A GC Chat: A Conversation with Thien Dinh, MetricStream General Counsel

When you think of a General Counsel’s job description, you don’t expect it to include spending hours each week searching for contracts and answering emails with questions like, “Where’s this contract? Which document is the most recent version? Which customer does this amendment belong to?” – and similar. Neither did Thien Dinh, yet that’s exactly what his job entailed when he joined MetricStream as its GC 2019.

As you might expect, the situation wasn’t sustainable for Thien long term. Although it took four years, including a final year to give the vendor “one last chance” to make things right, Thien and his team finally started transitioning to Pramata in early 2023. Spoiler alert: This turned out to be a fantastic decision, not just for the legal team but for a cross-functional team and everyone that touches contracts. You can read the full story of how the MetricStream team transformed contract management in this case study.

Now, we’re sitting down with Thien to chat more about what happened before the switch. That is, how did he and his team know it was time to break up with their previous CLM? If any parts of this conversation sound all-too-familiar at your organization, it might be time to consider ending your bad CLM relationship and getting in touch with Pramata.

What was the situation with contract management when you joined MetricStream?

Thien: I’ve been here for over four years, as of 2023, and our old CLM was in place when I got here, for at least two years prior. So, I’m not even sure when MetricStream first got it, but when I joined, you could say the CLM was still in the implementation phase. Years in, there were still a lot of open items – things that the CLM system was supposed to do that it didn’t – and that the vendor had promised would be coming soon, but never came.

The day-to-day situation was untenable. Teams across the company were spending way too much time just trying to hunt down contracts and figure out which ones were the most recent. Including me! The GC of any company shouldn’t be getting emails with questions about contract management: It’s just not a good use of my time, or anyone’s.

“Any CLM becomes dysfunctional when people across the company are emailing the legal team, and even the General Counsel, asking for help locating documents. It’s not a good use of my time and that’s when you know you’ve got to make a change.” 

Thien Dinh, General Counsel

What were the red flags that made you realize you were in a dysfunctional CLM relationship?

Thien: There were so many! Some of the biggest ones included:

  • It was very difficult to manage existing contracts: The documents themselves were in various SharePoint locations, which impacted who had access to them and made it harder for people to find what they needed.
  • We couldn’t easily see what any existing contract contained. The only way was to open a document and review it manually.
  • There was no way to search for specific terms across all existing contracts. We had no insight into trends or norms across the business.
  • No one could tell which version of a contract was the most recent.
  • Dealing with contracts was a time and productivity sink for every person that touched a contract across the business.
  • It was hard to know which contracts were still in place and which weren’t.
  • We were paying entirely too much money for a system that didn’t meet our needs.

At what point did you start to think “enough is enough” and begin looking to make a move?

Thien: After I’d been at MetricStream for a few years, and the CLM wasn’t solving the problems the business needed, we got our renewal notice. At that point, I was already feeling like we were just another customer and the vendor wasn’t really interested in helping us be successful, but there wasn’t enough time to make a switch before the renewal. So, we negotiated a one-year renewal and as part of that they agreed to help us get to where we needed to be in terms of features and functionality.

We were disappointed, but not surprised, that as the year went on the promises fell flat. As we got closer to that one-year renewal expiring, I felt like we’d been sold a bill of goods and I couldn’t justify working with them any longer. I knew we needed to find a new solution, and fast, to keep us from renewing with our legacy vendor.

How did Pramata come into the picture?

Thien: We were about four months away from our June 2023 renewal when we all knew for sure we were not going to continue with the old vendor. That’s when Kath, our Vice President of GTM Operations, introduced us to Pramata. We were really fortunate that she had a prior relationship with Pramata from demoing and piloting it at two previous companies. She made the intro, but it was really the Pramata team and product itself that sold us on it.

From the start, we could see that the Pramata platform could actually solve the challenges we needed it to. The team was so engaged and proactive that we felt certain we wouldn’t have the same experience as with our old vendor. The challenge was going to be that we only had a few months to get Pramata live before we lost access to the old CLM. It was a big ask but the Pramata team accepted the challenge. We didn’t look around at other vendors because I don’t even think any of them could have come close to getting the job done on this timeline.

How did things go from there?

Thien: The difference was night and day, and it was immediate. We told Pramata that we had to have “Phase One” live by June, and we signed our contract in late March, so that was a tight timeline for sure. Phase One was getting all of our current contracts digitized, de-duplicated, organized, and into Pramata’s searchable repository. Not only did Pramata do it, they did it without my team having to take time away from their jobs to focus on implementation. And they did it within our extremely tight timeline.

Now that you’ve been fully live for a few months, how would you describe your CLM relationship?

Thien: If we’re calling our old CLM a dysfunctional relationship, then Pramata is the perfect partner. We have what we need, the features and functionality are there, we get constant positive feedback from people across the business (sales, finance, legal ops), it’s just the whole package.

How do you measure your success, or know that Pramata’s working?

Thien: I know it’s working because the reduction in email requests about contracts has reduced by – best guess – around 80 percent. If people aren’t coming to me and my team asking about contracts, then we know they’re getting the information they need from Pramata, which means they’re using it and it’s working as intended.

The self-service component is excellent. The sales team doesn’t come to legal very often anymore with contract questions, and when they do, I point them to Pramata and they’re able to get what they need immediately most of the time.

“I’ve done a lot of implementations in my career and I’ve never had this level of involvement from the vendor. I can’t congratulate the Pramata team enough. We were so impressed!”  

Oana Muntean, Associate Manager, Sales Operations

What would you tell another GC who’s dealing with a bad CLM relationship?

Thien: As the GC for an in-house legal department that doesn’t have a huge staff or a ton of resources, the ability to have a single source of truth and the ability to search your contracts is essential. If you don’t know what’s in your contracts, you’re shooting blind. You don’t know where your liabilities are, and that creates legal exposure. I’d also tell people that more expensive isn’t necessarily better. We’re saving money with Pramata compared to our old CLM, and we’re getting so much more that the value is fantastic.

To see Pramata’s radically simple contract management solution, sign up for a quick demo today. And learn more about how we take care of the heavy lifting.

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