We are in the midst of a challenging time for all businesses. Between the global Coronavirus pandemic, Brexit, the U.S election, the transition from LIBOR to SOFR, and all associated market volatility, commercial enterprises are having to work even harder to increase business agility in order to continue to thrive. Of all the strategies open to senior management in this regard, none are as important to this endeavour as the use of metadata – and contract metadata in particular.
What is metadata?
The short definition of metadata is that it is data about data, but this does a huge disservice to something that is so central to the success of an organisation. The more detailed, more accurate explanation is that metadata is information that sets out what specific data is – describing what the data represents, the form it takes, and the connections it has with other data, concepts, and intellectual properties.
Metadata is found everywhere, in one form or another. The information on the back cover of books constitutes metadata, for example, with content detail, information about its origin, and categorisation and storage tags. As a digital example, the browsing page of your Netflix app is filled with metadata, including item descriptions, lists, and categorisation tags. So, metadata will be found throughout your organisation, in a variety of situations and formats, but contract metadata is most useful when it comes to boosting your business.
In relation to contract metadata, there are three main types. Structural metadata tells us about the relationship between the contract and other contracts; administrative metadata tells us about work carried out on the contract; descriptive metadata provides any information that can be used to find data – for example, key words. When applied to your Contract Repository, these types of contract metadata will usually include:
- Contract type
- Contract dates
- Counterparty name
- Contract value
How does contract metadata boost business?
To boost business, you need information, and by using contract metadata within your central Contract Repository, you can harness all of the relevant business information to make measurable improvements, and increase revenue. This is because by focusing on metadata refinement, your reporting capabilities are greatly increased, and by extension, so is your access to granular level business insight. In short, when used created correctly, your metadata is the key to unlocking the real value of your Contract Library.
- Increased searchability enables better risk management because it allows the quick and easy identification of affected contracts, in the event of a specific issue. Combined with reporting features, this can enable a proactive, rather than reactive approach to business relationships.
- Increased accuracy in reporting allows for better contract performance management, and provides actionable data. This means that decisions and long-term strategies can be made from a fully informed position, with future-proofing kept as the central focus.
- Contract categorisation provides real-time insights into specific business areas, including vendor attitudes and consumer concerns, which can then be used to inform decisions and strategies going forward.
In addition to these processes, the meticulous use of contract metadata is foundational to data governance compliance, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Visibility of data means having tighter control, which enables compliance. At a time when privacy laws in the digital landscape are a higher priority for vendors, competitors, and the general public, implementing proactive metadata policy is a surefire way to meet compliance requirements, and build the confidence of stakeholders and customers alike.
How should contract metadata be formed?
When it comes to the creation of contract metadata, consistency is key. For this information to provide the power to boost your business, you must ensure a level of standardisation across your Contract Management System. This means creating a metadata policy at a company governance level, and ensuring it is applied throughout your organisation. In creating this policy, there are three decision-making steps:
Decide what data you wish to capture
It sounds like a simple decision, but there are actually a number of factors to be considered here. This decision must be closely informed by your long-term goal. What is it you wish to achieve, and what metadata will be needed to get you there? In formulating your long-term goal, you should be performing detailed market analysis in order to make forecasts of possible fluctuation. For example, making this decision in 2017 would have required factoring in possible impacts of Brexit, several years down the line. Making this decision today would require factoring in the possibility of future pandemics, and the impact of climate change on infrastructure.
Decide how this will be applied to legacy data
Your central Contract Repository is not complete unless legacy data – your older contracts and agreements – are included. This is important because all contract data informs your risk management processes, and consequently your ability to future-proof your commercial operation. In order to ensure that your legacy data plays its vital role in current decision-making and data analysis, your metadata must also be applicable to this specific data set, in the most useful and productive way.
Decide how this will apply to new data
For the same reasons, your metadata must also be applied to current and new data, so it is vital to formulate your metadata policy in a way that takes this requirement into account.
Metadata and Contract Management Software
While metadata exists everywhere, and is not confined to the digital format, a digital solution is by far the easiest and most effective way to empower your metadata, unlock the value of your contract library, and boost your business. The best packages on the market, such as Symfact, are designed around the concepts of secure centralisation, standardisation, and compliance. This means that Contract Management Software is the ideal route to a commercial operation that is forward-thinking, proactive, and future-proof.
The permission-based access of Contract Management Software ensures that your authorised personnel have up-to-date access to the latest, approved policies, language, and contract templates from any internet-enabled location or device. Coupled with powerful automated reporting features, this means that this digital platform delivers an end-to-end solution for boosting business with contract metadata.