Seal of approval for innovative Contract Discovery product (sorry!)

I’m sure you have all read our recent research paper “Getting to grips with Contract Management”, and  listened to our webinar on the topic. We won’t go on yet again about how contract management is a huge opportunity for most procurement people and functions to make a name for themselves... (but it is).

But in the context of contract management, today I want to say a little more about the Seal Software contract discovery product. We touched on it previously, but I’ve had a closer look at the product since then ( Seal being the sponsor of the paper and webinar of course).

The product addresses that all too common scenario in which an organisation simply doesn’t know which contracts it has in place.  That’s obviously got an interest to procurement leadership, but it can also be relevant in an acquisition situation, or in legal or regulatory cases. (And can also apply to customer contracts as well as supply side).

Seal Contract Discovery and Analytics (cDiscovery) is an “out of the box” solution. The software analyses your computer systems and searches out contract documents, wherever they are  – the solution can even search on its own for contracts across a distributed desktop environment. It looks for key words, and has a remarkably good success rate in finding documents that may not obviously be contracts. (Not every contract has a file name with “contract” in it)!

Having discovered the contracts, it classifies them, and indentifies the key terms and conditions within each contract – the scope, parties involved, assignability, insurance, indemnification, IP rights, discounts, start/termination dates, renewals, solicitations, value, rebates, liquidated damages and more.

It then presents the user with a searchable database – whatever form the original document was in, it is now free text searchable, with a very nice and intuitive user interface.  The standard results come back with around 40 core data points per contract, and many more can be retrieved per specific client needs. You can then interrogate on suppliers – “Oracle” perhaps, or using a phrase like “contracting party Oracle”, or on an attribute – “contracts with rebates” for instance.

For me, it’s genuinely one of the very few “wow” solutions I’ve seen demonstrated in the last few years, in terms of what it can do and its potential value to organisations. Much of that value comes from identifying, for instance, issues that can have real cost implications - all the contracts that contain automatic renewal clauses, or perhaps liquidated damages provisions. But there are also obvious risk management benefits in having those insights into the contract portfolio.

Seal gave a few examples of where it has proved valuable. In one regulatory case, the organisation has taken 16 man-months of effort to discover 2,500 relevant contracts. Seal confirmed the 2,500 and found 300 more in 48 hours. In another case, the user saved £10,000 instantly as the solution identified auto-renewal clauses in what should have been obsolete contracts.

It doesn’t totally eliminate the need for some manual intervention, we should stress, in order to get 100% accuracy, but it provides an order of magnitude acceleration and reduced effort compared to other options – hours rather than days, or days rather than months of effort.

Regular readers will know I’m not someone who goes overboard about new or clever technology for the sake of it. But this is one of those occasions when by the end of the demo, I could honestly say that if I’d still been a CPO, I would have been absolutely sold on its potential value.

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