we already know what “user-friendliness” means:

  • Simple and attractive. Highly intuitive interaction design, no abundance of explanatory notes. (You’re likely to see them only the first times, before they become distractive ‘noise’.) An attractive interface serves the considerable change-management challenges.
  • Giving a strong sense of being ‘in control: well-designed navigation, an underwaterscreen in which the contract appears real time.
  • Only seeing what is relevant.
  • Maximum flexibility.

For this upgrade, improved user-friendliness brings:

I.     On the New contracts page, templates can be accompanied by an explanatory note in the well-known info-icon.

II.     Three improvements of the Clause library:

  1. more flexibility to attach (explanatory) files to clauses.
  2. management of clauses has become easier.
  3. we included search functionality for the administrator.

III.     We replaced the entire ‘template creation tool’ (see the screenshot below):

  1. over 250 icons were replaced by new icons. Their design appeals more logically and intuitively to the functionality they trigger.
  2. copying text through the Microsoft notepad is unnecessary: all invisible, Word-originating clutter is filtered out automatically.
  3. icon text flags are more instructive.
  4. performance issues with super large templates have been solved.
  5. inserting cross-references has been optimised.
  6. building blocks (contract articles) can be converted into contract clauses (sections) and vice versa.
  7. clause names may now contain diacritic characters (such as: ‘, ” , & etc.) and be in Russian, Arabic and Chinese (etc.) characters.
  8. modifying tables is more flexible.
  9. the template navigation bar scrolls, focuses, and is redesigned.
  10. the Wizard-internal clipboard (for copy-paste) has been optimised.
  11. several administrator actions have been  simplified and automated.
  12. several ‘erroneous’ actions commonly made by less-experienced administrators are alerted automatically.

IV.     The order in which Schedules or Annexes appear in the contract can be modified.

V.      Text can be set in ALL-CAPS or Small-Caps (whilst inserted in underscores).

VI.     The screen that appears during contract generation is restyled and more dynamic. It gives the user a more convenient experience.

Here is a screenshot of the administrator’s ‘template creation tool’, where the model contract is inserted and the Q&A is added:

We have prepared the Weagree Wizard for our next roadmap steps. The current improvements make the Weagree Wizard a highly modularised, flexible application.

In the meantime, I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Weagree: milestones, milestones, milestones

We are very happy to share that we are finalising the training materials for our project for the International Trade Centre (ITC, a joint agency of the U.N. and WTO). After completing a Cross-border contracting training programme, I was commissioned to add a chapter on intellectual property rights and draft three model contracts (an MOU, an NDA and a Trademark Licence). Apart from correction rounds, language review and translation work, our preparatory work for the ITC is now done!

But there is more to share about Weagree:

Weagree Wizard – new release
Two weeks ago, we released a software update of the Weagree Wizard. It marked the end of a development programme that started a year ago. Of all of last year’s updates, this one brought about the greatest performance and user-experience improvement. Contracts of up to 100 pages will be ‘questionnaired’ at a speed almost equal to that of a simple NDA. It makes us curious as to the current limits: will performance decrease with a contract of over 200 pages? Or with 350-plus pages?

We had planned this release for mid September, but our software engineers seem to be over-delivering – not unusually – which is putting us ahead of schedule. So the anticipated time of our roadmap-to-go is looking very promising.

Milestones of the past 12 months
Milestones achieved include:

  1. Significant performance improvements (Q&A speed)
  2. Enhanced user’s sense of being ‘in control’
  3. Improved underwater screen
  4. Improved clause library
  5. Multi-browser compatibility (also for iPhone and iPad)
  6. Strengthened workflow and approval functionalities
  7. An e-mail workflow alerting system
  8. Centralised ‘contract house style’ management
  9. Multi-language support (incl. Russian, Chinese and Hindi)
  10. Improved software release testing protocols

Our roll-out to 10,000+ users at our long-standing launching customer, ASML, (replacing their global NDA tool) confirmed that the Weagree Wizard is highly user-friendly: user-training is not needed. The implementation was realised without complications, but for the improvement of a few approver functionalities.

