2020 is quickly approaching, and with it, new advancements in contract management options.  To that end, we’ve examined four essential tools that could help contract managers to navigate the ever-changing landscape of best-practice contract management.

#1 Secure contract repository system

The problem with manual contract storage

Some leading organisations use digital contract and document storage tools for efficiency and productivity.  But many still rely on insufficient, manual practices – for example, using filing cabinets for paper documentation and emails. And even if digital storage is used, if it’s disorganised the tangible benefits are lost. Manual storage makes it almost impossible to keep contracts secure, maintain version control, adhere to key dates, stay on top of milestones and enforce contract archiving and retention rules.

Storing contracts may seem like a simple task, but without a secure contract repository organisations are missing out on the one thing that might support their ability to reduce risk, take control of their contracts and improve performance.

The solution: a contract repository system

A central contract repository is the ideal solution for storing contracts while continuing to get the most out of them.  A cloud-based document repository also enables contract management professionals to organise contracts, oversee permissions, employ document version control, search for existing contracts, track contract status, collaborate and more.

Contract storage isn’t merely about the location where documents are stored – it’s an opportunity for organisations to make contracts work for them, leading to more productivity, increased revenue and savings, reduced risk and success in meeting contract management KPIs.

Throughout the contract lifecycle, an abundance of confidential information is tracked and stored within contract management software system.  With personally identifiable information (PII) and other sensitive data, contract managers should be able restrict access to specific pieces of data.  For instance, software end users may have no need to engage with contracts other than those they’ve drafted themselves.  So, with a clearly-defined permissions standard in place, organisations can prevent security issues and instances of sensitive data entering the hands of unauthorised personnel.

Additionally, the manual storage of contracts hinders success by:

  • limiting access
  • leaving documents and their supporting files disconnected
  • lacking visibility and transparency
  • offering no support of proactive tracking and management of contract approvals, status, renewal dates, automated renewal clauses, and milestones.

Conversely, an online document repository helps by:

  • optimising and making safe the location, protection, organisation, search and sharing of contracts
  • centralising control
  • improving accountability
  • increasing productivity
  • simplifying contract management.

#2 Efficient Contract Workflow

The problem with manual workflow

Manual contract workflow management is an outdated practice that requires contract managers to personally oversee every stage of the contract lifecycle. Any delay on the part of involved personnel can seriously hamper the contract lifecycle flow.

The solution: automated contract workflow

Software that provides contract workflow automation reduces contract lifecycle delays by engaging the right people at the right time with unlimited contract notifications, automatic alerts and task reminders.  Intelligent workflow allows contract managers to leverage user-defined fields, contract process management, reporting and analytics and audit trails etc.

Contract collaboration, negotiation and approvals can be managed with workflows to track every stage of the contract lifecycle.  Automated alerts help contract management personnel meet key dates and milestones, including contract renewals. Additionally, audit trail history recorded by intelligent contract management software provides an accessible, up-to-date record of contract changes. 

#3 Streamlined document assembly

The problem with manual document drafting

Productivity suffers when multiple people are tasked with creating, reviewing and revising contract documents.  Time is wasted creating new documents, repeatedly downloading templates, locating relevant information and manually imputing data into a myriad of fields.  Additionally, static, untouched documents become obsolete when up-to-date document versions and templates are not apparent to all involved personnel, increasing the risk of error.  Compliance can become a problem when templates, approved language practices and clauses are not current or standardised.

The solution: automated document assembly

It’s easy to stop wasting time and money with a manual document drafting and assembly process.  Intelligent software that automates and centralises contracts, agreements and risk documents enables contract managers and legal professionals to enforce compliance, and make any issues re data entry errors, collaboration, storage and distribution a thing of the past.

Contract management software enables the quick creation of compliant, timely and accurate documents, contracts and letters that merge approved clauses and data fields.  An intuitive interface allows for the management of multiple templates and document versions, which can easily be exported into standard file formats.  MS Word plug-ins make review and drafting more time-efficient.  Version tracking tools mean that all stakeholders involved in the document drafting process are up-to-speed and on the same page.  Electronic signatures make signing easier, faster, and accessible from anywhere in the office or on the go.

Document assembly software allows for the configuration of complex rules and user permissions regarding document management and version access with the help of audit trail and approval routing capabilities, boosting compliance.

