For this first post in an occasional series about contract lifecycle management (for more background, see this introductory post), Ashif Mawji, president of Upside Software Inc., was kind enough to take the time to speak with me.
Q: Ashif, your contract lifecycle management (CLM) product is UpsideContract, which is now in Version 5. In a nutshell, what does it aim to do?
A: UpsideContract allows users, whether in sales or procurement, to manage all aspects of the contract process, from cradle to grave. From the first step—for example, when a salesperson requests a term sheet from a customer—through contract creation, negotiation, performance, compliance, and risk management, UpsideContract allows the user to control and monitor the process. And it can be fully integrated with virtually all back-office or customer-focused applications.
Q: What distinguishes your company and your product?
A: For a start, we offer a pure-play CLM solution. It’s not something we expanded into from enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRM), and we think that’s apparent in UpsideContract’s flexibility and functionality. Regarding our company, we have zero debt and we’re one of those rare animals, a profitable CLM provider. We have the most customers of any pure-play CLM provider and the most proven global deployments. And we’re not owned by venture capital, so we’re focused on serving our customers rather than looking for an exit strategy. So all in all, our customers have every reason to feel very comfortable having us as a partner.
And in terms of functionality, one very powerful feature we offer is UpsideForms, which I refer to as “a spreadsheet on steroids.” It allows organizations to track data such as rebates, complex discount grids, supplier score cards, and compliance checklists, whether at the contract, customer/vendor, or project level. It contributes to a full lifecycle management solution that is second to none.
Q: What do companies stand to gain from implementing UpsideContract?
A: Using UpsideContract provides users with a vast array of benefits. Here’s a sample: Users are able to better gauge performance—by them and the other parties—under their contracts, and that ensures that users don’t, for example, miss important deadlines. Users are able to shorten the time it takes to get to contract, and that reduces the likelihood of missing out on deals due to delay. The streamlining of processes and improved collaboration that comes from using UpsideContract significantly reduce operating expenses. And users are able to ensure that for compliance and financial reporting purposes, information is automatically channeled to the people who need it and is readily available for audit purposes. In purely financial terms, users get a fast return on investment—typically well under one year.
Q: Who are your clients?
A: They include some of the biggest companies, such as Boeing, HP, 3M, Hospital Corporation of America, JCPenney, Northern Trust, and Microsoft. But our product is entirely scalable and cost-effective, so it can be your CLM solution whether you have two or 200,000 employees. And because our product works in any language and any currency, it can be implemented anywhere in the world.
Q: Your product offers document assembly. How do you think document assembly helps in the contract process?
A: There’s no question that document assembly allows contracts to be prepared much more quickly and ensures that a company’s contracts are more consistent across the board. We’ve also found that given the way document assembly allows you to compile and customize standard provisions, our customers have been able to reduce by 80% the number of template contracts they use.
Q: I’m familiar with document-assembly solutions such as DealBuilder, HotDocs, and Exari. How would you compare your document-assembly component to those products?
A: Our document-assembly engine is built into UpsideContract, and it allows users to quickly and simply mix and match pre-prepared contract language—from entire agreements to individual provisions—to create any given contract. For example, if you indicate that the contract is for sale of a particular product in a particular jurisdiction, the document-assembly engine will select the appropriate template contract from those that you have loaded into the system. When you specify other terms, such as price, duration of the contract, risk levels, and service levels, that will cause the document-assembly engine plug in the appropriate language. Not only is the process very fast, it also ensures that contracts incorporate only pre-approved terms, so you don’t need further review and don’t have to worry about your personnel making unauthorized changes. Other document-assembly engines operate on roughly the same basis, but all that matters to us is that ours does exactly what our clients need and is firmly integrated into our product.
Q: I understand that people were bullish on CLM in the 1990s but that it didn’t meet expectations. Where’s it at now?
A: I can’t speak for others, but interest in our product is booming. We were founded in 2000, and between 2001 and 2006 our revenues grew by over 3,300% and profits increased by over 400%. In part, that’s a reflection of industry trends. For one thing, the need for CLM solutions continues to grow, given that companies face increasingly fierce competition, increasing workloads, increasing cost pressures, and a tough compliance environment. And the sophistication of our product has meant that we’re more than capable of meeting those needs in a cost-effective manner. We consistently win about eight out of every ten deals that originate through a structured sourcing process.
Q: Ashif, thank you very much. Anyone who wants to know more can go to www.upsidesoft.com, where you can find much information about the company, its products, and CLM generally.