What is our primary use case?
For my area, it's the contract module. It's for the lifecycle of contracting. I am in the legal department, and we have attorneys as well as senior legal specialists and legal specialists who work with this, strictly from the drafting and reviewing of the legal side of things. I'm the contract module administrator for the SMART program within our organization.
This year we did add the sourcing procurement modules to it, which are being used more on the procurement side of our business supply chain. I do nothing with the supply chain sourcing side of it, such as the requests for proposals, the metrics that they're doing with spending analytics, etc.
How has it helped my organization?
From a contract perspective, in my opinion, SMART has improved things a hundred-fold. Change is hard for anybody, and we had a rough start with it. The first year that we were in it, it was a nightmare, to be honest. And GEP is very aware of that. But it definitely is a time-saver, once people learn how to correctly use it. It also reduces our risk at a lot of different levels. Eventually, people are going to trust it as a source of truth for contracting purposes.
Our compliance and accreditation agencies are able to see that we have our arms around this.
One of the most important things is that the risk is reduced. A good example is that we have corporate compliance language in all of our documents. The reason we have that is because, as a healthcare organization, there are certain regulations we have to follow with Medicare exclusions or government payer exclusions. Those things get updated yearly, if not more. We know for a fact that there were people out there using corporate compliance language from three years ago. Even though I had updated it in certain templates, people didn't have access to them. Now, I will have that in the clause library in SMART. That alone is a huge risk reduction for this organization. It could literally cost millions of dollars if not done correctly, if something were to happen because we didn't have the right language in there. If something bad happened, we could have to pay back the U.S. government X amount of dollars. That's worst-case scenario, obviously, but it happens. Healthcare is vicious. By having those clauses available right in this tool for everyone, and everyone knowing that they are updated as needed, that risk is reduced to almost nil. You still have human error in there. Anytime you have a human touching it, you're going to have a potential risk, but it's certainly a lot less than it was a year ago.
There's a transparency here we didn't have before. For example, our system is pretty large. We have 11 or 13 hospitals now. With our previous tool, the regional hospitals, outside the main hospital, were not able to view certain agreements, but they were required to pay invoices under them or to abide by the terms and conditions of certain agreements that they couldn't even see. Now they can see them, because of the way that the users have access to this tool. They're able to go in and see the terms and conditions and see what their part is in that arrangement and see what they should be billed. That way, they know that they're paying the right amount and know that the deliverables are correct. We didn't have that in the past. They were getting copies of contracts that they thought were the right contracts, but they weren't certain. So that risk level has been reduced.
What is most valuable?
I love it because everything is done within the contract module. The previous tool that we had really acted more as a repository, whereas this is the lifecycle. Once a business owner gets to the point where they want to enter into a contractual relationship with a party, from that point, including the drafting of it through to the signature on it, it covers the lifecycle. It's from the beginning to the end to even the archiving. It's all done within the tool, including e-signature. Rather than having negotiation and revisions and different versions outside of the tool and using it as a filing system, everything is done within the tool. It's more transparent. Anyone who needs to see what's going on can see it. It saves a lot of time for people trying to track things down. I love it.
It's so intuitive. Version 2.0 is head-and-shoulders above what 1.0 was. It's a lot more user-friendly. I like to call it "Google-ish." The search mode makes more sense. It's more what people are used to. I think it's super-easy to use.
I'm doing less and less training, which means that when I train, people get it. And when I do my education session, you can see the light bulbs going on. I'm not training as much because it's a lot easier to understand. They provided really detailed, quick reference guides for us this time, that make sense. That's been really helpful.
What needs improvement?
The difficulty we had when we first started was that we had to migrate all of our records from our previous tool which is a program called Ntracts, a contract tool. We were only using it as a repository. They have upgraded it where it's supposed to be more of a lifecycle tool, like SMART is, but I've not heard good things about it.
GEP had never migrated anything from Ntracts before, and the information within Ntracts was not compatible with the information that was needed for SMART. Then, they put somebody new on the migration but it was a huge process. We had 50,000-plus contracts in Ntracts that had to be migrated to SMART. It was a big ask and it went horribly wrong, and we ended up having to do a second migration. We spent a year trying to migrate, and then we had to just tank it and start over. Needless to say, it was not well-received. It put a bad taste in peoples' mouths at first but we're past that. We got the migration done and we have happy people.
