Making the decision to switch to contract management software to manage your organization’s needs can be an exciting prospect for teams tasked with organizing, storing and tracking countless agreements across numerous departments throughout the contract management lifecycle.
But the success of your new contract management software – or any new enterprise software solution, for that matter – lies in how well stakeholders know how to use it. In fact, lack of training has been identified as one of the key reasons new technologies and software fail within organizations. Meanwhile, a thoughtfully-designed training plan is significantly associated with positive outcomes, including positive attitudes about the switch and higher compliance rates.
As you plan for the implementation of your new contract management software, don’t overlook this vital step. But just as you’d be unlikely to embark on any other corporate initiative without a little thought ahead of time about what you’d like to achieve, it’s also important to put some thought and planning into how you approach training.
Designing a training plan is a great opportunity to apply the S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting approach. S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that stands for:
Here’s how to apply the S.M.A.R.T. approach to the key elements of contract management training.
Key element #1: Specific
What exactly do you want to achieve? Can you clearly define the desired outcomes of your training plan? At the highest level, you likely want everyone to start using your contract management software – and to start using it according to the processes and standards you’ve set out for your organization. But what does this actually mean for those involved?
Instead of thinking in general terms, spend some time thinking about the specific information and steps that will add up to a practical understanding. These might include:
Understanding the problems your new contract management software seeks to solve and/or the benefits, at the company, departmental and individual levels, the new software will realize
Which contracts an individual needs to access to perform their role, and how to do so
How to perform relevant tasks such as reading, downloading and/or uploading contracts, using electronic signature features, setting notifications and alerts, etc.
How to access how-to and help resources
Who to ask if they are unsure about contract management software functionalities and/or process
Once you’ve identified your specific goals, you can make sure your training plan accounts for each one.
Key element #2: Measurable
How will you tangibly determine that you’ve achieved your goal?
As you determine each specific goal, it’s important to decide how you will determine that you’ve attained it. Short-term, measurement might include a brief test or hands-on demonstration of various tasks within the training environment. Longer-term measurement criteria could include compliance for various steps within your organization’s contract management processes – if the achievement of certain tasks or standards are falling short, that may be a sign follow-up training is required.
Key element #3: Achievable
Is your desired outcome a realistic one?
For your new contract management plan to work, it has to be realistic for your organization. This means that all involved must possess the required knowledge, skills and resources to fulfill their function within the contract management workflow. As you set each training goal, think about what might stand in the way of its success: Time? Computer skills? Limited attention spans? Some other factor? How can you address each risk within your training plan, or reorganize your goal to make it achievable?
Key element #4: Relevant
Are the goals of your training plan aligned with the broader goals of your contract management plan? Is the training you’re offering useful and relevant to the participants?
The relevance of your training plan can be closely linked to its achievability. But relevance can come into play in several ways. At a high level, devoting some time within training to communicating the benefits of your new software for your audience can help them to embrace it. How will it make their lives easier, or improve their department’s outcomes and performance? Focusing training to make it relevant to people’s roles is also important. Instead of training everyone in your company on every aspect of your new software, consider a role-based training plan in which employees focus only the aspects of your new software and contract management process that they need to do their job. This may prevent participants from feeling overwhelmed and increase their receptiveness to your new solution.
Key element #5: Time-bound
What is the desired timeline you have set out for achieving your goal?
As with so many things in life, if training is just another vague item on everyone’s to-do list, it’s likely to get bumped for tasks that feel more immediate. Adding a time-bound element to your training plan can help ensure the goals of training are actually achieved. Timeframes should be determined as they make sense for each specific goal. They can be short-term (for example, specific tasks you want participants to master within a single training session), mid-term (departmental or company-wide timelines for completing training), or longer-term (measuring compliance on specific tasks within the contract management lifecycle).