2022 is here and, with it, new advancements in contract management options. To that end, we’ve detailed five essential tools contract managers must empower themselves with to navigate the ever-changing landscape of contract management best practices going forward.
#1 Secure Contract Repository System
The Problem with Manually Storing Contracts
Leading organizations have utilized digital contract and document storage tools for efficiency and productivity. However, many still rely on insufficient, manual approaches involving filing cabinets for paper documentation, emails, and disorganized digital storage. These methods make it almost impossible to keep contracts secure, maintain version control, adhere to key dates, stay on top of milestones, or enforce contract archiving and retention rules.
Storing contracts may seem like a simple task but, without a secure contract repository, organizations are missing out on the key player in supporting their ability to reduce risk, to have control of their contracts, and to improve contract performance.
The Solution: A Contract Repository System
A central contract repository is needed for organizations to store contracts while reaping the highest ROI from them. A web-enabled document repository is a place for contracts and relevant data to be securely stored. It allows contract management professionals to organize contracts, oversee permissions, employ document version control, search for existing contracts, track contract status, collaborate, and more.
Contract storage isn’t merely about where an organization saves its documents; it’s an opportunity for organizations to make contracts and data 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 sensitive information is tracked and stored within a contract management software system. With personally identifiable information (PII), payment card information (PCI) and other sensitive data, contract managers must be able to place access restrictions on specific pieces of key data. For instance, software end-users may not have any need to engage with contracts other than those they’ve drafted themselves. Thus, with a user permissions standard in place, organizations can prevent security issues and instances of sensitive data entering the hands of unauthorized personnel.
Additionally, the manual storage of contracts hinders the success of organizations by:
- limiting access.
- leaving documents and their supporting files disconnected.
- lacking visibility and transparency.
- not supporting the proactive tracking and management of contract approvals, status, renewal dates, automated renewal clauses, and milestones.
Conversely, an online document repository helps organizations by:
- optimizing and making safe the location, protection, organization, search, and sharing of contracts.
- centralizing control.
- improving accountability.
- increasing productivity.
- simplifying contract management.
- storing virtually unlimited contract data and contract documents.
Arm yourself with the central repository system your organization needs to succeed in 2022 with a leading contract management software.
#2 Efficient Contract Workflow
The Problem with Manual Workflow
Manual contract workflow management is an outdated practice requiring contract managers to personally oversee every contract lifecycle stage. Any delay from anyone involved brings the flow of a contract lifecycle to a screeching halt. Contract managers of 2022 should leave this practice behind and adopt a more efficient one.
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 virtually unlimited contract notifications, automated alerts, and workflow task reminders. Intelligent workflow allows contract managers to leverage user-defined fields, contract process management, reporting and analytics, audit trails, and more.
Contract collaboration, negotiation, and approvals can be managed with workflows to track every stage of the contract lifecycle. Automated alerts can help contract management personnel meet key dates and milestones, including contract renewals. Additionally, audit trail history recorded by intelligent contract management software can provide an accessible, up-to-date record of contract changes. Cut contract approval cycle time by overcoming bottlenecks and essentially ensuring accountability with intelligent, automated workflow.
#3 Streamlined Document Assembly
The Problem with Manual Document Drafting
Productivity suffers when multiple people are tasked with creating, reviewing, and revising contract documents in a decentralized manner. Time is wasted creating new documents, repeatedly downloading templates, locating relevant information, and manually imputing data into various 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 standardized.
The Solution: Automated Document Assembly
Contract managers and legal professionals: stop wasting time and money with a manual document drafting and assembly process. Step into 2022 with intelligent software that automates and centralizes contracts, agreements, and risk documents. With cutting-edge document assembly software, contract managers and legal professionals can enforce compliance and make issues regarding data entry errors, collaboration, storage, and distribution a thing of the past.
