Crafting Your Playbook: A Guide for In-House Teams

Discover how to draft a contract playbook for efficient legal processes to empower teams, streamline negotiations, and mitigate risks effectively.

In the fast-paced world of corporate law, in-house legal teams often juggle numerous tasks, some of which are low-value and repetitive, while striving to maintain efficiency and effectiveness. With the demand for legal services rising, the spotlight has turned on these teams, initiating a search for strategies to streamline workflows and maximise productivity.

All in-house legal teams should consider creating contract playbooks as the first step towards these outcomes. This article delves into the essential steps and considerations for in-house teams looking to develop a playbook for their business requirements. Whether new to the concept or looking to refine your playbook, join us as we explore the fundamental principles and practical insights to guide your playbook-building journey.

What is a Contract Playbook?

A contract playbook is a comprehensive resource containing information on authorising, negotiating, and reviewing contracts within an organisation. It should form guidelines for a business, helping to standardise contract processes by breaking down the company's standard terms. For example, it should explain each clause with fallbacks and state when the company should ‘walk away’ from a contract.

When created effectively, a contract playbook enables sales and procurement teams (using the legal department's specified guidance) to effectively and efficiently self-serve contract negotiations and processes using approved legal content. This aligns legal and critical stakeholders, enhances collaboration, and maximises contract value.

Why have a playbook?

Contract playbooks can play several different roles and purposes, but here we’ve listed the most common reasons to have a contract playbook:

• Empower self-serve in your business

Contract playbooks contain enough information on the companies’ standard positions for stakeholders to work on contracts without involving the legal department. This empowers users to self-serve on contractual tasks such as negotiation, specifying when terms must be escalated for approval.

• Protect your business during globalisation

Organisations can align legal processes worldwide with their playbooks, improving efficiency, reducing errors, and promoting contract compliance.

• Faster and simpler negotiation cycles

A contract playbook is a set of rules that contain the organisation's processes, positions, and terms to follow during contract processes. It empowers stakeholders to negotiate contracts faster without waiting for the legal department, meaning they get to revenue faster. Contract playbooks also help stakeholders easily navigate the complexities of contract negotiation, speeding up the whole process.

• Improved workflows

Contract workflows can get muddled when there are several stakeholders involved. With a contract playbook, users can quickly and easily determine who is responsible for specific areas of the contract lifecycle.  

• Risk mitigation

Contract Playbooks safeguard against risk by including passement criteria for mitigating risk for different contracts or contractual terms. Because of this guidance, stakeholders using the playbook will be able to create more consistent and compliant contracts that comply with the organisation’s risk profile.

Components of a contract playbook

If your business has not created a contract playbook, starting with something straightforward is the best approach! To help, here are the most common components of a structured contract playbook:

• Preferred language and definitions

Legal terminology and jargon need explaining and clarifying for non-legal stakeholders, and a playbook includes the recommended language used for contract terms.

• Fall-back positions

Contract playbooks include a library of commonly used contract clauses and provisions, along with explanations of their purpose when the original plan cannot be followed during negotiations.

• Approvals

Defines any approval workflows and authority metrics for specific individuals or roles responsible for approving contracts at each process stage.

• Negotiation strategies

Contract negotiations can be a complex process, especially for non-legal stakeholders.

A contract playbook often includes tips, strategies, and best practices for effectively negotiating contract terms and conditions to achieve the origination's favourable outcomes.

• Language index

Many non-legal stakeholders will be unfamiliar with most legal terms and language, so contract playbooks include definitions or simple explanations of legal terms, language, and concepts.

• Policies and Procedures

Playbooks often include detailed policies and procedures governing the contract lifecycle, including contract initiation, drafting, negotiation, approval, execution, implementation, and termination.

Who uses playbooks?

Contract playbooks can be used by anyone from any department, whether they are on the legal team or not. They enable stakeholders to self-serve, promote compliance, and fast-track new employee training by providing them with the organisation’s knowledge bank.

The legal team is generally responsible for creating and managing any contract playbooks, but they should be continually refined with suggestions from stakeholders with experience in various contract processes or situations.

How to create a playbook

Creating a contract playbook involves several steps to ensure it effectively addresses the organisation's unique requirements and a comprehensive framework.

Here are the most common steps involved in the playbook creation process:

• Set objectives and boundaries

You must identify the stakeholders and establish the objectives during the first stage. Consider standardisation, risk mitigation, compliance, efficiency, and the playbook format.

• Collect the required resources

Before building the playbook, gather any relevant information you need to include, such as existing templates, guidelines, old training materials, previous contracts, and guidance from other legal professionals.

• Align stakeholders

Contract playbooks are used by various teams and individuals outside the legal department. In most cases, multiple teams will rely on the playbook to provide them with legal guidance. If the playbook isn’t relevant to the end user, it won’t be used! Therefore, it must be created with them in mind to encourage business-wide adoption.

• Provide content and details

Equip stakeholders with the required knowledge so they know what to do and why. Provide details and explanations for rules, processes, and workflows, as well as standardised templates, negotiation strategies, approval workflows, risk assessment criteria, and compliance guidelines.

• Design

Incorporate feedback from stakeholders and subject matter experts to ensure accuracy, clarity, and completeness. The playbook will contain vast amounts of information, so include the most critical information first.

• Training

Develop training materials and conduct training sessions on using a contract playbook before launching the playbook across the organisation. Training should also establish a process for regular updates and maintenance based on feedback and evolving needs.

Integrated playbooks with Summize

Despite these steps, creating a comprehensive playbook that is usable and relevant to the business can be time-consuming. Even if it is well-curated, ensuring adoption and upkeep is a challenge - especially when it is captured in an Excel file outside your contract workflows.

That’s why legal teams turn to digital playbooks within their contract automation and CLM tools. A digital playbook provides a fast and effective way to access vital contractual positions by creating a centrally embedded resource within your contract workflows. Unlike traditional playbooks, digital playbooks don’t allow stakeholders to overlook or make mistakes with the rules, as they are applied automatically.

Summize has reimagined and designed the traditional playbook to be integrated into your existing tools and processes, creating your digital company playbook. Legal centrally manages and updates the playbook, which the wider business can access through the Summize integrations. Empower users to seamlessly generate contracts directly in the tools you use against approved legal content in minutes.

Unlock the next generation of digital playbooks by contacting us today to arrange a demo.


About the author

The Summize Team

Summize is a Contract Lifecycle Management solution that incorporates contract workflows into the tools you and your business already use every day.
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