#1 What is contract management software?

Contract management software gives businesses useful tools for maximising the value of their contracts, and streamlining contract management practices from requests to renewals.  In this blog, we answer frequently asked questions about the features, benefits, value, importance and selection of intelligent contract management software.

Contract management software helps organisations of all sizes create, store, track and manage contracts throughout the entire contract lifecycle.  With leading contract management software, users can draft contracts and documents, define terms and conditions, assign tasks and permissions, and track crucial milestones.

A user-friendly, well-organised contract management platform helps companies like yours optimise their contract lifecycle process, allowing them to strengthen and improve their relationships with customers and suppliers as their contract volume and complexity increases.  Key contract management software features include:

  • contract and document drafting tools for establishing the terms and conditions involved with every contract
  • document management tools for organised contract storage
  • workflow management to help companies assign, perform and oversee contract lifecycle activities in an orderly fashion
  • contract lifecycle management features for the oversight of contractual workflow, from requests to contract drafting to negotiations and signatures, and to renewals
  • completion tracking so that you can track contract milestones and verify whether or not contractual obligations have been met
  • searching tools for the location of contracts and related documents
  • implementation options that give you a choice between cloud-hosted and deployed in-house software implementation.

This kind of software can support organisations in all their source-to-contract needs, allowing for improved efficiency and productivity, organised and secure storage, mitigated risk and increased revenue.

#2 Do I need contract management software?

User- friendly and dynamic, it can really enrich and support different departmental source-to-contract needs.

Contract managers can navigate the ever-shifting landscape of contract management best practices with a solution that offers:

  • unlimited and secure file storage
  • contract lifecycle automation
  • intelligent workflow
  • enhanced search and tracking tools
  • user-friendly eSignatures.

Legal professionals can overcome their most significant challenges because:

  • task assignment tools ensure the right people are working on the right tasks
  • online negotiation portals, searching and reporting tools, automatic email and calendar alerts for key dates and renewals, and contract version history make back-and-forth negotiation and post-approval tasks as efficient as possible
  • compliance monitoring assists in the meeting of contract and agreement regulations
  • a secure contract repository helps you search, track, and store multiple contracts easily
  • clause ownership secures templates and reduces instances of legal property loss
  • e-signatures and electronic approvals shorten contract-to-close rates.

Procurement professionals can cut risk, standardise and organise their purchasing processes, and maximise the value of their purchasing opportunities with eProcurement features including:

  • end-to-end procurement management
  • spending, purchasing, vendor diversity and insurance tracking
  • online bidding
  • spend and cost comparisons
  • supplier ratings, scorecards, and more.

Sales professionals can take control of their sales practices, cut contract cycles, increase compliance, mitigate risk and find more opportunities for the contracts they manage with tools such as:

  • transparent contract performance reports
  • version control and audit trail features
  • email and task alerts
  • document template and clause libraries.

Compliance professionals can fulfill the terms of a contract, meet obligations on time, evade bottlenecks, reduce risk, increase revenue and maintain a trustworthy reputation with:

  • a centralised and secure repository system
  • quick search tools
  • task management tools
  • compliance reports and more.

#3 What is contract lifecycle management?

The contract lifecycle is the process through which a contract undergoes requests, authoring, negotiations, approvals, signatures, execution and close-out or renewal.  The full lifecycle process can be seen in the graphic below. 

You’ll probably have to juggle a lot of contract records, and each contract will be at a different stage in the lifecycle.  So contract lifecycle management is crucial to reduce risk, improve productivity and maximise contract value.  Here’s how this software can help:

  • consolidate authored documents: standardised version tracking can preserve the uniformity of a single contract – no matter how often it’s disseminated throughout the business
  • optimise negotiations: streamline contract tracking, reviewing and revision during negotiations.  Easy-to-understand changes allow all parties to edit contracts easily and understand contract content without confusion.
  • expedite approval: workflow automation makes contract management more efficient with automatic alerts and approval routing.  It also reduces contract approval time by helping all parties involved in the approval process complete the relevant steps on time.
  • manage obligations and compliance: compliance tracking tools help companies meeting compliance and obligations, andfocus attention on more strategic facets of contract management such as finding opportunities and data analysis. And if a counterparty has a pressing obligation or compliance, contract management software can alert involved parties regarding key dates, tasks and milestones, which expedites the completion of necessary tasks.

