The COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant disruption to our lives over the last three months. We’ve been sheltering-in-place in our homes, cooking and ordering take-out, working remotely, and literally doing our best to avoid physically socializing with anyone with whom we don’t share a living space. For Colleges and Universities, the pandemic has brought a level of disruption and uncertainty that most haven’t experienced in their lifetime. Higher Education leaders scrambled in March to build remote capabilities to deliver online learning to students to finish up the school year. Now they are debating how to manage the upcoming Fall 2020 semester and plan for what the “new normal” may be beyond that.
Like students, employees of Higher Education institutions are facing significant disruption in their daily work life. Working in a collegial office setting has been replaced by home offices and Zoom. The daily office processes that were once taken for granted are now more challenging in a remote setting. Dropping by a co-worker’s office to ask a question or pulling people together for an impromptu meeting is more difficult when you are outside of the campus office.
Even before COVID-19 hit, Colleges and Universities were beginning to make significant investments in digital transformation. Old systems and processes were not delivering great campus experiences in the age of Amazon, Apple, and Facebook. COVID-19 has forced many institutions to accelerate these investments.
One area that is a hot topic of discussion is DocuSign’s Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) offering, which is part of their Agreement Cloud platform. Many institutions create and manage thousands of contracts, agreements, and other critical documents every year as part of their operations. The process tends to be manual, time-consuming, sometimes still paper-based, error-prone, and mostly inefficient. DocuSign CLM brings an enormous amount of efficiency and flexibility around contract creation and execution, as well as automating workflow for review and signature routing. Additionally, DocuSign’s advanced repository provides better management of document attributes and other metadata, which allows for more effective searching and better reporting.
In this blog, I am going to discuss how different Colleges and University groups can benefit greatly from leveraging DocuSign CLM to manage their critical documents.
University Advancement and other fundraising units: Universities spend a lot of time cultivating major gift donors to help advance the mission of the organization. Donation processes typically involve creating a gift agreement that, depending on donation size and counterparty type, can vary in format, content, and even approval processes. Such an agreement needs to be reviewed and edited by both parties, which can involve a lot of back and forth amongst numerous stakeholders from both the University and the donor. In my experience, this gift agreement process is a heavily manual process that can be prone to errors and very inefficient. Imagine leveraging DocuSign Agreement Cloud to speed up and automate much of the process. Agreements can be created at a touch of the button with all the requisite data. If a new clause needs to be inserted for a specific situation, imagine being able to go to a library of pre-approved agreement clauses, selecting one that works, and inserting it into the document. The agreement can follow a prescribed workflow from stakeholder to stakeholder, capturing revisions along the way and routing for signatures, all while maintaining version control of the document. The days of emailing a red-lined Word document back and forth between parties are over.
Corporate Partnerships: Similar to Advancement, University Corporate Partnership groups are advancing the mission of the university but working with Corporations and Businesses instead of individual donors. When businesses support the University through marketing and event sponsorships, outright gifts, or unrestricted contributions, the agreements that need to be created, reviewed, and signed can be managed more effectively in DocuSign CLM. Another use case I see involves Corporations seeking opportunities to tap into the intellectual capacity of students, either by participating in an individual course or through some sort of Experiential Learning program. Typically, either scenario (and potentially others) requires a signed agreement that clarifies expectations, outcomes, non-disclosure requirements, and intellectual property ownership, among other things. Again, DocuSign CLM can help streamline this agreement process.
Academic Research: For many Universities (especially large public and private institutions), research is one of the most critical operations on campus. Research provides an immense amount of value for a University in prestige, brand value, the ability to support human development, and driving social good. As such, it is a critical component for schools to achieve their overall mission. It is also one of the most complicated areas operationally. I’ve seen Research Departments provide over 40-50 different types of contracts, agreements, and other documents to govern the sourcing, funding, partnering, and delivery of research projects. Because of the sheer number of contract and agreement types and the number of faculty, contractors, partners, funders and other stakeholders involved, I’m not sure how Research Departments manage all of this efficiently without a toolset like DocuSign CLM. Adding a government agency as a research partner or funder increases the overall complexity. If I were the head of Research Operations at a large R1 or R2 research university, I would strongly ask the Provost to invest in DocuSign CLM to manage all these agreements effectively.
Compliance: University Compliance is typically an umbrella oversight term that is either the responsibility of a central Office of Compliance or can be delegated to specific schools, divisions, or departments (such as Research, HR, or Student Services). The Higher Education Compliance Alliance (HECA) maintains a list of key federal laws and regulations governing Colleges and Universities (https://www.higheredcompliance.org/wp-content/uploads/export/compliance-matrix.xlsx), and it currently lists 282 different items. University Compliance is a challenging job! From my perspective, Compliance Officers can streamline their agreement processes leveraging DocuSign CLM to manage faculty employee agreements, non-disclosure forms, conflict of interest forms, intellectual property agreements, etc. There are a whole host of agreements that need to be executed or renewed on a regular and routine basis. DocuSign CLM can facilitate a compliance process that is more rigorous, efficient, and in compliance itself.
The use cases I’ve discussed above are only a small sample of University groups that can benefit from DocuSign CLM. Admissions/Financial Aid and Tech Transfer/IP Licensing are two other areas that could benefit greatly as well, but I will have to leave that for another blog. Anywhere an agreement is being created, edited, reviewed, signed, and tracked, DocuSign CLM can help revolutionize that process.
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