What’s next?
The update brings the Weagree Wizard to the next level. From here, we will expand the Q&A-capabilities relatively easily. We are planning to connect to contract lifecycle management and DMS solutions, and will introduce new, advanced Q&A-options (without compromising on user-friendliness).

Concerning product development, our focus will shift from the user-experience towards a dramatic simplification of the administrator function. (As if it is not already extraordinarily simple!) As yet, approximately six hours of initial training followed by some ten to fifteen hours of template coach is required. Whilst the six hours of training will probably remain the same, we anticipate that inserting a contract template will become much more intuitive, and open to less tech-savvy lawyers.

Weagree is growing
From now on, our first priority will be Weagree’s operational support. We are working hard at bringing Weagree to the next level: we have been formalising all our internal processes, we’re further improving the administrator support function, we’re discussing strategic partnerships, and we will intensify our communications and sales efforts. More about this in the next newsletter. Contact me if you would like to hear more about the details of our plans.

Newsletter – Free eBook: Making and managing model contracts

Weagree has reached two great milestones, which we want to celebrate by publishing a new free eBook: Making and managing model contracts.

1.  Drafting contracts has welcomed its 3,000th member
As you may know, we initiated the discussion group Drafting contracts on LinkedIn. In some five months, the group has evolved into an active community of over 3,000 members!

Legal professionals from around the world share their experiences on contract drafting. Have you ever wondered about some of the following?

  1. MOU’s, letters of intent and ‘pre-contracts’
  2. Penalty clauses (or liquidated damages): a global overview of local issues and particularities
  3. Which type of damages do you exclude in a contract? With contributions about the parameters of such clauses
  4. “Losses” vs. “damages”: several jurisdictions appear to treat them as entirely different concepts
  5. The use of plain English, or legal jargon
  6. Are you an ‘Andorian’? About writing and/or
  7. The tension between “notwithstanding” and “without prejudice”
  8. Another item triggering response: words and phrases you hate most
  9. Why is initialling pages desirable (or unnecessary)?
  10. Not unimportant: what happens after signing the agreement? Common errors and best practices

Understanding differences and similarities between national laws facilitates business and brings people together. Our community appears to be successful in creating such understanding in the area of contract drafting. This is something that makes me rejoice.

If you (or a colleague) have not joined the Drafting contracts group yet: click here (and on the LinkedIn page click “Join“).

2.  The Weagree Wizard has +10,000 users
The other milestone we reached a week ago: Weagree’s launching customer, ASML, replaced their NDA-tool with the Weagree Wizard: all employees and in-house subcontractors now create their NDA’s with the Weagree Wizard. This encompasses a group of about 12,000 users in all parts of the world. Obviously, share purchase agreements of 75 pages work equally well.

The launch went smoothly. An anecdote: a user, more acquainted with Chinese characters, filled in the field “short name” with the full address details of the counterparty (and skipped the neighbouring address fields). The Weagree Wizard is proving to be as user-friendly as we aimed for it to be.

For those who are interested: the Weagree Wizard is a true SAAS-solution (operating from our ISO-certified datacentre, with automated user identification (in jargon: ‘user-provisioning and authentication’)). It has an approval workflow (which can also be linked to external workflows) and it communicates with our customer’s e-mail server to alert about submitted requests or return the approved NDA (as PDF or Word-document).

3.  A new free Weagree eBook
To celebrate these milestones, Weagree has published a new eBook. Of course, the eBook is free. The topic of this eBook covers one of the key focuses of our LinkedIn group: Making and managing model contracts:

  • Ten steps to upgrading your model contracts
  • Contract drafting conventions (a sample)
  • Implementing contract assembly

The eBook gives practical suggestions, based on Weagree’s experience.

We hope you like the eBook. You can download it by clicking here.

If you have any suggestions, please let us know. If you want to share your thoughts or ideas, you’re welcome to do so in the LinkedIn group.

Newsletter – update: innovating and courses

Today, Weagree has published a new eBook, volume 9. Of course, the eBook is free. It complements part 1, about the miscellaneous provisions at the end of your contracts:

  • Miscellaneous (boilerplate) clauses (part 2, including confidentiality clauses)

We hope you like the eBook. Download it here.

We also distributed the following newsletter:

After the update of the Weagree contract assembly wizard in May, we enjoyed a wonderful summer. Two major Dutch multinationals signed up for a license, which enabled us to define new functionalities.

