Seal Software's Discovery — a Disruptive Approach to Contract Visibility & Management (Part 2)

Please click here for Part 1 of this series.

We'll continue our look at Seal Software by tossing out a few more case examples for good measure, to show the breadth of applicability for this truly special product, starting first with M&A. In an M&A situation, Seal can enable new levels of visibility into all contract exposure areas before a deal is completed and then drive a rapid post-merger integration as soon as deals are complete. Based on speed, quantity of contract analysis and the amount of deals processed at any given time, Seal's approach can enable contract visibility an order of magnitude faster than manual (or even other automated) approaches across many different contract fields and metadata (e.g., change of control, non exclusivity, escrow, end-of-life, auto renewals, most favored nation status, right of first refusal, limitation of liability, exclusivity, non-competes, non-solicitation, indemnity). A large law firm currently uses Discovery to reduce contract review time using bundled extraction rules.

In other use cases, Seal can complement existing solutions in the market such as Ariba Contract Management. A common shortcoming with CM, CRM and many P2P installations is that they are not capable of automatically importing and tracking necessary KPIs and clauses. As a result, the P2P tools don't provide sufficient actionable visibility. The Discovery tool can be used to cleanse existing Ariba content, extract all details, and finally populate the original P2P application with key metadata to elevate the usefulness of the existing technology investment. Everybody wins!

It's also a clever auditing tool in its own right. Using Seal, a Fortune 500 financial firm was able to carry out a rapid review of all contracts within a European subsidiary (with the surprising results that they have over 4,000 more contracts than expected), providing immediate ROI by causing material changes in behavior and renegotiation for both sales and procurement. A large multinational audit company uses the tool and has discovered hundreds of executed contracts that had gone undetected in prior audits. We plan to take a closer look at some clients and their specific stories in greater detail in the near future, but hope these examples have whet your appetite to learn how organizations are using Seal in the field.

Adding further pressure on their competitors, Seal does not sell its solution based on per-seat pricing, but bases its price solely on number of contracts under management. Unlimited user count, and the information can be consumed in any other company solution without restrictions. We really like this approach, as it avoids making CM a specialty function within the legal and procurement teams and helps drive broad adoption and visibility to end users that are in a position to best leverage the contract information.

The Seal Software company is founded and headquartered in England, with CEO Ulf Zetterberg packing his bags to relocate to California at the end of this summer. This signifies the importance of the US market to the company's continued growth. Top management all have backgrounds heavy in technology and software, with several coming from OpenText, and EMC, the data storage company. The past year has been especially successful for the firm, giving the company solid traction with several substantial Fortune 100 class wins.

Spend Matters estimates that their Discovery product is potentially two full development cycles ahead of what is out in the market, so it will likely take their CM competitors a good deal of time to catch up to where Seal is in this area today. This might make them a potential acquisition target, even perhaps for a dark horse third-party (e.g., Adobe) to enter the contract management market from a highly unique angle.

Their Discovery tool is Java-based and set up to work with any contract management solution. Seal also has a mature contract management solution based on Microsoft SharePoint technology -- this CM solution has a feature set that is on par with many CM solutions in the marketplace and should be especially appealing to those otherwise using SharePoint solutions. While the solution is not yet as well known as Upside, it is holding its own in some of the more complex deals in the market (including those involving the best known providers), and might prove a more attractive option compared to Ariba, Emptoris, Symfact and others, depending on requirements. We'll take a deeper look at that later.

As I mentioned in the first part of this post, Discovery can be used in nearly any company, and it coexists nicely with other solution investments. With this addition to the CM suite, Seal has effectively elevated the level of this part of the profession and brought a new step to best practices. Let's clarify that a little if you are still among the skeptics: previous approaches to CM analysis has been fraught with human error and the limitations of quickly capturing and analyzing large amounts of content. As a result, data points are ignored, and combined with 80/20 rules of prioritization, a large tail is often left unanalyzed. This easily creates CM installations with inadequate visibility to and tracking of critical KPIs, leaving end users dissatisfied and will either lead to "shadow technology" aka Excel/Access, etc. to stay on top of data points, and/or exposes companies to increased risk and losses.

No more. Seal has changed the game for contract discovery. We are glad to have come across such a novel approach to CM analysis, and we urge our readers to take a look at the Seal Discovery tool -- we think you will be quite intrigued.

- Thomas Kase

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