The evolution of Contract Management methodologies has occurred around the concept of Contract Repositories, or contract storage. There is good reason for this. By changing the way in which we store our contracts, we can simultaneously make savings in capital expenditure, and in efficiency measures. Since our contracts are the lifeblood of our business – facilitating the flow of everything from sales and procurement, to employment and premises – any methodology that centres the storage of these documents will benefit the entire operation.
What is a Contract Repository?
Technically, a Contract Repository is simply the location in which contracts are stored. At one time, businesses would store their contract documentation in filing cabinets, and these would have been known as the Contract Repositories. But, things have moved on since those days. With environmental choices being of a higher priority now than they once were, businesses are seeing the importance of moving toward paperless operation. This, in addition to a growing need for an integrated storage and management solution, is why filing cabinet Contract Repositories are quickly becoming a relic of history.
The need for Contract Management capabilities – that is, the ability to search, view, track, and amend documentation – gave rise to the use of Excel spreadsheets. These collections of digital records could be used in conjunction with filing cabinet storage, and so became a useful stop-gap on the way to full digitisation of the Contract Management System. It is not without its problems, however. While this may be a productive methodology for some smaller businesses, it is limited in scope, and still relies upon the manual management of contract data – just as the filing cabinet strategy does. That is, it requires personnel to manually enter data into the spreadsheets, and work through those records in order to complete Contract Management tasks.
There are two major issues with the Excel spreadsheet Contract Management methodology.
- Data fragmentation – While Excel spreadsheets allow for the recording of metadata, the storage of contract data in this form leads to inefficient use of the storage space illustrated by a reduction in capacity and performance. This is because it is a manual methodology that relies on human data input and is therefore prone to duplication of records and errors of data entry. While data fragmentation can be useful in some computing processes, it is a significant hindrance to efficiency measures in Contract Management.
- Lack of scalability – Scalability is the responsiveness of a business or business method to fluctuations in demand for goods or service, and Excel spreadsheets do not effectively support scalability in business operation. As a manual methodology, it is simply a collection of digital records that provides little opportunity for flexibility, agility, or adaptation to rapidly changing circumstances.
What is a cloud-based Contract Repository?
Cloud-based Contract Repositories are centralised locations for contract documentation that use cloud technology – that is, digital storage space on servers provided by internet companies. These types of Contract Repositories tend to be central features of Contract Management Software and solve issues of fragmentation and scalability by virtue of their centralised format. By keeping all contract documentation together in one location, Contract Management tasks can be completed more efficiently, and businesses are better able to adapt to changing circumstances.
There are several advantages to using a cloud-based Contract Repository, as opposed to manual methodologies such as paper-based filing systems or Excel spreadsheets:
- Risk management - When human input is de-emphasised, so risk of human error is reduced. The centralised, cloud-based Contract Repository prevents fragmentation of data and the possibility of record duplication. Standardisation can be created across your documentation, which further reduces risk by ensuring that legal language and clauses are agreed and understood in terms of internal policy and governance.
- Increased efficiency - Through cloud-based storage of contract documentation, efficiency in your business is increased through a higher degree of automation. A standardised library of templates and clauses can be created, reducing the amount of time personnel are required to spend on contract creation, and general Contract Management tasks are also completed in a manner that uses less resources in terms of personnel time and skill.
- Actionable data - A cloud-based centralised Contract Repository is designed to provide you with actionable data, using a high degree of automation. This means that accurate, up-to-the minute data about contract performance and contract content can be analysed, and decisions can then be made from a fully informed perspective. This supports both risk management and compliance within your business.
- Improved compliance - The ability to chase supplier certifications and supporting documentation using automated processes through a centralised Contract Repository helps your business ensure it is meeting its obligations in terms of regulatory and internal compliance.
- Cohesion with legacy contracts - Legacy contracts are those older documents that detail agreements with third parties, which often represent the very foundation of your business success. It can be a daunting prospect to bring these paper-based, archive materials into a new, cloud-based, digital system but, in doing so, you create a cohesive collection of documentation that ensures all future agreements are created from a fully informed position. This can help with risk management, in terms of factoring in past experience with particular third parties, and also with the exploration of new sales leads, arising from old documentation.
- Single source of truth - A cloud-based, centralised Contract Repository is a single source of truth, in that it reduces data fragmentation and brings legacy contracts into the comprehensive library of documentation. This means that there is no risk of misinterpretation, or of the misplacing of vital information. All metadata can be uploaded or extracted easily, and new contracts can be viewed, tracked, and managed alongside older agreements, for absolute clarity.
The Symfact solution
As Contract Management Software providers, Symfact has created a cloud-based platform that delivers a centralised Contract Repository packed with features designed to enhance and optimise the Contract Management process. These features include:
- Permission-based access - One of the biggest advantages of cloud-based software solutions is the fact that permission-based access is made possible from any location. Authorised personnel can securely search, view, track, manage and create contracts from any web-enabled device, in any internet-connected location. This builds efficiency by removing the need to travel back to the office premises to complete such tasks and improves compliance by creating comprehensive audit trails of access granted and changes made. Permission-based access also helps ensure business continuity during events that result in staff needing to work from home, such as global pandemics, and extreme weather.
- Customised reporting - The customised reporting feature of Contract Management Software delivers actionable data as a result of contract documentation being held in a single, centralised repository. This means that accurate, up-to-the-minute analysis can be made of contract performance, as well as regular audits of compliance. The actionable data generated by customised reporting can also inform risk management strategies, by enabling detailed examination of third party past performance – from an oversight perspective to a granular level.
- Automated workflows - The automation of workflows within the Contract Management Software system optimises efficiency by ensuring that the right documentation arrives with the right person, at the right time. By removing the need for personnel to manually manage these workflow tasks through spreadsheets or email, the automated system keeps everything on schedule with customisable notifications and alerts, complemented by the e-signature feature. This combination of tools means that the risk of human error is reduced, and deadlines are met. This further ensures improved compliance with internal and external regulatory requirements.
- Editable templates - By using a Contract Management Software system that provides a centralised Contract Repository, your business benefits from the editable templates feature. This allows for the creation of a template library within the Contract Repository which, in turn, enables a higher level of standardisation across documentation. Standardisation is an important and effective element in Risk Management strategies because it goes further in reducing the risk of human error. Language is agreed internally and in advance, making it easier to search for amendments and alterations than to search through the entire contract collection, document by document, when remedial action is required.
- Full integration - The use of a centralised, digital Contract Repository is made more advantageous by options for full integration. The ability to fully integrate this Contract Management Software system with your existing systems creates a more seamless experience for the user and enables comprehensive use of every additional feature. Empowering personnel through drag-and-drop facilities and cross-platform XML architecture means that all Contract Management and contract creation tasks can be completed in the most efficient way possible.
The use of a cloud-based Contract Repository is far more advantageous for Contract Management processes in business than previous methodologies, such as spreadsheets. This software solution enables more comprehensive risk management, increased compliance, and optimised efficiency. The end result of all of these improvements is scalability and profitability – both of which are essential for the survival of businesses in the modern age. Call Symfact today to arrange your free demonstration of cloud-based Contract Management Software featuring a centralised Contract Repository.