Some of the rough spots in it have more to do with the things that we want and require within the tool, rather than the tool itself. Some of the forms or questions that we've asked them to incorporate and customize for us are the things that our users sometimes struggle with. It's more what we're asking them to provide, versus how to use the tool.
We definitely have some asks for enhancements. One of the big ones we'd like to see is what we call "drag-and-drop." If I have an email that I want to maintain in the SMART record for whatever reason — for example, it has supporting information in it — I would love to be able to just drop that into the notes and attachments section without having to save it as a PDF and then upload it. And that would be helpful if I have a pre-signed document rather than having it e-signed in SMART. There are times when we have to have it signed outside of SMART. I would like to be able to just drag-and-drop that from my computer, rather than having to upload it. It would save three steps.
We have a lot of asks that we've found over the last two years of using this. There are things that we have felt, "Oh my God, this would make so much more sense. Why isn't it like this?"
I've got a pet peeve. They have different terms that they use throughout the systems. For example, on the cover sheets that we use, under Basic Terms, they might refer to the author as the "contract administrator." But if I go into the system to run a report, and I'm the contract administrator who is the author, if I want to run a report about every record that I've worked on, it's called "author" in that section. It's really confusing, although not so much for me, because I'm in it every single day. But for other people who don't, it's confusing. "Contract type" means, in some areas, the coordinating area that's working on it. But in other areas it really means, what is this contract. But sometimes that's referred to as "document type." It's confusing and inconsistent.
We've talked to them and they're aware of it. To me, that's low-hanging fruit. Fix it. It's just being sloppy. It was a problem in 1.0. When they went to 2.0, it became worse because they changed terms on the cover sheet. So now, not only are they still different, they're new. So everything we got used to in 1.0 — even though it was not consistent throughout, we were starting to get used to it — was changed in 2.0. And it's still not consistent.
For how long have I used the solution?
We went live with SMART 1.0 in 2017. We upgraded to 2.0 in May of this year.
How are customer service and technical support?
The team that we work with weekly, our customer support team, is amazing. They're very responsive. We go over what tickets are open and we go over what we call "questions." Some of our stuff doesn't rise to the point of being a ticket. It's not like a fix is needed. It's more like, "We have this question. Is this working right? or, "Are we doing this right?" or, "Is this is how this is supposed to work?" We do those kinds of things every week and it's great.
But then we have times where we submit a ticket and it's not something our customer support team can handle because it has to be sent to the engineers, or it has to be sent to the technical team. Once it gets away from our team, oh Lord, it can take forever. I think that that is very common in IS worlds. Different teams have different relationships. If you're lucky to be with a team that has a cohesive relationship with the other team, you're good to go and you can get anything done that you want to. But I think that's rare.
For example, in our organization, if I need something done in IS, I don't send a ticket. I call somebody I know in IS and I say, "All right, I'm going to put it in this ticket. And I'm telling you I'm putting in this ticket because I need you to pull it and get it to the right person." If I don't tell somebody that, it won't get done. And I think the same kind of thing goes on at GEP. If I file a ticket and it gets done fast, it's because our dedicated customer support team was able to do it.
What other advice do I have?
In terms of the adoption of the platform in our organization, people in general are really resistant to any change. It was a lot of work. The work upfront was so time-consuming that people were really resistant to it. I don't think everybody felt like this was the answer to our issues at the beginning.
Then, when we got into it and had problems with it, it was a nightmare. But with that said, once we were able to migrate our legacy documents from our old tool into this, and were able to show that, yes, in fact, the tools that we need work in this, people started to come around. They saw we were able to find what we need. We were able to connect master agreements to their amendments, master agreements to their SOWs. We were able to archive as we needed and could clear them per our retention policies. We could do everything we needed to do, right within this tool, rather than having to go through boxes of stored files.
People are really becoming comfortable with this. And now, with these added modules and having everything connected and being able to actually pull valuable information about their metrics, to get their arms around spend here, it's going to be even more significant in the coming year.
In terms of the solution's AI and machine-learning, a bunch of people from our organization are at the GEP Innovate '19 conference that's going on right. AI is one of the big things they're focusing on there. We have not really gotten into that. One of our attorneys actually just got back from a fraud-and-abuse conference that the American Health Lawyers Association put on, and that topic was addressed in a big way there. AI and cybersecurity were two big topics that were covered at that conference. I'm sure AI is something our organization will be exploring in the future with GEP. I'm sure it has already been brought up. I'm sure that the individuals who went to that conference this week will bring it back and follow up.