Over the past few months, we contacted Weagree Wizard users individually, and interviewed those who had seen our presentations. The users are proving to be very happy with the Weagree Wizard.

1.  Weagree’s ‘design slot’ for our contract assembly wizard
Our users are drawn to using the Weagree Wizard: they find our document automation solution convenient and rich in features and possibilities, and experience great time savings both in drafting time and response time. Happy users are more than happy to provide us with feedback. And so they are enthusiastically taking part in our innovations.

In May, we upgraded Weagree’s contract assembly wizard. Along with various technicalities, we improved multi-language support, simplified the user-interface and improved contract formatting capabilities (house style).
The forthcoming upgrade characteristically remains focused on user-friendliness. Having listed some 48 points for improvement, we made detailed specifications, requested quotations for realising them, and prioritised the list according to committed license fees.

A noteworthy comment came from Chantal, long-time user at our launching customer: she told me about her ‘lawyerish’ inclination not to delete her contract assembly history: lawyers wish to archive. A feature to put on the list.
Equally, we will continue to improve centralised contract house style management. Many organisations struggle with the ‘enforcement’ of a unified contract house style (if there is one at all). In a previous free Weagree eBook, we made various suggestions on how to achieve this. The coming upgrade will permit differentiation between different types of automated documents. (All house style changes will be managed from one central place and changes need not be repeated for all templates.)

2.  New courses on contract drafting
This autumn, we will be giving contract drafting courses. Not the boring type of programme, which discusses the latest pseudo-developments in case law on general terms and conditions, on contract rescission or pre-contractual liability. Rather, we’ll be offering tricks and techniques on the subject of:

  • How to avoid ambiguities and write clearer
  • How to set up a first draft agreement
  • Best practices on the use of definitions, conditions, covenants, warranties and limitations of liability

Obviously, we will also address legalese and the stupidity of archaic doublets and triplets, together with a comparative law tour d’horizon of the major legal systems worldwide. If you’re interested, it is all in my book Drafting contracts – Techniques, best practice rules and recommendations related to contract drafting (Kluwer 2011).

Mindmap of implementing Weagree’s Wizard (2)

This is Weagree’s 99th weekly weblog post! The next one – no. 100 ! – will be about the Times Roman font and is published next week.

Contract automation implementation mindmap. In part 1, Mindmap of implementing Weagree’s Wizard (1), I elaborated on the three dimensions of our experience with the implemention of the Weagree Wizard at our launching customer ASML. We reflected this in a mindmap, a method designed to visualize what is necessary for a successful roll-out of Weagree’s contract assembly software, and to make sure everyone is on the same track.

Weagree has comprehensive experience in how legal counsel and law firms work. We know the ins and outs from the highest level of legal practice. You will probably agree with ASML and us that buying a piece of software is one thing; making it a success story (as is Weagree’s primary ambition) is something else. You may well find yourself buying a recipe for disaster by selecting the ‘best buy’ from a vendor who has no idea of the top legal practice and hardly any interest in supporting the success you aim for.

To keep the mindmap readable on this small screen, we inserted the high level version (without all the sub-branches).

THE MINDMAP FOR IMPLEMENTING WEAGREE’S CONTRACT ASSEMBLY WIZARD:

Mindmap of implementing Weagree’s Wizard (1)

Contract management implementation change management. In a series of blog posts early 2009 (click here, here and here), I discussed how the implementation of the Weagree Wizard entailed a change management process and I identified which steps should be taken to realise a successful implementation.

Together with Weagree’s main launching customer, ASML (a Nasdaq- and Euronext-listed multinational supplying the world’s greater electronics giants with their high-tech chip-production machines), we designed a so-called ‘mindmap’ reflecting a detailed and structured brainstorm overview of all the aspects of the introduction and implementation of Weagree’s contract drafting software.

Let me share a generalized version of our mindmap. In this post 1, I give the explanation; in blogpost Mindmap of implementing Weagree’s Wizard (2) only the mindmap.

