I had an interesting briefing Monday with Ashif Mawji, the CEO of Upside Software, and Dan Townsend, VP of Sales and Marketing. Upside is primarily known as a Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) software vendor but also offers RFx capabilities and some elements of Supplier Performance Management. Upside is built on .NET and is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner who also boasts Microsoft as a customer.

I rarely blog about vendor briefings, but this one stood out for a couple of reasons. First, it was the kind of briefing that as an IT industry analyst I’ve really grown to appreciate — no slides, good two-way dialogue and a concise but impactful product demo. And, it was that product demo that really got my attention.

Why? What Upside is selling directly maps to the pain points I hear about on a daily basis from readers — namely, the need for a CLM solution vendor that gives top priority to usability, successful implementations, and end-user adoption.

Along these lines, a couple of features really stood out in the briefing:

Variance tracking on templates. This feature is a perfect example of how CLM software, if used correctly, can really help reduce cycle time. Essentially, the utility measures the frequency of changes made to specific template clauses as compared to the final contracts. You can drill down on specific template clauses and compare what you have in the template to the changes made and determine whether there are some really common edits that merit updating the template itself. By updating the template you can now avoid the time it takes to approve each of these changes each time and directly impact the cycle time.

Workshare’s DeltaView comparison engine. My take on this tool is that it offers up an industrial strength version of what’s available in base Word to compare documents and view changes. It offers the audit trail and security features on contract changes designed to manage documents in environments like a law firm where security and traceability are paramount.

Microsoft Word integration. It’s one thing to simply be able to import and export a Word document. That’s no big deal. What Upside offers is the ability to create a Word document from a template using standard terms and conditions that can be modified offline and then uploaded again into the tool — and, redline-compare using the aforementioned tool. You can also upload a Word document and it will create a template from it, breaking up the sections as needed.

Upside also covered an example portal designed to illustrate how a customer could build its own UIs leveraging Upside’s web services behind the scenes. Again, this is where I think Upside really gets it — offering up solutions that give people a ton of flexibility in how they streamline CLM with a real focus on user adoption and flexibility over bells and whistles. Ashif gave the example of where this would be useful if a company already has a SharePoint site and wants a CLM solution that fits the look and feel that companies are already familiar with.

We wrapped up with a few of the standard briefing questions.

How long does a typical solution take to implement?Ashif says that, on average, between 3-5 months for an enterprise deployment. My recommendation would be to plan for a year end to end, from design, to go live and initial quality assurance to be safe.

Pricing?Pricing is per seat, group, or unlimited. Upside offers up perpetual licenses or subscription-based with its SaaS solution. It also has pricing to convert from SaaS to licensed if that fits your needs.

ROI?Ashif says that cycle time reduction is the biggest measure of ROI and his customers typically experience about a 30% reduction in CLM cycle time.

Stay tuned for more on CLM as we gear up to update the 2008 Forrester Wave.

Patrick Connaughton | Senior Analyst – Sourcing and Vendor Management | Forrester Research