Three months into 2017 and we continue to encounter stories and predictions about how artificial intelligence (AI) will fundamentally change a variety of industries on an almost day-to-day basis. While it’s receiving significant attention, the challenge is explaining what this type of technology could do to improve certain functions and jobs. Implementing systems to make dynamic and complex decisions as a way to displace humans is way off from mainstream adoption and the lack of articulating that concept effectively is typical of any hype cycle.
As we continue into the year, we will start to see the hype wear off and broader adoption of AI-based solutions within organisations, particularly in data analysis and deriving insight from that data. Let’s look at the trends we can expect over the coming months.
Artificial intelligence will expand in analytics, intelligence gathering and visualisation. We’ve already seen speculation about the industries who will benefit the most from AI, and we’ll continue to see improvements as more and more companies adopt the technology. We will further see the expansion of the way humans in the workforce interact with AI-based solutions. When it comes to the analysis of data, especially unstructured data, AI can be taught the nature of words and sentences and string together concepts and gists within the text. This goes far beyond the basic keyword search functions most people are familiar with, and will truly “understand” what is being communicated in the text. It then presents the information to business users, and not just highly trained data scientists, in a format suitable for them. In understanding the contents of extremely large numbers of documents, AI can take a huge workload off human reviewers and help them do their jobs faster and more efficiently.
Through the use of AI, companies will have an advantage on a competitive global stage, without sacrificing the well-being of their employees, and these applications alone will be the first area of widespread use this year.
M&A activity in 2017 will rebound with a record year
Last year was a disappointing year for mergers and acquisitions. Between the broken deals with Allergan and Pfizer, Halliburton and Baker Hughes, and many more, investors and companies alike were starting to panic about the future of the economy. This year things will quickly change and we’ll be on the rebound with a record M&A year.
According to a new Deloitte report, 86 per cent of private equity and 71 per cent of corporate dealmakers are expecting to close more deals in the next twelve months. The confidence in M&A success is rising, and the factors that once made people feel uncomfortable in 2016 will translate into motivation, propelling them into a busy 2017. For example, while many people feared the uncertainty of major events like Brexit, it will present a whole new opportunity for M&A deals in 2017.
Contract intelligence solutions can help to alleviate some of the challenges M&A brings. By gaining a much stronger insight into the contract portfolios of companies they are targeting for acquisition in the due diligence phase, they dramatically reduce the risk and liabilities they may be acquiring. This insight is fast and efficient, and provides significant transparency in to contract obligations while keeping the deals on track. After an M&A event, the full understanding of what is in a newly acquired organisation takes low value work off the back of legal resources, and drives a much more efficient, timely, and lower cost integration effort.
Contract Management - CLM will need to change
Contract lifecycle management (CLM) vendors manage contract processing through technologies such as document repositories, workflow, and authoring. It has been recognised that the utilisation and ROI provided by these CLM technologies is not where it needs to be, and they are lacking in the management of contract data. These systems provide user defined fields, and users must manually input this data to manage obligations and run analytics on key fields such as term, renewals, counterparty information, pricing and incentives. The data manage with CLM is generally inconsistent, error prone, and inefficient, and organisations with CLM systems will clearly struggle with understanding the data in their existing contacts as they go into the CLM, but also new contracts. This doesn’t even address the need to manage the data in third party contracts which can be more than 50 per cent of the contracts moving through an organisation.
This year, organisations will realise CLM only solves part of the problem they are working to solve, and complement CLM with contract discovery and analytics tools — based in AI technologies. The combined solutions will create the needed efficiencies in the contract lifecycle, but also allow them to dynamically extract the data they need from contracts, when they need it, allowing for deeper analytics and increased insight into critical business relationships. The old way of data management with contracts will be considered obsolete this year, and richer analytics will become the norm.
Contracts - the “new source of business intelligence”
Right now, businesses spend a lot of money and time extracting insight from structured data. The current “big data” solutions process sales data, manufacturing data, financial data, social data, etc., but not the data buried in unstructured documents. Solutions exist now to analyse data from large quantities of documents and provide very valuable insight that can be used for effective decision making.
This is especially important when it comes to contracts. Instead of legal teams reviewing contracts to ensure an organisation is complying with the law or with new or changing regulations, contracts will be seen as a valuable new source of business intelligence. Contracts contain commercial terms, payment terms, incentives, obligations, liabilities, risk, and are rich with information that can be used by procurement, sales, legal, M&A, regulatory, facilities, and other parts of the company to create a higher performance organisation.
Dashboards are now being created that bring together structured and unstructured data to provide new views into the business that were not possible before. Contracts will be appreciated as a new, and untapped source of business intelligence that a new generation of technology can now mine in a very intuitive and cost effective way.
Kevin Gidney, Founder & Chief Technical Officer, Seal Software
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