Contract automation implementation mindmap. With ASML, we identified three dimensions of rolling out their Weagree Wizard: (i) a content-dimension, (ii) the human factor, and (iii) the process-related aspects. These dimensions can be spun out to key-elements and then further elaborated to sub-elements (et cetera). The high level mindmap could be translated into the following bulletpoints:

I.          THE CONTENT-DIMENSION – YOUR MODEL CONTRACTS

a)       Identify User groups & template requirements (in view of timing):

  • Legal department (use of: day-to-day contracts; month-to-month contracts; M&A (NDA, bid letters, frame MOU, SPA); intellectual property rights (licenses, JDA’s, forms); real estate and construction; …)
  • Procurement / purchasing
  • HRM (consultancy and employment agreements)
  • Tax (intra-company SLAs)
  • Finance (intra-company loans)

(b)       Contract drafting conventions

(c)       Upgrade model contracts

  • Owner per contract
  • Best practice group / BU / staff

(d)       Select and upgrade model contract clauses (to be collected in knowledge management functionality of the Weagree Wizard)

  • Identify owner per contract clause
  • Best practice groups
  • Insert explanatory notes
  • Admin responsibility for Wizard-drafting consistency

Note: there is no need to upgrade model contracts before implementation of a contract assembly solution (because the Weagree Wizard appears to be a catalyzer)!

II.         THE HUMAN FACTOR – PERSONS INVOLVED

(a)       Legal department

  • General counsel / Head of Legal
  • In-house legal counsel
  • Best practice groups for model contracts
  • Administrator (template insertion) and coordinator

(b)       Non-legal (BU’s, IT, staff)

  • BU’s and business line managers (scheduled according to the scope and phase of roll-out)
  • Internal customers / sounding board for Q&A’s
  • Involve/inform IT helpdesk

(c)       Weagree

  • Advice on use and functionalities Wizard
  • Support on Roll-out and Use
  • Model contract upgrading services
  • Template insertion services

III.        ROLL-OUT AND USE – THE PROCESS-RELATED CHALLENGE

(a)       Training

  • Three to four day-parts for inducing and training a template administrator
  • Intro presentations to internal customers
  • Optimise Q&A-questions and template setup

(b)       Preparations for use

  • Deliver ‘demonstratable’ content (initial input for teasing your peers and illustrating capabilities)
  • Insert model contracts and build Q&A’s (this involves: preparing model contracts; building Q&A’s (questions, answers, options); allocating the templates to user groups)
  • Establish contracting house style

(c)       Start using!

  • Presentations to stakeholders: legal department members; Head of Legal, and senior management (non-users!); and, group-by-group, key business managers (if desired: subject to approval)
  • Update notices to all stakeholders (i.e., about improved model contracts and new contract clauses)
  • Use template Q&A’s for intake of new cases

(d)       Incorporate in daily work (anchoring new approach in the culture)

  • Continue optimising template Q&A’s
  • Legal department meeting – permanent agenda item
  • BU / business line meetings

Roll-out – technical matters

(a)       Hosting and security (Internal vs. Weagree)

(b)       Daily backup

  • Created contracts (via DMS vs. via hosting)
  • Model contracts

(c)       Second stage: build interfaces & web-services

  • Sharepoint / DMS
  • CMR
  • Company entities book

Obviously, each case differs from the other. Also, for law firms another approach would likely be more effective. Nevertheless, this mindmap may serve as a starting point for establishing your roadmap to automated contracting. Weagree is of course available to help your company with it.

Leading change (part 3)

Leading change to document automation. This is the last part describing how a company or firm, who deems that the implementation and introduction of a contract assembly solution such as the Weagree Wizard entails a major change of process, should prevent that such implementation and introduction ends up in a failure. Or, more generally, how can projects be undertaken such that they have a greater likelihood of being successful?

In the preceding parts 1 and 2 on leading change to contract automation, I discussed the first six steps of major change-process projects. I took the work of John Kotter[1], a leading authority in the field of change management and modern leadership, as an example. In summary, the first six steps would require the company or firm to:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency.
  2. Creating a guiding coalition.
  3. Developing a vision and strategy.
  4. Communicating the change vision.
  5. Empowering employees for broad-based action.
  6. Generating short-term wins.

