When Travis Somerville joined Keller Williams to lead the new procurement team, he faced a problem that digital contracting change makers know all too well. To transform Keller Williams’ contract management function into a well-oiled, business-driving force, he’d need to motivate legal, finance, and procurement teams to truly start working together.
Travis had his work cut out for him. Ten years of vendor agreements were scattered across departments. There was no shared calendar for tracking expiration dates. Contract requests were submitted and edited ad hoc over email. While legal was getting bombarded with intake requests, the finance department often got brought in at the tail end of the process.
It was clear this contracting process needed visibility and efficiency. Somehow, the procurement team needed to devise a collaborative, formalized intake process that would resolve the friction happening between departments.
Travis described three milestones on his journey to strengthen the relationship between legal, finance, and procurement: 1.) establishing a service-oriented culture, 2). simplifying processes, and 3.) migrating to a reliable, centralized platform for digital contracting.
First, his new procurement department would have to earn some respect from legal and finance.
Establishing a service-oriented contracting culture
When Travis started at Keller Williams, he saw a legal department in manual contracting distress. Legal was getting bombarded with intake requests, with multiple but unconnected systems for tracking the requests or coordinating with other departments.
Recognizing legal’s need for support, the procurement department was formed with a service-oriented mindset. Travis described a philosophy of putting themselves in the business partners’ shoes:
“How would I feel if I had just signed off on a big goal in front of leadership, and I needed to knock out some contracts so I can move forward with the roadmap for my product? I’d want procurement to treat that request like the most important thing in the world.”
This philosophy earned the procurement team a lot of goodwill among business partners. However, when it came to the legal department, they were still hitting a bottleneck. Driven by risk and compliance, the legal department didn’t have the leisure to get contracts signed any faster. But Travis had a strategy for getting everyone in the game.
The original process for getting legal sign-off would often send business partners back to square one because of all the legal requirements they hadn’t considered in the rush to signature — like whether the contract was month-to-month, or set to auto-renew, or if they had the right to terminate. The re-work sapped legal resources and created the bottleneck.
Travis believed that if his team could qualify those requirements before the contract reached legal for approval, legal would see how much work procurement was saving them. The two departments would get the win-win they both needed and the whole process could be optimized.
The procurement team used Evisort’s self-service contract templates to create basic intake forms that covered all of the “gotcha” requirements. They worked with vendors and business partners to complete as much of the form as they could without legal’s precious resources.
Then, procurement used Evisort’s pre-signature workflow tool to notify different stakeholder departments and the collaboration tool to discuss the terms in a special stage before going to legal. After getting upstream consensus, they could then assign legal to review only the high-priority contracts or high priority sections (such as limits of liability and termination clauses) that require their expertise.
The strategy worked. Over time, legal began to appreciate their time wasn’t being wasted on “legal light” work procurement could tackle themselves, such as SOW milestone definitions or net payment terms on order forms.
And the success of the simplified intake process meant that procurement was finally ready to get finance involved earlier in the workflow to ensure proposed items were within budget.
The team designed the intake forms to include extra financial qualifying questions (for example, asking “new spend vs replacement” and “budget codes”) to help categorize the spend. This keeps finance in the loop for important budgetary considerations, and is a quick way to telegraph to the contract requestor if they are in budget early in the process.
Migrate to digital contracting
Once they had their service-oriented mindset in place and intake process simplified, Keller Williams was ready to layer in digital contracting technology.
Keller Williams chose Evisort because it worked out-of-the-box. The procurement team could upload hundreds of contracts on the first day of implementation. Starting off at a run, not a walk, generated a lot of positive energy on team calls. People raved about the ease of use and their newfound productivity — it was night and day from the conversations happening before. The promise of digital contracting transformation was finally within reach.
A key turning point for this enthusiasm came from their decision to migrate to Evisort in two stages. Travis had seen that many organizations who start digital contracting projects may not realize they could be headed into a two to three year commitment that might ultimately fail. With that in mind, the team implemented Evisort’s post-signature product first. As a no-code platform, the tool was up and running in days, which gave the procurement department a crucial early win. That momentum naturally rallied the finance and legal teams into adopting Evisort’s pre-signature tool.
Now legal and finance departments request additional custom fields in Evisort to track important meta-data and drive process. It wasn’t long before the executive team announced their intention to roll out Evisort as the official method for all leaders — across departments — to submit contract requests.
Advice to other change makers
Capping off his journey to strengthen the relationship between procurement, finance, and legal, Travis offered three points of advice to other change makers:
- “Choose a contract management software that’s simple enough for non-technical teams to use. Our first digital contract attempt with a legacy vendor went nowhere because of the endless and expensive amount of customization.”
- “Only add in technology after you’ve rewired your culture and process. If we would have tried to adopt Evisort two years ago before we started our digital transformation project, we wouldn’t have been nearly as successful.”
- “There’s no silver bullet when it comes to improving the relationship between departments. Provide enough value as a service-oriented culture and the respect and collaboration you want will start to fall into place.”
Procurement teams: want to kick start your digital transformation initiative? Read our guide on building a digital contracting Center of Excellence to be the hero for change your organization needs. Learn how to consolidate your tech stack, streamline operations, and align department responsibilities to scale automation initiatives.