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Contract management software helps businesses streamline and speed-up the execution of administrative tasks such as contract request management, document authoring, contract creation, and negotiation. The software offers a centralized visibility of contract status. It also lets users co-author contract terms and monitor contract milestones such as contract expiration and review dates.
Here's what we’ll cover:
Contract management software is software that allows businesses to store and manage legal documents, such as vendor contracts, leases, and license agreements, through the creation, review, and approval process. The software lets users seal contracts using digital signatures and track the contracts post execution. It also alerts users about critical dates such as contract renewal or expiry.
The first step to purchasing software is to decide whether you want to invest in a self-serving tool or a traditional tool. Here’s a breakdown of the two options:
Traditional contract management software: This system offers basic contract management features such as contract creation, customized templates, alerts, and notifications.
Self-service contract management software: This software offers users certain advanced capabilities such as no-touch contract creation that allows it to connect with CRM, sourcing, and procurement systems. The software auto-builds contracts based on the defined business rules.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: Does your solution meet my business needs?
Vendors typically offer their products via two main deployment methods.
GetApp’s website emphasizes cloud-based deployment, because tools deployed via this method typically come with lower up-front costs, faster implementation time, and automatic updates; they also better support remote use, scale more easily, and minimize the need for IT staff and real estate. But you’ll want to have a high-level understanding of each method.
Here are the deployment options for deploying contract management software in your business:
Cloud-based: This type of software allows users to access their contracts remotely from any computer and location as the data is stored in the cloud.
On-premises: This software type is deployed on computers within the premise of the organization. Therefore, the stored data can only be accessed using local computers.
Hybrid: This deployment option means that the software is deployed both on the cloud and on-premise. However, hybrid solutions are generally costlier than the other two options.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: What are the subscription costs per month per user? Do these charges include installation fees as well?
Now, let’s delve into the key features of a contract management solution:
Contract drafting: Lets users draft contracts using a user-friendly drag-and-drop interface for contract creation and editing. Users can choose from the pre-approved standardized content and templates for the contracts or customize new ones as per their needs. They can edit contracts, save multiple versions of the contracts, search through the repository at any time, and regulate access to the documents.
Contract editing in Concord
Document management: Allows users to collect, upload, store, and share all documents in a centralized location.
Compliance check: Allows users to set compliance benchmarks and automate the process of compliance checks for all the contracts. The software alerts them in case of any deviations.
Management of legal and compliance clauses in Symfact
Alerts and notifications: Lets users schedule reminders and trigger alerts about important events in a contract lifecycle such as contract expiry date, due payments, approvals, vendor evaluation, and renewal dates.
Alerts and notifications in Concord
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: What are the core features offered in your basic plan for small businesses?
Your contract management solution should integrate with the business applications that you currently use. Here are some of the integrations that would be useful to you:
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) and accounting integration: Your contract management system should integrate with your ERP and accounting solutions. This would ensure accuracy and efficiency in financial data and forecasting.
Customer relationship management (CRM) integration: Your contract management system should integrate with your CRM solution so that contact records are updated with contract details as well. This would allow you to craft targeted communication for each kind of customer such as a new one, a repeat customers, or even “dead” customers (i.e., those who have been inactive for a long time). This will help you to keep the data in a central location.
Configure-price-quote (CPQ) integration: Your contract management software should seamlessly integrate with your CPQ system. This would help you keep customer quotes and contracts in a centralized place so that this information can be used to execute each of these aspects.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: What are the other software integrations you offer that are beneficial for small businesses?
Here’s a trend that you should focus on to avoid getting outcompeted:
AI and machine learning: Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning enhance employee performance by making them more efficient and productive. In case of contract management, AI can be used to prompt users into using stock phrases and clauses. Meanwhile, machine learning can make the software smarter by incorporating all the used clauses.
But before implementing this technology, businesses need to identify and pre-define the phrases and clauses for contracts. About 53 percent of small and midsize businesses are using, or plan to use, AI technology by 2020-2021. Based on this trend, businesses that don’t adopt this technology will likely be outcompeted.
Key questions to ask your vendor before you buy: Do you plan to integrate AI and machine learning in your software in the future?
*Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context, and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations, obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.
We referenced the following documents while creating this guide:
https://www.getapp.com/operations-management-software/contract-management/ (Date accessed: 12/19/2018)
5 Tech Trends for Small Business, Capterra (Date accessed: 12/24/2018)