I already indicated that the implementation and (organisational) introduction of the Weagree Wizard (or of a company-wide upgrading of model contracts used by the business) should not be exaggerated but also not be underestimated. Being aware of what a truly major change of process would require will certainly help in making the right choices for smaller projects. Steps 7 and 8, the final steps entail the following:

7. Consolidating gains and producing more change. Once short term wins follow the one after the other, the major pitfall is to declare victory too soon. Like people may feel confident about the completion of one single major transaction, they will realize that this does not make them great contract drafters or deal-making negotiators. A true crack will probably remain hesitant about his (or her) quality of work even after a series of major transactions. When a company or firm introduces the Weagree Wizard as their document automation solution, each person should be encouraged to start and continue working with it. Also when work pressure increases (or rather: particularly in such circumstances). This is of course because commodity work should be commoditised and not be ‘promoted’ to bespoke services[2].

8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture. You have to walk the extra mile: when you finish a marathon, your jacket and phone are still on a considerable walking distance (this is at least true for the NYC Marathon). After implementing the Weagree Wizard or making important upgrades to your model contracts, it is absolutely necessary to anchor the new approaches into your organisation. The ongoing improvement of model contracts must be both ascertained by effective and efficient process ‘rules’; the amendment of existing and the making available of new model contracts; actual monitoring of performance through the Workflow of the Weagree Wizard; reviewing the level of seniority of staff and in-house counsel appointed for maintaining the Weagree Wizard’s contents and for reviewing model contract upgrading suggestions. I would strongly recomment that you establish a best practice group (and sub-groups) for continuously reviewing and improving model contracts[3].

[1]     John P. Kotter is professor at Harvard Business School and author of the bestseller Leading change.
[2]     Richard Susskind, The end of lawyers, Oxford University Press 2009 (e.g., see Chapter 2, distinguishing five ‘steps’ from bespoke work, via standardisation, systematisation, ‘packaging’ to commodisation).
[3]     In my book on this website, you will find many suggestions for efficiently and effectively upgrading model contracts (click here and then “Ten steps to a successful upgrade of your model contracts“). If you have any suggestions for further improvement, please let me know!

Leading change (part 2)

Leading change management to contract automation. In a preceding blog, I addressed the three first steps necessary for a successful implementation of changes of processes. Those steps included (1) the establishment of a sense of urgency (everyone should believe that a change is necessary), (2) creating a guiding coalition (top-down, the chosen new way of working is endorsed in word and behaviour), and (3) developing a vision and strategy (business propositions and other advantages are expressed and applauded).

In this blog, I will discuss subsequent steps related to upgrading model contracts or introducing the Weagree Wizard.

The steps elaborated on below, are identified by John Kotter[1], a leading authority in the field of change management and leadership.

4. Communicating the change vision. A general counsel and senior managers must not only endorse the vision (and implementation strategy) that are inherent to the introduction of document assembly software such as the Weagree Wizard. They should also express that vision and strategy: what are the advantages of the Weagree Wizard in terms of business facilitation, time gains resulting from reduced drafting time (increased productivity) and much shorter response time of the legal department, reduced business transaction cycles, enhanced compliance and great risk management achievements? What are the priorities that should be set when making choices? It is important that the general counsel, senior managers and the best practice group choose proper and effective communication means to introduce the ‘Weagree Wizard way of working’, to convey a vision that the forthcoming way of working implies a major relief for the workload and freshens the type of work that remains. Communication comes in both words and deeds. (Nothing undermines change more than the behaviour of seniors contradicting the verbal communication.)

5. Empowering employees for broad-based action. Empowering your legal counsel or attorneys to run the new way-of-working implies that eventually, the change requires a bottom-up commitment. If those who need to embrace innovative ways of working have no believe in it, all change efforts will fail. It implies that senior management should not only create the necessary opportunities and applaud the initial efforts to get used to the anticipated way of working. They should, together with all related lower levels of responsible persons, encourage the new way of working and be prepared to face the challenges. If, for example, it appears that the model contracts are not of good quality, time must be created to improve those models. That might require the involvement of a company’s law firm (or Weagree) to provide additional support. Whenever senior, well-intentioned managers avoid confronting obstacles, they disempower employees and undermine success. Failure is in the detail.

