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Women In Tech: Kanti Prabha, Co-founder & COO, SirionLabs

Contract authoring seems to be a far fetched task to many professionals. SirionLabs, a SaaS startup, plans on doing that seamlessly. The COO of the firm acquaints us about the same and tells us why women must be supportive of each other

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Technology for sure has a massive role to play contemporarily, especially when we are in the midst of a pandemic. While automation and AI has successfully turned victorious in many occasions, however, reports state that parity between both genders hasn’t reached the zenith yet. Guess the secret and essence lies in more women taking charge and setting examples for their peers.

For today’s section, we reached out to Kanti Prabha, Co-founder & COO, SirionLabs, who gives us a thorough understanding of her voyage over the years, and the some hacks to flatten the gender gap.

Edited excerpts:

Do you think technology facilitates the pathway towards having the right business strategy?

While it is critical to have the right business strategy and to have strong business processes in place, the scale and complexity of today’s business environment makes the role of technology essential.

Commercial engagements between enterprises – whether with suppliers or customers – have become increasingly complex today, making it ineffective to rely on manual processes alone to handle these. The rules of engagement (or terms & conditions) are captured in contracts which define all aspects of the engagement – from deliverables and KPIs to pricing, compliance, penalties, process for handling disputes, etc. With enterprises having thousands of active contracts at any given time, a manual approach is neither scalable nor effective. This gave birth to the Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) technology industry. Unfortunately, the traditional CLM industry has only been able to provide a partial solution as it has focused on automating the process of creating new contracts – but offered little functionality for tracking contracts after signature. 

This gap has become quite critical over the past 15 years or so with the emergence of services-based engagements. Services contracts are more complex as compared to goods/commodities – due to the intangible nature of value, complex delivery frameworks, variable pricing structures, evolving contract terms, longer contract tenures, etc. – and need to be closely monitored throughout the lifecycle, especially post-signature, to ensure that the full value is realized. Most organizations do not have this capability forcing them to track performance manually – in fact, only 15% of Fortune 500s are able to track the actual performance against the contract. As a result, 15-20% of the contract value is lost, thanks to consumption and invoicing errors, missed deliverables, claims and disputes, which translate into a massive $2-3T lost per year.

To address this gap, Sirion built an AI-based CLM platform that businesses use for managing the complete end-to-end contracting lifecycle on a single platform. From creating new contracts efficiently to ensuring granular monitoring the deliverables and outcomes embedded in the contract, Sirion acts as a central nervous system for both buyers and suppliers in enterprise engagements. This holistic approach delivers improved savings/revenue for enterprises while driving improved business outcomes and better collaboration in commercial engagements. 

What do the immediate and long term milestones for your company look like?

We recognise the disruption that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused to businesses and their supply chains. The focus on keeping supply chains up and running has put a renewed emphasis on the efficient execution and management of enterprise engagements. As businesses navigate these uncertain times, trust, certainty and accountability have become more relevant than ever in business relationships. We are currently focusing on helping businesses secure their supply chains through additional capabilities that help them get better visibility and control over their supplier and customer engagements. Examples include a Covid-19 dashboard to quickly analyze potential risks based on geographical scope, terms contained or missing in contracts, performance insights, etc. 

Longer-term, we would like to elevate CLM to be one of the core technologies needed to run a business – alongside ERP, CRM, Procure-to-Pay, etc. Our vision is to create an enterprise network that will allow companies to get a consolidated view of insights and best practices from past buyer and supplier relationships to improve value realization in future engagements. To continue our journey towards this vision, amongst other things, we are making significant investments in enhancing our engineering capabilities, especially in AI. As part of this, we have recently established a new AI laboratory in Seattle in the US to accelerate our product roadmap. We have expanded our technology leadership with the recent appointments of our new Chief Technology Officer (Anu Engineer) and Chief Product Officer (Mahesh Unnikrishnan) in Seattle.  

 In order to achieve our near term as well as long term growth objectives, we are ramping up our sales and marketing capabilities significantly. We recently appointed Amol Joshi as our new Chief Revenue Officer. Under his leadership we have added new regional sales leaders, account executives and sales development representatives in the US, the UK, Europe, and Australia. 

 We view partnerships as a critical growth engine for us and are investing in nurturing existing partnerships and also adding new partners to our partner eco-system. These relationships will span across reseller, implementation, and product partnerships. 

Challenges are an inevitable part of the business. Could you highlight some you have encountered till date?

During our initial years, there was a general lack of awareness in enterprises around value leakage due to ineffective post-signature contract management. So we spent our initial years working with analysts and a handful of early adopters to create awareness about the scale of value leakage and why traditional approaches were ill-equipped to address this. As Sirion’s functionality brings together several technology categories such as Procure-to-Pay, IT Services Management (ITSM), GRC (Governance, Risk and Compliance), etc., prospects would often confuse Sirion’s proposition with these categories and we had to invest a lot of effort in establishing a clear position for Sirion. 

Companies had long got used to a truncated definition of CLM (one that focused only on creating the contract). Here again we had to remind them that the actual contract lifecycle doesn’t end with signature and needs to include holistic management of all elements of the contract after signature – i.e. performance, invoicing, and relationship.

The above challenges made the sales cycle longer and we had to focus our already sparse resources on creating this awareness. Things have changed for the better now. We find that enterprises today understand the concept of value leakage in commercial engagements a lot better and recognize the need to management end-to-end contract lifecycle. Analysts such as Gartner, Forrester, IACCM and Spend Matters have played a key role in this evolution. This has resulted in a significant increase in proactive outreach from customers to SirionLabs, increased the average deal size and significantly reduced our sales cycle over the last couple of years. 

How can we have more women joining the bandwagon? Knowing that gender biases exist, how difficult is it to be a woman and thrive in your specific field?

We are seeing a gradual change in some areas, however, gender gaps are still too obvious in STEM fields. And we are not just talking numbers. An increase in the numerical representation of women has to be complemented with increased substantive representation or the possibility of influencing executive decision making. There has to be progress in bringing women into leadership and decision-making positions which currently remains far too slow.

Women need to see women as role models that will encourage effective participation and also give them confidence.  

We can build more women leaders if organisations invest in initiatives and policies that aim to boost the number of women applicants, hire them in a more effective manner and provide them with opportunities to progress. Organizations today need to build an inclusive cultural infrastructure to encourage women and communicate how their work benefits the business. Encouraging and empowering women in companies will not just give them confidence, but also helps the economy tap into the significant talent and potential that women employees represent.

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