Conga does more to automate sales processes that end in contracts

Profile picture for user pwainewright By Phil Wainewright March 4, 2020
Summary:
New automation introduced at last week's Conga Connect conference aims to speed sales processes around proposals, quotations and contracts

Matthew Schiltz CEO speaks at Conga Connect 2020

Last week saw the annual conference of transactional document management vendor Conga, which introduced several updates to its product suite to help speed and refine automation in sales-focused digital document process flows.

Conga is best known for its Salesforce-native applications that connect Salesforce data into automated document creation and workflows. But it's been building out its functional footprint over the past five years in a series of acquisitions, beginning with contract lifecycle management (CLM) provider Novatus. More recent acquisitions have added AI-powered contract analysis, digital process orchestration and trackable document sharing. It has also introduced a popular e-signature tool of its own.

The result is a platform that stretches across the full lifecycle of transactional documents such as quotations, proposals and contracts. This is a specific form of digital collaboration centered on documents that carry a core set of data through several iterations — Conga describes this as end-to-end digital document transformation (DDX). As Mason White, VP Product Management puts it:

We look at documents as being vessels of data. And in addition to being vessels of data, there should be data about how those vessels are moving forward — data about the documents, not just the data in the documents.

Focus on the Salesforce universe

This is big business. Conga now has more than 11,000 customers and over a million licensed users. Revenues are at an annual runrate above $100 million. While the CLM product set has a much wider footprint beyond, much of that business is focused on the Salesforce universe. Conga is so familiar with that environment that it has been able to re-engineer its CLM product for Salesforce to look exactly like a native function. White says:

It looks and feels so much like Salesforce, that when we demo it to industry experts and analysts, we have to do a slow motion redo of the demo often, so that they can understand exactly which parts are ours, and which parts are Salesforce.

The e-signature tool followed a similar design brief. Now it's possible to take a contract through a complete round-trip and ensure that the data that's written back into Salesforce faithfully reflects what has been agreed, he explains.

As that contract is negotiated, plenty of things can change from what was the initial draft. So we not only in our CLM track all of the changes — who proposed them, who accepted them — but as that signature event happens, what data now needs to go back into the system of record? If delivery dates have changed, product quantities have changed, prices have changed — could be that products now need to be delivered to multiple different addresses — all of those types of changes can be written back into Salesforce. The business is now better informed about its rights and obligations and can start taking action on that.

End-to-end sales execution

These are the highlights of last week's announcements:

  • Automated contract review using a tool called AI Analysis Queue. This technology identifies and tags clauses within a contract to highlight what's included and what might be missing or incorrect.
  • A partnership with robotic process automation (RPA) vendor to extend automation in Conga Orchestrate into multi-person, multi-department processes across the organization.
  • New functionality in Conga Composer to track prospect behavior around proposals and contracts and deliver insights and notifications so that sales reps can follow up with customers and prospects at the optimal time.
  • Improved visualizations in Conga Grid, which provides an overview of activity across multiple Salesforce accounts to help client-facing employees prioritize action where it's most needed.
  • Updates to Conga Sign, including SMS authentication and the ability to provide signing instructions in nine languages.

While some organizations may use other tools to perform some of these actions, such as Tableau and Quip within Salesforce, or third-party workflow automation and e-signature products, Conga succeeds with customers that want the convenience of bringing all these activities into a single platform focused on sales execution. Being focused on external collaboration in a sales context is also a distinctive characteristic from other collaboration platforms such as Quip, Slack and Microsoft Teams that are more focused on internal teamwork, says White.

A lot of what we're doing is for things that need to go outside the company walls of our customers, in terms of, 'How do we negotiate something with a customer? How do we capture what's happening in those negotiations?' That type of negotiation may be a different type of collaboration, but it is a way of seeking a mutually agreed-upon endpoint.

My take

When I map digital teamwork across the enterprise as a collaborative canvas of connected tools, two of the four main teamwork patterns are collaboration around content, and workflow. Where Conga operates is an important subset that straddles both, where content metamorphoses several times while the transactional data it contains is refined by negotiation between the parties to a sale (or purchase, depending on your point of view). That data must then map accurately into transactional applications at the end of the process.

These are mission-critical processes that have the power to improve revenue when they are executed efficiently and accurately — or the reverse if they go awry. No wonder Conga continues to grow.