6. Generating short-term wins. Complex endeavours to implement innovative ways of working loose momentum if there are no short-term goals to meet and celebrate. Introduction of the Weagree Wizard needs to take place step-by-step. First a small group of ambassadors should be introduced to the new way of working. Even though the Wizard is highly intuitive and flexible to work with, if a user fails to create a contract (for whatever reason, even his or her own inability to push the right button) the easiest escape is to blame the software application. Similarly, if a company or firm desires to upgrade model contracts, the best way to achieve momentum would be to start with apparent ‘no-brainer clauses’ such as the ‘Miscellaneous’ section: probably 65 percent of all contracts consist of such type of clauses and phrases; unifying them in one or two stages implies a major milestone. And a quick success.

Continue reading part 3 on leading change management to contract automation

[1]     John P. Kotter is Konosuke Matsushita professor at Harvard Business School and author of the bestseller Leading change.

Leading change (part 1)

Contract automation and change management. Some people believe that implementing and using the Weagree Wizard requires a change of process. Weagree believes that the advantages of the Wizard are so great that its implementation and use are largely self-propelling. The application outperforms any secretary and is foolproof: truly intuitive and very user-friendly.

Still, there is a truth in the statement, as its success may well depend on the quality of your own model contracts. Also, like any undertaken change in the way you work, the implementation does require care and willingness to speed up.

This blog addresses a few aspects identified by John Kotter to be determinative for a successful change of processes.

John Kotter[1], an undisputed authority in the field of change management and modern leadership, identified eight stages of a successful change of process.

1. Establish a sense of urgency. This first stage of any any change of process project essentially triggers or deteriorates all that follows. If people in an organisation are self-confident (i.e. when complacency levels are high), it will be virtually impossible to drive people out of their comfort zones: no urgency to change. In the current economic circumstances, an increasing number of people will realise that a more effective and efficient way of working has become inevitable. Even in organisations with too much past successes, low performance standards or insufficient feedback from external sources, the capabilities of the Weagree Wizard are so evident and complaints about a legal department’s productivity or response time must have been repeated so often that a consciousness that things must change increases. In legal departments, the pressure to change is most likely present. In law firms, competitive pressure might not be that evident (yet).

2. Creating a guiding coalition. Major changes, such as an improvement of model contracts or the introduction of a contract assembly application such as Weagree’s Wizard, demand support from the highest management level. The more convincingly changes are initiated, the more effective they will be. Upgrading model contracts requires strong commitment and conveyance by the general counsel, whereas the introduction of automated contracts by virtue of the Weagree Wizard (also delegating contract creation work to business lines, albeit subject to legal approval) is something that must be applauded by senior management. Support and applause should be sincere and persistent. To create actual support from in-house counsel for using the model contracts, it may be inevitable to establish a best practice group consisting of leaders from amongst the lawyers. I discussed this already in another blog and collected my suggestions in our book (click hereTen steps…).

3. Developing a vision and strategy. The mere introduction of the Weagree Wizard may well prove to be a great step forward. But to leverage on its capabilities, accelerating contract drafting, may require more than that. A general counsel and senior managers should develop their vision and strategy that may appear to be inherent to the use of document assembly software such as the Weagree Wizard. Such vision and strategy link the company’s (or firm’s) current circumstances to the Wizard’s advantages in terms of business facilitation, time gains resulting from a reduced drafting time (increased productivity) and a much shorter response time of the legal department, reduced business transaction cycles, enhanced compliance and great risk management achievements. They might prioritise these advantages first, in order to create more focus and help making decisions (e.g., if two of the advantages contradict each other). The vision and strategy should help everyone in the organisation to make the right choices in any situation. Without a vision, choices would need to be escalated to the general counsel (or senior manager) and important changes can easily dissolve into mixed and confusing signals and overly time-consuming projects.

Of course, introducing the Wizard is largely self-propelling: it is the living evidence that time savings and many other advantages are achieved easily. A condition, however, could be that the model contracts are of good quality. This is why Weagree, other than almost all its competitors, delivers the Wizard with many model clauses.

Steps 4 to 8 will be discussed in subsequent blogs.

[1]     John P. Kotter is Konosuke Matsushita professor at Harvard Business School and author of the bestseller Leading change.