Never lose sight of where you came from or what you have learned along the way. This is a great ‘gut feel’ gauge when you need to make decisions without all the facts or data — which you will surely do.
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tim Donaghy, CTO, Contract Logix.
Tim Donaghy has been with Contract Logix since 2006 and was on the founding team during the initial product concept phase. As the CTO, Tim leads all Product and Technology direction for the company. He has crafted the vision for what has become an industry-leading SaaS platform.
Tim is a well-known industry expert, speaker, and author in the field of contract lifecycle management. Prior to Contract Logix, Tim held senior marketing, product management, sales, and technology leadership roles at Intellisoft Group and Contour Design; and in the U.S Navy where he served on nuclear submarines.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Yes, absolutely. Let’s see, well, I joined the U.S. Navy out of school and was an electronics technician on nuclear submarines. So, very different from the norm. While serving in the Navy, I got engaged in technical requirements and learning which set me on my current path and the roles I’ve had throughout my career. After the Navy, I decided to pursue technology and leverage my skill set to the fullest extent possible. I joined a computer hardware company where I helped design, market and sell into key segments such as the Apple and ergonomic peripheral markets. I learned a lot throughout those experiences.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Well, I’m not sure it was an aha moment per se, but I’ll start where I left off on the last question. I was hired to help design and develop a focused healthcare solution for credentialing and physician contracting. Basically, the solution would be a module or add-on to our other product offerings. I worked with one of our large Medicare healthcare solution providers to ensure we met their business and use cases around the functions of medical and payer and provider contracting. This is when it all started to click!
During these discussions and developing the solution, it became evident that the data architecture of the information stored and managed was critical. Contracts can have a lot of relationships and data around risk and compliance that is critical information for businesses — and not just healthcare businesses — to rely on for important decisions. The focus was around this flexibility and the reporting and management of this information — including the documents or contracts themselves. From this moment, we decided that it was strategically crucial to reconsider releasing this as a module and really make it its own product and eventually, a new company.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My story isn’t all that different than many individuals starting or working in smaller, start-up organizations. I think ultimately, there are challenging times when faced with adversity that ends up shaping who you are as a company and an individual.
Each facet of business has different sets of challenges. In my case, I always tried my absolute best to take a very positive and optimistic approach and worked hard learning all I could whenever I felt like I was overwhelmed or tired or felt like giving up. I am very driven by nature. I love learning as much as possible, and I believe this has been the difference-maker for me. If I was not passionate about the learning or the markets or solutions, the outcome might have been very different.
When I reflect back on specific challenges, whether it was financial pressures, various sales and marketing related issues and perhaps even technology issues, I’ve always buckled down, worked hard, learned all I could about the circumstance and kept my head high. I’ve always remained positive — even when times were challenging, and don’t let myself have a give-up mentality.
In the early days, there were times where we had so few people and the workloads were off the charts for me and others. We didn’t have a truly competitive solution yet and we weren’t really making enough to keep the doors open, so to speak. On top of it, the market was new and evolving quickly, so it took much more effort to get to a viable product than originally anticipated because the finish line kept moving. I’ve had other experiences with starts and stops during development which can make it difficult to gain any real traction. It’s in those moments though, that you have to make real decisions that impact everyone around you in the business and the can be tough. You sometimes have to go with your gut and use the information and facts you have to do the best you possibly can. I feel like most times we made the right decision, but certainly it took courage, drive and a whole lot of coffee!
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things are going well today. The landscape of contract lifecycle management (CLM) is vastly different than even just a few years ago. It’s an extremely competitive market. As a company, we have different people, new technologies and different customer use cases, and each of those have different perspectives. It has been really rewarding and great to have been part of all this growth throughout the years. We’ve certainly had to adapt and embrace change, but our willingness to take on these new challenges is what I think sets us apart. Great people make all the difference in my mind in terms of having a resilient culture.
From my perspective, it has taken a lot of analysis and resiliency over the years to really be successful — both individually and as an organization. The CLM market continues evolving at a rapid pace so it can be challenging to stay on top of the latest trends. Resilient is one of our Guiding Principles as an organization because we believe it is a real requirement in who we are.
