The 5 Critical Success Factors for CLM Implementation

July 5, 2022 4 min read

Customer Success

SaaS implementations can play out in so many different ways, and Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) is no different. There are many ways an implementation can stall out – or even fail – but it’s safe to say that there are definitely common factors among the most successful ones I’ve seen throughout my career in customer success.

Here at Ironclad, we’re proud that so many of our customers implement fast and boast a 100% adoption rate – something we believe is a testament to both our product and our onboarding process. But how does that happen? And more importantly, how can you ensure that you have a smooth, successful implementation of your shiny new SaaS tool? 

There are five key things we tell new Ironclad customers to focus on as they begin their digital contracting and CLM implementations. Here they are.

1) A clear vision of success

Every company has a different objective for their CLM implementation – whether it’s amping up deal speed to bring in revenue faster, digitizing processes to improve collaboration and contract visibility, or standardizing contract language to reduce corporate risk. Whatever your goal is, it’s imperative to lay out your goals and have a clear vision of success before you even begin. 

It all starts with a strategy to outline and define your vision and goals. What problem will this technology solve? What is the desired end result? And how exactly will this new implementation help you reach that end goal? Of course, software implementations often have multiple goals – but which ones take precedent, and how will you measure the results? 

Once you define your goals precisely, be sure to establish the right KPIs and metrics to track your success. Then share the strategy among the team to make sure there’s agreement with management, project sponsors, and key stakeholders.

2) Executive sponsorship 

Any technology implementation needs a strong executive sponsor – someone who’s going to champion the project and has a clear understanding of the reason why it’s being implemented and how it will impact the business. But truly influential executive sponsors do more than just drum up support – they’re instrumental in creating consensus, they ensure the project is given the right resources, and they have the authority and know-how to ensure those resources are delivered.

The sponsor may not touch the project on a daily basis, but their role is crucial. There are internal pressures to deal with, as every new initiative is competing for resources, capacity, funding, and focus. Executive sponsors can go beyond conversation to actually model good change behavior… all in addition to their regular day-to-day responsibilities. But by recruiting an effective executive sponsor, you’re setting your implementation up not only for greater buy-in for the project, but a greater chance for success.

3) A strong program owner 

Driving the day-to-day responsibilities is critical to success, which is why your CLM project needs a strong owner. This might seem obvious, but it’s critical to have a dedicated owner who will not only manage the process, but also maintain stakeholder alignment – which is often the most difficult part of any implementation. And the more stakeholders are affected by a project, the harder it is to manage and align.

A CLM implementation should not be treated as just another IT project, but rather as a business case that impacts a range of departments. Communication and transparency are key, so the program owner will need to have a multifaceted plan for communicating updates, tasks, and progress – whether that’s via email or Slack, project management tools like Trello or Asana, weekly sync meetings, and more. 

As a program owner, be sure to line up the resources needed to make the project successful. Common roles that comprise a program team are: 1) Ironclad Admin (to learn Workflow Designer and build workflows), 2) Salesforce admin (if Salesforce integration is on the table), 3) IT contact (to help setup SSO, support any integration needs, etc.), and 4) Business liaisons (to help with process design, user testing, and adoption). 

4) Key stakeholder alignment 

As mentioned, CLM is a unique implementation in that it rolls out across multiple departments. Technology often only affects one department – customer support platforms, for example, really only affect the support team, right? CLM is a little more complicated. You have to align your legal team with your head of sales, your CIO, your head of procurement, and all the other teams running contracts through the platform.

Each of these stakeholders should understand and be able to clearly convey the importance of the implementation project and its benefits. Stakeholders will also want to know the impact of the implementation on existing processes and what the expected outcomes are. Communicating those key pieces will help keep everyone on the same page and set the right expectations for the outcome of the implementation. Aligning with key stakeholders early and making them feel a part of the journey will serve you well.

5) A specific adoption plan with reporting 

Before you begin a technology rollout, it’s essential to have a comprehensive plan for adoption. How do you encourage usage, while minimizing disruptions and productivity losses during the transition? That’s where an adoption plan comes in. 

Your user adoption plan should cover all phases of the deployment – not just the first phase – and you’ll want to include concrete steps to make sure all users can start to maximize the potential of the new system as soon as it’s ready to go. Here are six areas we tell every new customer they should focus on in their adoption plans: 

  • Adoption goals by user type
  • Adequate user training and documentation
  • Easily accessible support (I like office hours)
  • Clear explanation of the “why” and “what’s in it for me”
  • Feedback intake process with rapid iteration
  • Reports to measure KPIs outlined at project onset

Try this playbook for CLM implementation success

If you’re rolling out a new CLM, or any software for that matter, planning is the name of the game. It’s critical to have the right steps in place before you even get started – which is why we’ve created this playbook for CLM implementation success

We want to ensure the success of every customer here at Ironclad. Check these boxes and control your destiny. And don’t hesitate to reach out to our customer success team if you need help. Not an Ironclad customer and want to learn more? Visit

About Ironclad

Ironclad is the #1 contract lifecycle management platform for innovative companies. L’Oréal, Staples, Mastercard, and other leading innovators use Ironclad to collaborate and negotiate on contracts, accelerate contracting while maintaining compliance, and turn contracts into critical carriers of operational business intelligence. It’s the only platform flexible enough to handle every type of contract workflow, whether a sales agreement, an HR agreement or a complex NDA. The company was named one of the 20 Rising Stars on the Forbes 2019 Cloud 100 list, and is backed by leading investors like Accel, Y Combinator, Sequoia, and BOND. For more information, visit or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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