Those armed with this tool can quickly create compliant, timely, and accurate documents, contracts, and letters that merge their organization’s approved clauses and data fields. An intuitive interface allows for managing multiple templates and document versions, which can easily be exported into standard file formats. MS Word, MS Outlook, Google Workspace, and MS Office 365 plug-ins can make document editing and contract authoring more time-efficient. Version tracking tools can make it so everyone involved in the document drafting process is up-to-speed and on the same page. Electronic signatures can make signing easier, faster, and accessible from anywhere in the office or on the go.
Concerning the reduction of compliance issues, document assembly software can allow 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. Get ahead in 2022 with secure document assembly, storage, and collaboration.
#4 Intelligent Contract Tracking
The Problem with Manual Contract Tracking
Manual contract tracking processes may be acceptable for organizations managing low numbers of contracts. However, contract failure rates exponentially increase when contract volume increases to hundreds, thousands, or more.
As was previously mentioned, insufficient contract tracking hinders an organization’s ability to reach its financial goals, lacks security, and puts organizations at regulatory and operational risk. Manual filing systems, emails, and spreadsheets are not adequate tools for organizations to get the most from their 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 lack: task alerts and alerts regarding issues with contract terms or language; alerts regarding cross-sell, up-sell, discount, or pricing opportunities; fast approvals and routing for signatures; and a centralized version tracking system.
Consequently, timelines can change, audit trails can be unsatisfactory, and rescheduling can become necessary – leading to wasted time and contract lifecycle bottlenecks.
The Solution: Intelligent Contract Tracking Tools
Leading contract management software can provide 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 can see faster contract-to-close rates. Proven contract management technology, which aids in end-to-end contract lifecycle management, is user-friendly, enabling broad adoption by all users and impacted stakeholders.
If you are contemplating investing in contract tracking software, look for key features such as:
- a secure and centralized document repository with virtually unlimited storage.
- automated version tracking.
- tracking for various attachment types - including contracts, purchase orders, supporting documents, invoices, etc.
- pre-award and post-award contract tracking.
- vendor compliance tracking (including for OFAC search compliance).
- contract record audit tracking and logging.
Additionally, to better track the entirety of the contract lifecycle from requests to approvals, look for functionality such as:
- intelligent workflow automation.
- user-defined fields.
- automated key date and task reminders.
- electronic signatures.
Tackle 2022 with contract management software that provides intelligent contract tracking tools combined with the ability to adapt to your organization’s evolving standards and processes.
The Problem with Manual Signatures
Obtaining signatures manually 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 organization at risk, and the lack of a streamlined signing process can compromise its 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 2022. 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 performing contract execution. Electronic signatures, however, can cut send-to-sign time up to 20%!
Contract managers can fully reap the benefits of eSignatures with electronic signature software - Such as CobbleStone Software's IntelliSign®. Companies that are wasting time managing paperwork, that want a better reputation, and that need more efficient archiving processes can benefit significantly from electronic signatures because they can:
- Save money: No more paper, printers, ink, travel, or mailing costs needs to be required to get documents signed.
- Save time: Significantly less time can 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 can be reduced because electronic signatures provide audit trails and are legally binding and secure.
- Improve business relationships and visibility: The signing process can be streamlined and accessible in or out of the office. Crucial deadlines can be met.
Take control in 2022 by transitioning from an obsolete and inefficient signing process to electronic signatures with a leading contract management software. Watch the video below to see how CobbleStone's eSignature software can help you achieve more in 2022!
The Contract Management Tools of the Future Are Here
The five tools mentioned above can streamline how you manage contracts. With virtually unlimited and secure file storage, intelligent workflow, contract lifecycle automation, enhanced tracking and search tools, and easy-to-use eSignatures, CobbleStone’s leading contract management software is the only solution that has all of the tools mentioned above to equip you for enhanced legal operations in 2022. Given how user-friendly, robust, and seamlessly integrated CobbleStone® is, it's no wonder Forrester names CobbleStone a Leader in CLM software!
Learn how to become the next-level contract manager of tomorrow - today, with a free demo!
Editor's Note: This post was originally posted in November 2019 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.