Managing contracts takes a lot of time and effort, especially with the economy booming as we lead in to the year 2020. With this increased workload, contract managers need smarter ways to manage their contracts better. Legal professionals carefully review contracts with a sharp eye for details, excellent reading skills, deep comprehension, business acumen, and sufficient time management skills, but their process can be improved even more with new advancements in contract lifecycle management.
It is always beneficial to learn about the latest tools and tips to help us to do our jobs better (and smarter). So, as we start the new year, below is a short list of tips to help with smarter contract management in 2020. This is not a complete list but, rather, a series of best practices that can be implemented quickly - and offer a huge return.
Tip 1: Implement a Contract Intake Process
This tip primarily focuses on organizing your contract review process by collecting data in an organized fashion. Legal reviewers receive contract requests in many formats. These formats include emails, paper requests, ticket systems, and sales and procurement systems.
A quick tip for getting organized is to create a contract intake process. This task includes generating a spreadsheet to collect data fields about the contract you need to review. An efficient contract intake process helps with the tracking of due dates, the status of the contract review, and counterparty (vendor/customer) names.
If your legal team has a contract software system, create a contract intake form with input fields. Ask your employees to key in the required contract data fields, upload the file, and have the contract request submitted to you in an organized manner. If you utilized Contract Insight® Software, then you already have a Contract Request form process built in.
Contract Request is like a legal form that is web-based and streamlines how your user requests contract review. All you have to do is enable the users in the system and share the link for them to request a new contract review. If you do not have a contract software system, then you can utilize a free contract management spreadsheet.
Tip 2: Work in Queues and Lists
Many employees work sporadically throughout the day, jumping from task to task. Legal reviewers should consider batch processing. Batch processing has been used in many business environments - from the assembly line to modern accounting settings. Batch processing involves queuing up several items that need to be worked on that are related. For example, a legal professional may have to read emails, read contracts, review contracts, draft contracts, research law, and attend meetings throughout their workday. Working on one of these items, then moving on to the next, does not create a rhythm. The worker must jump from one task to another.
To help improve contract management in 2020, try to arrange your organization’s work into queues or batches as a productivity tool. If your organization does not have ContractInsight® Software, utilize the contract spreadsheet tool mentioned above. Then, check the spreadsheet several times a day and work on the contract reviews in batches.
If you have Contract Insight Software, implement a dashboard. A dashboard enables you to create a report of open contract requests (in Tip 1 above) listed by status. Then you pin the report on your dashboard and when you log, you will see the open Contract Requests in a list (like a queue). With dashboards, users can easily view records for requests, legal reviews, and key dates. This will help with smarter contract management this year.
Tip 3: Utilize Contract Artificial Intelligence and Auto Extract Engine
Frequently, when a new contract document or legal file must be entered into a system, the user must re-key many data fields, such as the counterparty name, legal description, name, dates, key clauses, governing law, limitation of liability, warranty and other legal fields. To help automate the contract entry process, leverage CobbleStone Software's VISDOM® Artificial Intelligence. VISDOM helps users locate key terms and phrases in a contract document and auto-extract terms - based on imported legal phrases - and place the data into the entry fields on the Contract Data Entry screen.
Tip 4: Leverage Drafting Contracts with Contract Templates
Legal professionals are tasked with the responsibility of providing legal documents to their vendors and customers. We find that many legal teams have Word documents on a network folder. While this process is helpful, it is better to have a more automated method of drafting agreements utilizing your organization’s contract templates.
With Contract Insight®, there is a feature included that automates the contract drafting process. Your organization simply takes its Word contract templates, sets placeholder fields on the documents, uploads the document and…presto! You can merge the contract data fields into the contract template document in Contract Insight and route the contract for approval (and electronic signature). For advanced contract authoring, leverage Contract Insight Software’s clause merging functionality to draft and create complex contract documents based on region, the jurisdiction of law, products, and entities (to name a few).
Tip 5: Use Tasks and Reminders
Okay, let’s face it, we are all busy. An occasional reminder could be a big help. Well, if your company is using spreadsheets and emails, that is okay, you can still use tasks and reminders. Here is how.
First, utilize Outlook or an email tool that has tasks and calendaring. Set a task or a calendar reminder. Contract Insight’s comprehensive task alerts and reminders regarding contract expiration dates, annual contract review dates, and early warning dates make it so tasks are performed on time by members of your team.
Contract Tasks and Workflows are simple. Workflows track contract records, look for values, and automatically alert users for contract review, expiration notices, and more. As a bonus feature, Contract Insight will e-mail you and your team members task alerts, set calendar alerts with your email provider, and send early reminders. If your organization is looking for the best contract management software going into 2020, Contract Insight is the answer.
Tip 6. Reduce Data Entry
Legal resources are valuable, so the more time you and your team spend keying in data, the less time you must focus on the strategy-driven review of the contracts. So why not enable data integration?
“Wait…that sounds hard.”
On the contrary, data integration is easy with Contract Insight. Let your vendors and suppliers register online. By leveraging Contract Insight® Enterprise, your organization has the option to enable supplier/vendor registration. This feature allows your vendors to key in their company name, contact name, street address, city, state/province, country, postal code, contact email, phone number, tax ID number, and other data fields. This streamlined data integration process can save you thousands of keystrokes per year.
Perhaps you don’t want duplicate suppliers in your system. No worries. Simply enable a watcher field, and Contract Insight will prevent duplicate entries.
Maybe your organization has thousands of customers records each year. No problem. Just integrate Contract insight with your favorite CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system or enable your customers to register into the customer portal and route the new customer entry to the sales department (and/or legal department) to process the new customer request in Contract Insight Software.
Although each contract data project poses unique challenges, following some basic steps and utilizing a contract database software built for contract management can help.
Achieve Smarter Contract Management with CobbleStone
CobbleStone Software provides Contract Insight® contract management software as a cloud-hosted (SaaS) or deployed (on-premise) solution. Contract Insight Software is used by thousands of legal professionals for their contract management software needs. Founded in 1995, CobbleStone was among the first and most experienced companies to offer a contract management software product, and we continue to be a leader with full contract lifecycle management software.
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