Andy Wishart is a well-known legal technology leader. Prior to him joining Agiloft, Andy served as vice president of product management at Thomson Reuters leading efforts pertaining to legal drafting and productivity solutions. Andy also was co-founder and chief technology officer of Contract Express, a contract automation solution that Thomson Reuters acquired in 2015. Armed with a degree in artificial intelligence and psychology from the University of Edinburgh, Andy Wishart is passionate about enhancing legal productivity through intelligent and easy-to-use solutions.
Tell me a little about your background and what first got you interested in contract automation.
I should point out that I am a technologist and not a lawyer, but I have been working in legal tech for over 20 years. Throughout that time, I have dedicated most of my energy and passion to building products that automate contracting processes.
I graduated in Artificial Intelligence and Psychology from the University of Edinburgh, where my research focussed on knowledge representation and reasoning, all of which was a great foundation for my product management career in legal tech. I am passionate about automation and reducing time or complexity in a process using technologies, such as artificial intelligence.
My focus on contracts started in 2000, when I co-founded Contract Express, the automated contract drafting solution, now owned by Thomson Reuters. When we launched Contract Express to the market back in 2001, we utilized rules-based reasoning to automatically construct dynamic Q&A forms from rules lawyers would create in a suite of Microsoft Word templates.
At Thomson Reuters, I was fortunate to have access to a large team of data scientists and AI engineers who could help to build AI products at scale. Similarly, here at Agiloft, I am fortunate to work with a team of dedicated data scientists and engineers to continue to evolve Agiloft’s AI capabilities, which are used to streamline contract review and automate contract risk scoring.
What got you interested in Agiloft?
I made the decision to move to Agiloft from Thomson Reuters because I felt the timing was right. Agiloft’s leadership team had a clear vision and mission, and the product was strong and trusted by numerous customers across the globe.
In terms of timing, the contract lifecycle management (CLM) market is experiencing strong growth, the potential market is huge, and there are still a lot of enterprises, who have not yet adopted a robust contracting solution.
I worked with Agiloft’s CEO, Eric Laughlin, when we were both at Thomson Reuters, and I share his vision for how technology can be leveraged to transform and elevate the importance of modern enterprise contracting.
Finally, I was instantly blown away by the capabilities of the Agiloft platform and continue to be impressed by its ability to create custom data structures and workflows quickly, without writing any code.
This is important because contract workflows are fluid and often need to change when organisations add new contract types, acquire a company, change direction, or there are external changes, in terms of legislation or regulations.
What exactly does a chief product officer do?
I manage a team of product managers responsible for discovering what new products, new capabilities, or new features we want to build on the Agiloft platform. We collaborate closely with sales, customer success and support, who provide us with valuable insight into what the market is requesting, and how our customers are using our products.
We collaborate with marketing to assist in the positioning of our products with customers and prospective buyers, and we are joined at the hip with our engineering colleagues, as we build those products, capabilities, and features.
The most important aspect of my role, and the role of my team, is the work we do directly with our customers and end users. It is our responsibility to uncover the problems and challenges that our users have, or may encounter, in their contract review processes, and to solve these problems with intuitive solutions.
The best way to achieve that is to put customers at the heart of the discovery process. Validating the fact that solutions not only address the problem; but that the problem itself is painful enough to justify the cost of implementing a solution in the first place.
What are the top three myths that persist around contract lifecycle management?
Myth #1: Contracts can be effectively managed with a simple repository of contract documents with a way to tag the data associated with those documents and a little bit of workflow.
There are 100s of contracting solutions and tools in the market, which offer basic features that help users to unlock some value; but the majority do not provide the agility or extensibility to help their users to scale and unlock greater value in automating their end-to-end contracting processes.
At Agiloft our CLM repository is data centric, not document centric. That is a major difference. We put an emphasis on the relationships that exist between the contract record and other important associated assets, which means our customers can see the bigger picture.
I believe this holistic view of “the contract” is foundational for applying automated processes that bring efficiencies to the way a contract weaves its way from an initial request, all the way through to signature and monitoring.
Myth #2: Contract lifecycle management solutions are too rigid and cannot keep pace with the dynamic nature of my business.
Modern contracting solutions are designed to be adaptable to change. That could be the result of change in your business, such as an acquisition or a change in strategy. It could also be an external change, such as new compliance rules, legislation, or regulation.
At Agiloft we help our customers to manage this change by providing a flexible no-code platform that enables modifications to data models, workflows, clause libraries or contract templates to be done with pace and predictability.
As an example, one of our customers is a leading COVID-19 vaccine provider, who needed to speed up their contractual activities around vaccine trials. They needed to track contracts against specific vaccine programs, where the programs impacted the clauses in those contracts.
Agiloft’s no-code platform enabled them to create a data model for the different types of programs and to modify the rules in our contract automation templates to include the appropriate clauses for the different vaccine programs.
As a result, there were no unnecessary hold-ups, and the vaccine provider knew exactly what they could and could not do, the trials were able to take place, and the vaccine is being administered to patients.
Myth #3: I only need to care about a contract if something goes wrong.
The concept that a contract is just written and agreed is out of date. Modern contracting needs to shift from seeing contracts as being static records, to what they are – critical, digital assets in the modern corporate enterprise.
After all, the teams that ‘touch’ contracts are of critical importance to any organisation. Therefore, the assets they create are of fundamental importance, as they often hold the key to the business’s top and bottom-line. Those teams deserve to be supported by modern technology which can create, manage, monitor, and optimize the value of those digital assets.
Why should lawyers care about contract lifecycle management?
As I mentioned above, contracting holds the key to top and bottom-line economics of any business. Contracts sit at the intersection of two major business processes: lead to cash on the sales side and procure to pay on the sourcing side. What could be more important to any business?
So, it is essential that lawyers are strong stakeholders in any change program that aims to digitize and modernize the contracting process. The outcomes of implementing a successful solution can be transformational for the organization and the individual lawyers in the legal team involved in the implementation.