Recently, we’ve seen tremendous — actually skyrocketing — growth in the usage of our products, especially over the last 4 months. So many companies are needing to evolve, even transform, their business models to succeed in this new operating environment where everyone is remote. There’s been rapid acceleration in digital transformation and our solutions are a big part of making that possible for our customers.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
In the early days we would always inadvertently call the solution a contact management system rather than a contract management system which always raised some questions or eyebrows during customer demos or presentations. It was a good branding lesson. I also remember one time being called the “OxiClean” commercial guy when demonstrating our software because I was really enthusiastic and into the presentation. The customer and I had a good laugh because they purposely waited until the end to tell me. I learned to try to balance my enthusiasm a bit more, but never thought it was a mistake or bad thing.
I tend to embrace making mistakes. It was instilled very early on in my career that to excel and grow, you must make and learn from your mistakes. I’ve tried my best to reflect and learn from them whether it’s from an internal or outside perspective.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Contract Logix is a standout company and I’m truly passionate about our organization and technology. I think what makes us unique is our combination of people and our technology and products. All of us have a passion for data and analytics. In fact, we call ourselves Logicians.
Over the past few years, we have built an incredibly powerful CLM platform. That platform uses a data-centric approach and we believe data is our customers’ most valuable contract asset. This data can be leveraged to eliminate risk and compliance issues and really helps deliver value to our customers. Data is also critical to establishing and benchmarking KPIs which is increasingly important to our customers, especially as they look to optimize processes and do more with less in today’s new normal. These are just a few examples of why we believe our data-driven approach is standout and why I believe so much in the company and our goals.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
That’s a tough question. My biggest recommendation is to reflect and reflect some more. Learn as much as you can from your mistakes and interactions with other people. Over my career, I’ve learned that the more you learn through these processes, the more this will fuel your passion and reduce burn-out because the work will be more enjoyable and you will be more on your game. Often, the other issue I see is that burn-out might come from individuals that don’t every so often take a step back to look at the bigger picture. It’s important to ask yourself, what have you accomplished and where are the opportunities for improvement? I think that approach has worked well for me.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Yes, I agree completely. I believe that one of my roles is to provide similar opportunities to my employees that I’ve been afforded to throughout my career. This is crucial for them and me. I love mentoring and coaching and being a part of this process. Our people and culture are very important, and it requires dedication and time to really ensure each of our personnel’s career goals are met.
Throughout my career, I’ve had multiple mentors, from the current CEO of Contract Logix to other executives and even outside resources. Without a doubt, they have made a lasting impact on me and have helped my career every step of the way. I’m grateful to each of them for different reasons and learnings. More recently, Rick Ralston, Contract Logix’s CEO, has really given me perspective on how to look at and structure the business from a design standpoint as well as instilling company culture and so much more. He really has helped cement a lot of valuable and real-world/life experience, which continues to make me better and inspire me to grow.
With that said, I try to learn from everyone around me. Sometimes you learn things from places you don’t always expect. I’ve learned that lesson countless times throughout my career and life.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?
We’ve been very fortunate at Contract Logix to build a successful and thriving installed base of customers in a wide array of industries like healthcare, pharma & biotech, energy, financial services and more. We have several hundred brands using our products, from small businesses to Fortune 500 organizations. And within those customers, we have thousands of legal, procurement, finance, IT and sales professionals using our software to digitize, automate and streamline the way they manage millions of legal agreements.
When I think about how we’ve built that community, there are three big reasons that come to mind.
- We’ve built a secure platform that meets our customers’ use cases but keeps things relatively simple.
- We’ve welcomed our customers’ feedback as learning opportunities and work very hard to get them adopting and getting value from the software as quickly as feasible.
- We’ve helped our customers unlock the value of the data in their contracts to provide insights and visibility into their legal agreements and ultimately business.
What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?
As a software subscription, we keep our model simple and monetize using just a couple of factors such as the edition of the platform and the number of users.
We made the decision to leverage this model for several reasons including market factors and adoption. With the availability of cloud and subscription models becoming more and more common, the price per user model made sense for us and was more widely accepted by our market. It’s easy to compare and understand. Historically we had leveraged licensing and other feature-based pricing models. As we embraced changes in the market, we adopted a much simpler approach based on historical success and/or failures.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SaaS? Please share a story or an example for each.
Create a customer-driven culture that onboards customers quickly to drive adoption and stickiness. Measure success through customer usage metrics.
Historically in our market, driving adoption can be a challenge. With our platform, customers are changing and maturing into a new, but foreign, process or technology. They are digitally transforming their contracts but in turn, really changing the entire ecosystem and nature of managing their contracts and the processes their people use.
During this initial phase, getting customers quickly using the product and gaining real value from it is key to long term success. End users tend to be more engaged throughout the process and this is incredibly apparent when tracking usage metrics for customers. On average, we find that the quicker a customer is up and running, the longer the life of the customer.
