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Docusign re-invents itself, aims to create an ‘Agreement Economy’

Stephanie Condon Profile picture for user Stephanie Condon April 11, 2024
E-signature giant Docusign aims to reinvent itself as the lynchpin of an emerging Agreement Economy by championing the new SaaS category of 'Intelligent Agreement Management' (IAM).

Handshake in front of video conference screen © geralt - Pixabay
(© geralt - Pixabay)

After 20 years as an e-signature platform, Docusign is launching an ambitious re-invention at its annual Momentum conference in New York today. Centered around a new category of software-as-a-service that it calls ‘Intelligent Agreement Management’ (IAM), Docusign in May will be rolling out a new platform to help customers create and manage contracts and other agreements.

The platform, called Docusign IAM, is designed to help organizations keep contracts up to date — a challenge for major enterprises managing hundreds of thousands of contracts. It's also designed to help organizations extract useful data and insights from their contracts.

Docusign is betting that SaaS tools centered around Agreement Management will eventually be as critical to businesses as CRM or ERP tools. Robert Chatwani, Docusign's President of Growth, explains it this way:

Agreements are really something that powers every business. It's the heart of every business. Whether it's with your employees, with your vendors, with your customers — they exist in nearly every function, in every organization of every size, and they do very basic things. They help you hire, they help you sell. They help you make sure that you have great relationships with your partners and vendors. And they also include some of the organization's most valuable data — the services that you're going to purchase, or the terms upon which you're going to engage with your customers.

He continues:

The challenge here is this data is really stuck. A good kind of analog is what Salesforce did years ago, which is really democratize customer data. The CRM category was re-invented. That doesn't really exist, this idea for Agreement Data.

Docusign commissioned a study from Deloitte to determine how much it costs when contracts inadvertently expire or otherwise slow down business. The report concluded that $2 trillion in global economic value is lost annually because of poor agreement management.

Docusign IAM tools

Docusign IAM will initially comprise three platform services, as well as a few specific applications.

  • Docusign Navigator — this platform-wide service is effectively AI-enhanced storage, giving organizations a central repository to store and analyze agreements from any line of business. Navigator is powered by Docusign AI, allowing an organization to turn unstructured agreements into structured data. Docusign leveraged a variety of different models to build Docusign Navigator, including in-house models, and it used Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG) to focus on accuracy and quality.
  • Docusign Maestro — this service provides a no-code way to build custom agreement workflows. Users can add capabilities like eSignature, ID verification and data verification with third-party apps. Later, Docusign plans to add pre-configured workflows for common use cases like customer, vendor and employee onboarding and KYC compliance requirements.
  • Docusign App Center– users will be able to tap into data from third-party apps via the App Center. At launch, it will offer integrations with HubSpot and Salesforce for customer information; ServiceNow to trigger a new workflow; Quik! to extract agreement data; Stripe to generate a payment subscription; and Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or Sharepoint, and Prisidio for archiving completed documents.

These three services will be available across purpose-built applications, starting with:

  • IAM for Sales – will let sales teams generate smart contracts and quickly connect agreement processes with CRM systems.
  • IAM for Customer Experience – will help product managers create agreements that improve conversion and reduce abandonment.
  • IAM Core — will allow any team, regardless of line of business, leverage Docusign IAM Core. They can design their own agreement management experience, build their own apps on top, or customize with an app from the Docusign App Center.

Docusign plans to eventually launch more purpose-built apps, including IAM for Procurement and IAM for Human Resources.

More than a content management problem

Given that these tools effectively give customers new ways to create, manage and store documents, Docusign's platform sounds suspiciously like a content management system, such as Box or Dropbox. Dmitri Krakovsky, Chief Product Officer at Docusign, argues that the platform solves more than just content management problems. He explains:

Compared to a few others in this space, you need to really deliver value and avoid that business leakage, that [agreement trap]. We need to connect this end-to-end across many things. [An agreement] might start in Salesforce. Then you need to generate documents, you need to deliver them to a phone through SMS or WhatsApp. You need to validate identity, you need to analyze [the agreement]. Most vendors in the space right now focus on like bits and pieces of this. The reason we wanted to go after this is that, time and time again, we talk with customers, and what we hear is, 'We want the problem solved end to end.'

Robert Chatwani, President of Growth, says agreements deserve their own SaaS category because an entire ‘agreement economy’ could grow around Docusign's new platform. He says:

There's this Cambrian explosion of SaaS apps, including apps that touch different aspects of agreements. There's a future here where Docusign is really the spine for agreement management end to end. And certainly, we have services and platform capabilities that span the spectrum of agreement management...

But there's a huge opportunity for second- and third-party apps to integrate into that workflow. Think of it as a future where there's an Agreement Economy, and you have hundreds or even thousands of developers who are innovating on top of the Docusign platform. We can really adapt to the ways that our customers across different verticals and industries want to work.

My take

Docusign is already a $3 billion business with customers across more than 180 countries — effectively the whole planet. If the company is going to continue to grow, it has to evolve past the e-signature business. That's especially true as vendors in the content management space mature their own e-signature offerings. To reach that next level, Docusign will have to succeed in making its new platform the center of a larger ecosystem, as other SaaS giants have accomplished. With just a handful or third-party apps available in the Docusign App Center to begin with, it's a modest start. But with a global footprint and more than 1.5 million customers, it's a good bet that developers will be drawn to Docusign's 'Agreement Economy’.

[This article was updated after publication to remove the upper-case S from the Docusign name, which the company removed from its branding today to emphasize its new focus on agreements rather than solely e-signature. ]

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