By Sonam Shah, Solutions Specialist, Data and AI, Microsoft; and Sunu Engineer, Principal Architect and Product Evangelist, ML and AI Projects, Icertis
With increasing business complexity, changing market dynamics and uncertainty in today’s business climate, organizations are constantly innovating to satisfy heightened customer expectations and strengthen supply chains. A key to doing so is thinking differently about contracts and how they drive all aspects of business.
Icertis, a Software as a Service (SaaS) provider headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, digitally transforms the contract management process with its cloud-based, AI-powered contract lifecycle management (CLM) solution. The Icertis Contract Intelligence (ICI) structures and connects the critical data found in contracts, transforming these static documents into strategic advantage to drive cost savings and enhance an organization’s efficiency. ICI empowers companies to think about the intersection of business problems and contracts differently and pushes the boundaries of what’s possible with CLM.
How does ICI work?
ICI started as an app platform born in Azure and ended up redefining CLM as a category, which today is a must-have system of record for enterprises of all sizes. The platform works across industries because of its deceptively simple premise.
Business data often comes in the form of names and values, and contract data is no exception. Contracts contain a large amount of data in terms of tables and forms: For example, names, business addresses, and telephone numbers are usually found in form like layouts with the name and the value being represented in one line with a separator between them. Payment details are also often provided in tables with multiple columns.
In addition to the contracts themselves, many associated documents that are relevant to post-execution management of contracts are presented in a form. These can be appendices, attachments, or invoices.
Extracting this data is necessary to understand a contract and its terms, yet doing so can be laborious, especially when companies want to review large volumes of legacy contracts. However, ICI’s CLM technology allows organizations to extract contract terms and clauses with speed and accuracy—thereby automating the contract review process, reducing possibility of errors, and decreasing cycle times.
This extraction is done using Azure’s Form Recognizer, offered through Azure’s Applied AI services. The Form Recognizer enables ICI to take the name-value pairs embedded in a contract, be it in a form or in a table, and create structured data from it, which can be understood and operated upon by machine algorithms.
The data in contracts, especially in tables and forms, is extracted accurately and incorporated into the structured data representation of the contract within the secure data stores of ICI. The contract data is indexed with a rich indexing capability produced by additional fields through custom enrichment, and this allows for further intelligent processing of the contract.
Additionally, in most cases, these forms or tables are embedded into natural language documents. Understanding the language in the document and how it relates to table data requires sophisticated NLP engines, also provided by Azure Cognitive Services.
Through these and other powerful Azure Cognitive and AI services, Icertis empowers customers in every industry to improve their business in ways they never imaged: optimizing manufacturing operations, injecting agility into their retail strategies, reducing risk in IT services, and delivering life-saving pharmaceutical products faster.
In terms of architecture, the following figures illustrate the ICI pipeline and how the Forms Recognizer and other components are used in taking the contract from a static document format to a structured data format, and how the information context is enriched with both internal and external data sources, leading to highly intelligent contract processing capabilities at scale.
Benefits of Using Azure Form Recognizer
The Icertis platform on Azure is one of the world’s first cloud-scale CLM platforms. Icertis chose the Azure and Microsoft ecosystem since its inception because it took care of the infrastructure, devops and scale, leaving Icertis free to focus on the platform.
Icertis then began to use Dynamic 365 to deeply integrate their contract management capabilities into sales operations, leveraging the Common Data Model (now the Microsoft Dataverse) for a rich Icertis experience.
Microsoft was able to provide the compliance, security, and scale Icertis needed to build a solution on – and one that was also invested in industry across the board. Using all of the value of Azure – from AI to blockchain to compute to storage, threaded together with the Common Data Model of Dynamics 365 and then Teams for collaboration — allowed us to provide our customers deep, industry-technical solutions.
ICI also benefited from the accuracy, speed and scale-out capabilities of the Form Recognizer and other cognitive services capabilities.
Azure Form Recognizer has many additional capabilities that allow Icertis to prepare annotated and curated data, both text and image, to train their AI models for contract understanding. This is critical for improving the capabilities of ICI by helping it learn from the new data that it encounters.
In summary, by leveraging the protean functionalities of Azure Form Recognizer, ICI is able to quickly deliver a scalable contract intelligence platform that addresses the needs of a wide variety of real life contracting needs of many users.