Implementing a single CMS solution across your global operation makes sense. The benefits are self-evident, standardisation, inter-operability and ‘anytime, anywhere’ document access. So, with all the right project controls in place and risk assessment complete, you set off on an epic global contract management journey. What are the pitfalls you have to look out for?
A global implementation is never going to offer a level playing field. Each operation within the organisation may have its own legacy system or may have no system at all. Procedures and data quality will vary widely. A ‘one size fits all’ approach is challenging whether there are uncompromising and inevitable regional variations in accounting practices, SOX protocols or just the size and role of each hub. This landscape will not come as a surprise and the project plan will surely have the ‘localisation’ factor built in. But few implementations have the luxury of a full-scale pre-emptive audit.
When the CFO of the most profitable operation declares that the local tax procedure cannot change so the software will have to, you may recoil at the prospect of a bespoke change request so early on in the implementation process. This is when you discover whether the software you’ve selected has the agility to accommodate your CFO – in this case, a different form field calculation for a particular contract type. If you’ve chosen well, your system will handle the tweak without the need to compromise on your project principles or eat into your contingency. ‘Localisation’ may well be the first shot across the bows of standardisation. So the lesson is simple – take on the global challenge by selecting a system that supports self-customisation.
Grasping the thorny challenge of localisation requires a system that can be easily customised. But remember your changes may need to be surgically applied to specific users or scenarios. So on the next stopover of the roll-out, when the local compliance officer insists that all contract attachments marked ‘staff-in-confidence’ are for executive eyes only, you can breathe easy and keep going. Knowing you have highly granular security – that can be selectively applied – is a major player in lifting the spirits of your implementation team.
Legacy data and third-party integration
In a global implementation, legacy data will come in all shapes, sizes and formats. Some operations may have incumbent home-grown systems, whilst others will store files in folders of varying states of (dis)order. There will even be operations where only hard copy documents exist, waiting patiently to hear about your OCR and AI offerings. Confronting the legacy data challenge will require different approaches in each setting, so it’s important to know your application can handle a range of methods for loading, validating and possibly cleansing legacy data.
Remember too, your data migration toolkit may need to play a part in day-to-day integration with other systems, which feed into and feed on contract data. An established application will have some out of the box APIs to link into popular systems, but linking to lesser-known systems shouldn’t require consultancy input or bespoke add-ons. Good system integration achieves great user buy-in, so make sure you have these tools packed into your software toolkit.
Another common challenge in the quest for improved global governance is managing, then maintaining system workflow. The workflow engine should accommodate different operations in the same organisation which have different management and approval rules, without making the task of maintaining the workflow matrix a full-time job. A workflow engine which is prescriptive or hard-coded will probably be out of date before you finish your globe trotting. It’s better to manage workflow based upon a set of rules and conditions which interrogate the transaction content to determine workflow. This dynamic approach will reduce the complexity of the design and with it, the overall burden of administration. It will also avoid the need for a major maintenance overhaul when the inevitable call goes out for the next management re-structure.
Language and regional settings
Not surprisingly, the system should have the ability to accommodate multiple languages, currencies and different regional settings. The greatest flexibility comes when the language and regional settings are applied at the user level. Bear in mind, the adoption of different regional settings should not distort any corporate reporting or system integration. E-learning can help where your language skills fall short, and interactive audio-visual movies can be played and re-played long after you’ve moved on to the next site. You’ll be appreciated for tailoring your training material.
An essential component to the success of your roll-out is gaining end-user acceptance or even enthusiasmfor the application. Your software of choiceshould be ergonomic, responsive and simple to use, despite handling your uniquely complex requirements.
To achieve this, application menus should be relevant and functional to the user’s role. Within limits, users should have the option to define their own preferences for workspace look and feel. Be smart by making the complex feel simple. Strip down the menus to show only what’s relevant to your users. They’ll expect access to reports and dashboards which are specific to their role in the application. If the software can be aligned to your preferred look and feel, then you stand to gain the buy-in you need. Embrace your audience feedback, and the positive soundings will echo and silence those sceptics of change.
Mitigating risk and handling the unforeseen requirements in your global CMS deployment is a challenge. Being multi-lingual, multi-company and multi-currency will not be enough to guarantee success. There will be plenty of environmental factors that might de-rail your progress, and the application itself cannot ensure a trouble-free deployment. But if you have chosen a versatile seasoned tool for the job, you can take the shock out of those skeletons in the cupboard.
Contract Insight from Four
Contract Insight is a cloud-hosted (SaaS) or deployed (on-premise) contract management solution. The acclaimed platform is trusted by thousands of professionals for their contract management, legal document management, procurement and sourcing needs. Used by many Fortune 500 companies, Contract Insight gives you real time visibility into your contracts. It doesn’t just shore up your security; it will help you meet contract compliance regulations, centralise your contract management and improve your overall contract administration process.
For more information, contact John O’Brien, CEO at Four Business Solutions, global business consultants and software integrators providing business processes improvements in Finance, Supply Chain and Operations, across a broad range of industries.