Measuring usage metrics is critical because it gives you a wealth of insight into where the platform might be more or less successful. When we initially started tracking usage, we were able to quickly identify areas that were not being used or used much less frequently than we anticipated. It was a very enlightening experience that let us course-correct on occasion.
Small iterative development cycles and releases that meet customer expectations and solves their problem(s). Measure success through customer feedback.
Great technology improves your customer’s life by solving a real-world business problem, which adds tremendous value. The closer you can get to or understand the real problem and solution, the more your customers will be delighted. Keep the dev cycles short and as small as will be accepted by your customers too. This allows you to be more agile and the process to be measurable throughout the lifecycle. Don’t leave things to chance and know the outcomes by capturing your customer feedback as quickly as feasible. This will allow you to learn and adapt quicker by applying the knowledge you have learned from your customers.
Focus on delivering differentiable/demonstrable value in your technology and/or services models.
This is an area that can be challenging in a crowded market, but to be successful and viewed as a leader, you have to choose what you want to be known for. From developing your solution, to marketing, to selling and ultimately delivering, it’s critical that you differentiate the value you bring to the table and that it is realized and understood by your customers. The more you can really target and drill into what is truly differentiable and not “me too,” the greater success you will have. This applies in all facets of your business. It doesn’t matter if its development or sales or some other function. The more you can demonstrate this to your customers the easier and faster the sales process will be. Lastly, this can take on many different forms. As an example, you can differentiate to a specific vertical market with the value you add, or perhaps you have leading technology or something else. Think it through and this will make a big difference.
Try a lot of ideas and approaches to win, lose (measure) and learn. Use outside perspectives to gain knowledge for gleaning opportunities for improvement. Rinse and repeat.
This one came out of a lot of trial and error over the years. I think it’s why I believe it’s important from my perspective. The reality is you’ve heard the fail fast concept. While I agree with this concept, I probably always overthought it just a bit. I think you try a bunch of approaches that are of quality. For the sake of time, they don’t have to be A+ work but strive for high quality to begin with so maybe an A- or B+, as an example. Then you measure the success of the item to understand how you have won or lost for that specific thing. The key is to measure it one way or another. The more you do this, the faster you can adapt and learn. Eventually, you will get to this point where many more things are working rather than failing. You will also have this amazing memory bank of concepts and ideas that have or have not worked that lets you continue evolving and altering your course with each growth phase or circumstance.
The second part of this I’ve had to learn over and over, which coincidentally took an outside perspective for me to understand. It’s important to gain feedback and outside perspective and even seek it out when possible. This will transform your abilities using fresh perspectives which will, in the long run, let you learn from others that give you real insights and feedback. It might not always be easy to hear, but it will almost certainly make a difference, especially when considering they have made mistakes and learned too! You might save yourself a lot of headaches by simply listening.
Never lose sight of where you came from or what you have learned along the way. This is a great ‘gut feel’ gauge when you need to make decisions without all the facts or data — which you will surely do.
I noted earlier about having this amazing memory bank of concepts and ideas, and in principle, this is the same concept. In fact, you can draw from your memory bank to help you make decisions along the way.
In my career, there are not many days that go by where a decision doesn’t need to be made but you simply don’t have all of the data you want to make it. I’ve learned that it’s okay to trust your gut and that while it’s always best to leverage the facts and all of the possible data you can to make your decisions, sometimes it’s just not possible for a variety of reasons. I try to use my experience as a simple gauge. I reflect and apply past knowledge to each situation. I’ve learned that even when I have the data, you still have choices and decisions to make.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
This is a very challenging question, especially with everything going on in the world today. Frankly, there are so many things I would love to see happen that I could go on and on here. Maybe the best way for me to answer this one is to think about how it relates to our business.
We serve verticals like healthcare, pharma/biotech, non-profits, community organizations, charities and others. My belief is that all contracts have unnecessary risks hidden in them and that those risks can be exposed and eliminated with software like ours. At the end of the day, I want to ensure these organizations focus their time and resources on the really important and impactful work they are doing in the world and not have to worry about the consequences of contractual risk. That would be rewarding. The impact of this would hopefully trickle downstream and help people in the community. Maybe, as an example, testing is faster, or premiums don’t skyrocket or they can make funding go further. I don’t know the impact, but I know this matters and really can make a difference, especially when you include the security of this information and how it relates to not just the organizations, but the people they employ and serve.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Tim Donaghy of Contract Logix: 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.