#4 Intelligent contract tracking

The problem with manual contract tracking

Manual contract management processes may be acceptable for organisations managing low numbers of contracts.  However, when contract volume increases to hundreds, thousands or more, contract failure rates exponentially increase. Manual filing systems, emails, and spreadsheets are not adequate tools to get the most from contracts because:

  • manual filing systems lead to different versions of contracts being stored in disparate folders, significantly increasing the risk for lost contracts and versions
  • email management of the contract lifecycle leads to delays
  • spreadsheets don’t offer alerts for contract terms or language; cross-selling, up-selling, discounting, or pricing opportunities; fast approvals and routing for signatures; or a unified version tracking system.

Consequently, timelines change, audit trails are unsatisfactory, and rescheduling becomes necessary – leading to wasted time and contract lifecycle bottlenecks.

The solution: intelligent contract tracking tools

Leading contract management software provides contract management professionals with better contract lifecycle management in the form of advanced contract tracking –  complete with increased visibility, a secure contract repository, approved templates and clause libraries for streamlined contract drafting, performance insights, improved collaboration and full audit trails. 

With the help of intelligent contract management software, contract managers see faster contract-to-close rates. Proven contract lifecycle management technology –  which helps with end-to-end lifecycle management – is user-friendly, enabling broad adoption by all users and impacted stakeholders.

If you’re thinking about investing in contract tracking software, look for the following key features:

  • a secure and centralised document repository with unlimited storage
  • version tracking
  • tracking for unlimited attachment types – including contracts, purchase orders, supporting documents, invoices etc.
  • pre-award and post-award tracking
  • supplier compliance tracking
  • contract record audit tracking and logging.

Additionally, to better track the entirety of the contract lifecycle from requests to approvals, look for functionality including:

  • intelligent workflow
  • user-defined fields
  • automated key date and task reminders
  • electronic signatures.

#A bonus tool –  eSignatures

The problem with manual signatures

Obtaining signatures manually and/or in person can be extremely difficult, especially when employees with signing authority are unavailable.  Signing is arguably the most important aspect of contract management, but manual signing processes are antiquated and slow, standing in the way of a streamlined experience for internal and external parties.  The direct and indirect costs resulting from paper-based processes, administrative time wasted, and mailing fees can become excessive. 

Ultimately, manual signing practices can leave your organisation at risk, and the lack of a streamlined signing process can compromise reputation.  Contract and document management structured around outdated processes requiring paper, printing, mailing, wet signatures, and constant follow up can delay contract execution.

The solution: electronic signatures

Electronic signatures are essential for successful contract management in 2020.  An eSignature is an electronic rendering of a signature that enables stakeholders to sign a document online without needing a physical copy of the document on hand.  Signatures are a crucial step in the contract lifecycle.  Signature bottlenecks can trigger delays with meeting obligations, meeting compliance standards, and executions.  Electronic signatures can cut send-to-sign time up to 20%.

Contract managers can fully reap the benefits of eSignatures with electronic signature software. Companies that are wasting time managing paperwork can benefit significantly from electronic signatures because they can:

  • save money: no more paper, printers, ink, travel, or mailing costs are needed to get documents signed
  • save time: significantly less time will be spent focusing on administrative costs involved with sending, tracking, storing, and following up on documents that are out for signature
  • provide enhanced security: confidentiality breaches and processing errors will be reduced because electronic signatures provide audit trails and are legally binding and secure
  • improve business relationships and visibility: the signing process is streamlined and made accessible in or out of the office, which makes it easier to meet crucial deadlines.

The contract management tools of the future are here, now

The tools mentioned above can streamline how you manage contracts.  With unlimited and secure file storage, intelligent workflow, contract lifecycle automation, enhanced tracking and search tools, and easy-to-use eSignatures, our leading contract management software has everything you need to navigate the coming year in one platform.

Contract Insight from Four Business Solutions

Contract Insight® has pioneered contract lifecycle management since its inception. This intelligent contract lifecycle management software is relied upon by thousands of contract, risk, sales and legal professionals worldwide, and it benefits thousands of users in large and small organisations throughout the public and private sector.  Its plethora of features empowers businesses like yours to:

  • manage contracts more efficiently
  • mitigate risk
  • oversee compliance
  • draft documents quickly
  • track costs
  • receive alerts
  • sign documents with E-signatures
  • reduce contract management costs and lost productivity due to outdated contract administration procedures.

If you’d like a demo of Contract Insight or simply to find out more about what we do, please call John O’Brien at Four Business Solutions on 0800 6250 025.

About Four 

Four helps small and multi-national organisations enrich the way they work. From supply chain to procurement and contract management, we have decades of experience helping companies forge ahead in the global market. 

John O’Brien is the CEO at Four Business Solutions, global business consultants and software integrators providing business processes improvements in Finance, Supply Chain and Operations, across a broad range of industries.