Today’s post is co-authored by the prophet.
CLM, short for Contract Lifecycle Management, is arguably one of the most snooze-inducing acronyms in the Supply Management space, but yet also one of the most important. That’s because proper CLM not only overlaps both the Sourcing (or Source-to-Contract [S2C]) and Procurement (or Procure-to-Pay [P2P]) cycles (for strategic sourcing of buy-side categories), but also influences the full Source-to-Settle (S2S) / Source-to-Pay (S2P) cycle and provides a partial foundation for risk management, performance management, change management, and supplier [relationship] management (as well as in-depth post-mortem reviews that increase organizational knowledge and effectiveness for years to come).
Moreover, good CLM is arguably the foundation for enterprise CLM, or e-CLM, which goes beyond just buy-side contract support and also includes sell-side contract support to cover the transit of goods from supplier to customer, or, as us network modellers like to say, from source to sink.
But just what is CLM? And where does it fit in Supply Management? According to Gartner, it is a solution and process for managing the life cycle of contracts created and/or administered by or impacting the company. (Source) But what does that mean? And more importantly, what does that mean to you as a Supply Management professional? (Let’s be honest — we don’t care much about sales support because there’s nothing to sell if nothing is purchased, manufactured, or created for delivery. Supply Management comes first.)
In simple terms, Gartner’s definition means that, in order to effectively manage your contracts you need the right processes and the right platforms to support those processes. Chances are your organization, which has been contracting since its inception, has, at least, a decent understanding of the right processes but needs a lot of help identifying the right platforms. But where do you turn?
Vendors? They have a great definition of their platform and how they believe it will help you, but with such a narrow view, how do you know it’s right for you?
Analysts? They have a broader definition, as each of the big firms have their own definition of a Contract Management (CM) suite, but this definition is still not a great one. First of all, it’s heavily influenced by the vendors they talk to the most. Second, and most important, their definition changes from quadrant to quadrant and report to report, sometimes arbitrarily, all based upon which vendors they believe should be in the quadrant and which vendors they believe should not, all based on size, suite, or some other half-baked definition of CM. “Should-haves” become “must haves”, “must haves” become “should haves”, and the baseline requirements for vendor consideration, such as suite breadth, vertical support, minimum customer counts, and even minimum revenue ebb and flow with the tide.
Peers? How do you know they know any more than you? Unless they are in the Hackett Group top 8% or the Supply Chain Top 100, chances are they don’t. Remember, one out of every two companies still does not have modern sourcing or procurement systems. And even if a peer has a system, and even if that system isn’t one that just happened to be bought at the word of an analyst or the salesmanship of a vendor, it still doesn’t mean it’s the right system for your organization.
Professional Organizations? Organizations like the ISM and CIPS tend to focus on process, not platforms. Members, not vendors.
The reality is that you don’t really have anywhere to turn for a good, solid, stable definition that you can bank on and measure against. That’s why, for the first time, Sourcing Innovation and Spend Matters, the leading independent authorities on Supply Management, have come together in a joint effort led by the prophet and the doctor to, once and for all, define the core Supply Management platforms, starting with CLM, the most misunderstood of the Supply Management misfits.
Starting this week, over on Spend Matters Pro [membership required], the first part of Contract Lifecycle Management 101 which introduces an in-depth eight-part series that defines CLM in detail is available for your reading pleasure. This landmark joint-authored series outlines its historical, and typical, implementations, details the must-haves, should-haves, and nice-to-haves of a core CM (Contract Management) platform, specifies must-have and should-have integrations, and provides some tips on how to find the right provider. This series is the first in a set of landmark series (which will also include series on Third-Party Management [3PM] / Supplier Relationship Management [SRM], e-Sourcing, and e-Procurement) which will define once and for all what the technology platforms should do, why the platforms should do it, and provide a standard, open, public benchmark against which all vendors will be measured. As such, the doctor strongly encourages you to head over and check it out.