"I'm in!" — How to get your management to sign off on document automation

Robbert Jacobs

Head of Automation

In Shark Tank, the tv show that made entrepreneurship “en vogue” again, founders spend months preparing a 5-minute pitch. They pour their heart and soul into that short presentation to potentially receive the investment of their lifetime. This may seem far from your world but in reality, we all have our own little Shark Tank experiences.

Let’s say you want to convince your management of implementing a document automation solution. In case you would rather not rely on Shark Tank for guidance on that matter, this article will provide you with some practical tips to successfully present your idea.

First step: identify stakeholders

The first step is to know which stakeholders to approach. Essentially, stakeholders are the people that have an interest or concern in your idea. When proposing to implement a document automation solution, consider the following groups:

  • Your own team
  • Other teams that may also have an interest in using (at least part) of the solution – e.g. because they can have access to one or more automated documents (sales teams, procurement,…)
  • Management
  • IT department

The crucial point is to identify key stakeholders. Those are the stakeholders that have a say in the decision to implement your idea or that may be useful to get the final approval.

Next, in order to convince stakeholders, make sure you “know” them. What are their concerns? What are their interests? Can you come up with a compromise if different stakeholders have different interests? To convince them, think about all issues from their perspective. For example, your manager will likely have concerns on the budget, the IT department may be looking at compliance with data security policies, and so on.

Finally, make sure to involve key stakeholders early on in the process. Delays in approving a project are often caused by stakeholders being involved too late.

Prepare a pitch

It is time to get your creative juices flowing and craft a presentation or a “pitch” as we might as well call it. Keep it professional and straight to the point though, no need to bring along self-made cupcakes or your puppy.

Specify the problem you are trying to solve

Your first task is to clearly specify the problem. If you can clearly express the issue you are trying to solve, getting approval for the solution will be much easier.

When it comes to creating documents, that should not be too difficult: your team is dedicated to adding value to the company but you cannot do so because you are busy drafting the same documents over and over again. Not only does this waste massive amounts of time, but it’s typically also the kind of work that people drag their feet to complete.

The solution

After clearly describing the issues of your current way of working, it is time to whip out your solution and present a carefully crafted plan. How will it solve the issues? For instance, an automated template lets you create a tailored document within minutes. With a clause library, new clauses can be added with a single click without having to look through older documents or looking for that one example in your e-mails. Copying and pasting of client details from e-mails is a thing of the past if you can share your template with your colleagues or clients and allow them to input information themselves.  

Close your presentation by clearly stressing the return on investment. Even if this might be hard to quantify, try putting some numbers on increased productivity. You can for example estimate how many hours per week are spent on drafting certain types of documents and how that time investment could be decreased with the software solution. For example, in our experience in ClauseBase it should be feasible to draft a document in 1/10th of the time it would have taken to do it manually in MS Word. You can use this “multiplier” combined with an estimate of the hourly cost of one of your team members to present an idea of the return on investment. While the figures may only be a rough estimate, stakeholders are much more easily convinced if you include them.

Be ready to defend your proposal

Probably the most realistic part of Shark Tank is the questions asked by the investors. Naturally, you will also face some tough ones from the stakeholders you’re presenting to. Make sure to have a good grasp of the problem as well as the solution and be ready to defend your proposal. Not everyone might be convinced right away.

Finally, you could consider asking the software vendor to participate in the presentation to help to answer any questions. They are experienced in defending the proposal against common objections and will in any case be able to answer any technical questions.

The ClauseBase team is of course at your disposal to help to pitch a document automation project in your organization. We are convinced that together we can make your colleagues say: “We’re in!”