Dated contract lifecycle management solutions leave the potential for detrimental bottlenecks, missed tasks and legal consequences.  A configurable and easy-to-grasp contract lifecycle management interface gives all parties access to useful features in or out of the office, so they can breeze through the contract process without issue.

#4 How are documents stored?

Without contract management software, documents are generally stored in filing cabinets for paper documentation, disorganised digital storage locations and emails.  You can easily miss out on version control tools, key date and milestone alerts, searching and reporting functionality and overall contract performance improvement. 

Such methods limit document access, leave documents and their supporting files disconnected, lack transparency and visibility and support for the proactive management and tracking of contract status, approvals, renewal dates, automated renewal clauses and milestones.

On the flip side, a secure contract and document repository system that contract management software offers, helps optimise the protection, organisation, location and sharing of contracts.  Data protection features ensure that personal information is not at risk.  A secure repository system centralises document version control, improves accountability and increases productivity by reducing time spent on manual management.

Proper contract storage provides the opportunity for organisations to make contracts work harder – leading to simpler contract management, increased revenue and savings, reduced risk and success in meeting contract management KPIs.

#5 How can I efficiently manage workflow?

You can use workflow to track every stage of the contract lifecycle with collaboration, negotiation and approval tools.  Automatic alerts help with meeting key dates and milestones, including contract renewals.  And audit trail history tracked by intelligent contract management software provides an easily-accessible, current record of contract changes. Businesses can streamline contract approval cycles by avoiding bottlenecks and promoting accountability with automated workflow.

Software that offers contract workflow automation reduces delays in the contract lifecycle by informing the correct people at the right time with unlimited notifications, task reminders and automated alerts.  With intelligent workflow, companies can leverage:

  • user-defined fields
  • reporting and analytics
  • audit trails
  • contract process management.

#6 How can contract management software help with document assembly?

With an automated document assembly feature included with contract management software, organisations can enforce compliance and eradicate issues regarding collaboration, distribution, storage and data entry.

Legal document assembly software helps you produce accurate, compliant and timely letters, documents and contracts that merge their pre-approved data fields and clauses.  This feature allows for the management of document versions and templates easily exported into standard file formats.  MS Word plug-ins make drafting and review more time-efficient.  Tools for version tracking keep the document drafting process consistent.  E-signatures make signing fast, easy, and accessible in or out of the office.

Legal document automation features allow configuration of user permissions, rules and audit trails – resulting in the reduction of compliance bottlenecks.

#7 How can I keep track of tasks, documents and compliance?

Intelligent contract management software is instrumental in the tracking of documents, tasks, and compliance because it offers features such as:

  • the secure system repository mentioned above
  • document and contract version tracking tools
  • tracking for unlimited record attachment types, including contracts, requests, purchase orders, invoices, supporting documents etc.
  • pre- and post-award tracking
  • supplier/customer compliance tracking
  • record audit trails, tracking and logging.

Additionally, intelligent workflow makes task tracking simpler and more organised.  User-defined fields make for a consistent and navigable contract creation and searching experience. 

#8 Does contract management software help with searching and reporting?

Advanced software catalogues all text-based files input into the system, making them searchable. Additionally, enhanced features such as in-line OCR tools can convert scanned PDF files into text-based files for user-friendly indexing and searching.

Quick search tools offer a simple way for users to find pertinent contract record information quickly.  Searching for a keyword shows the user all results in the system containing that word.  Users can further narrow results to meet their needs. Simple search tools help when you’re engaging in a one-off search.  Rather than searching through all the fields and files within the software, users can select a specific field to search. For example, if you’re looking for a specific contract associated with a supplier, results will only show the contracts assigned to that supplier. Ad-hoc query tools and custom report builders allow you to save reports and assign users to view them, export and save reports to a variety of data formats and standardise the reporting system.

#9 Is there training and online support available?

Creditable contract management software suppliers offer a variety of options to assist users in their needs and offer best practices, including:

  • in-system user manuals
  • online learning videos and tutorials
  • helpful phone and email support
  • remote training sessions
  • onsite training sessions
  • group training events
  • user conferences.

These tools help you maximise your investment, improve your efficiency and productivity, and fully leverage your contract lifecycle management platform.

#10 Is there a free software demo?

Yes!  Start 2020 with our award-winning contract management software.  Contract Insight can help you manage an entire contract portfolio with intelligent workflow, automated alerts, AI-based contract management, data extraction, audit trails, contract reporting and analytics. 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.