When thinking of the facilities available to contract management, contract lifecycle software should be top of the list. Automated contract management systems should be high on the agenda of every organization, especially those in industries with a large extended enterprise and a higher number of contracts. It can streamline all the key stages and procedures involved within a contract lifecycle, resulting in tighter control of the overall process, improving business revenue, and improving the productivity of employees.
This is a modern solution to the expanding global economic and business network, and by taking advantage of the technological facilities open to you, in this case, implementing an automated contract management system into your current business processes, your business can gain a competitive edge in already crowded markets, whilst improving on your own potential.
There are many functions of contract management that can benefit from the integrated features in contract management software, throughout the entire contract lifecycle. By having and end-to-end system in place, not only does it allow for better mitigation of risk, improves visibility and communication between the parties involved in the contract, but the software can be used from the initial stages of the contract process by helping improve the assessment of third parties for risk and creating risk profiles before the authoring of contracts even begins.
By effectively using contract management software, either as a whole or as part of your contract management structure, you can take control over an often disconnected system between various departments, which can allow for better resource planning as your business moves forward.
There are many contract management options out there, and each provider will have their own individual features as part of their software product, so to help, we have listed the top 20 functions and features you should be considering when looking at improving your contract management.
Before any contracts are drawn up, there needs to be an accurate assessment of any risks a third party may pose. When launching new business relationships, certain software providers offer a feature that can design, build, and publish intelligent questionnaires to help identify any risks.
Conducting due diligence is vital if you want to have a successful relationship with a vendor. Having a successful framework in place to compile the information you need from data sources that are specific to your business can be the difference between a successful contract lifecycle or a contract that ends up doing harm to your business. In order to help your business conduct due diligence on third parties, look for CM software that has links to all leading external databases such as those from Dow Jones and Thomson Reuters. This feature will give you access to advanced security profiling of both businesses and individuals and a comprehensive background check.
Another feature offered by some CM providers, including by Symfact, is Identity Management. With the use of technology on the rise, fraud is becoming a more commonplace crime and whatever software you choose needs to reflect this risk. Identity management features can identify, authenticate, and investigate individuals and companies, helping to detect and prevent fraud and reducing the risk any third-party may pose to your business.
An essential element of contract management software is a contract template feature. Having pre-approved contract templates that can be configurable to specific clauses and can be regularly updated, improves productivity during contract creation and helps ensure compliance with any legal or regulatory rules. By finding CM software that is also compatible with whatever systems and applications you currently use, Microsoft Word for example, you can make the integration of the software and the actual use for your staff simpler and easier.
Having a library of standardized terms and clauses can make the usually long and tedious job of writing out contracts quicker and easier, improving productivity. This useful feature can also help identify any contracts that may include particular provisions, which can help your contract management further in the process.
Digital identification is fast becoming the normality for many businesses and organizations. And with good reason, as documentation and data are being moved online, it has become imperative to have digital solutions to improve security and ensure data privacy. E-signature technology is becoming a popular way to help quicken the contract approval process, as well as adding an extra level of security. If you want to digitalize your contract management and for it to be successful, E-signatures as a feature may well be a crucial element moving forward.
Once contracts have been negotiated and signed by all the parties involved, it is essential that all contracts and corresponding data and documents are stored in an accessible yet secure location. it is simply no longer practical or efficient to store information together physically, or as most companies now do, across various databases. The amount of documentation and data required for each contract is a big part of why manually managing agreements often falls short as a system and if all your information is spread over several shared document sites, the risk for loss and human error is understandably high. As well as proving hugely inefficient when trying to maintain sustainable business growth and productivity.
The solution to this is to make sure you implement CM software that offers a central contract repository. This is a standard feature and allows for easy accessibility and by collating all the individual documents and information, you can have a tighter control of the contract process and reduce the risk of human error and loss of crucial documentation and data that could potentially cause harm to your business reputation and revenue.
Choosing contract management with a search function and tagging tools allows for information to be identified quickly and easily. By using metadata to search contracts for key words and clauses, you can make contract management a far more efficient process and optimize the time and resources available for each contract.
Browser based platform
This feature may vary depending on which contract management software company you use. But Symfact for example, not only has a browser-based platform so you can access contracts no matter where you are the in world, or on what device, as long as you have an internet connection, it also provides support for multiple languages, locales, and currencies. Making your contract management achievable everywhere.
If you choose to implement contract management software with the option of keeping all the information about your business in one place, you can maintain and manage complex contracts and control organizational structures without complications using automated workflows. Any elements or processes can then be visualized through interactive dashboards. This gives your business controlled transparency and a better ability to manage a larger number of contracts at any given time.
Trigger based alerts are a feature provided by most contract management software and systems. You can use this tool to configure and track important data and by setting milestones in the software, you can set alarms and receive notifications for specific tasks and events, ensuring nothing ever falls under the radar, including contract re-negotiation dates.
Sometime it is a necessity to allow employees and third-parties access to contracts data. However, due to current GDPR and similar worldwide regulations, you need to be able to restrict access to sensitive, financial, and legal data. We recommend looking for contract management software that has something similar to Symfact’s access control interface, which allows you to have complete control over what changes can be made, and who has access to specific data, which improves security and makes you less vulnerable to outside influences and attacks and ensures you stay complaint with data laws and regulations.
Following on from the access features, if you have a large number of third parties with access, it becomes imperative that you can easily track changes and views. Everything needs to be accountable. Most CM providers with have an auditing suite, allowing every action made in the contract management software to be fully tracked in the audit logs, along with a time stamp and the user’s information.
Another useful feature is the complete revision history tool. With this, you can see how contracts have changed over time and if they are proving to be of benefit for your business.
Capture & Reporting Suite
Similar to the auditing suite, a useful feature in a contract management software is an incident capture and reporting suite. This ensures all incidents are stored and automatically assigned for investigation, whilst added analysis tools can assist with legal protection during the lifetime of a third-party relationship. This helps you manage issues quickly and with the least amount of disruption to the running of the business.
If you are a larger business with a lot of third-party suppliers or vendors, then a self-reporting feature in contract management software will be useful. It drastically reduces the time spent conducting reports on each third party and makes the risk management involved in contracts far more efficient.
Due to the increase in data breaches and cyber-attacks, it is vital for businesses to have security in place across their organization. Especially in certain industries. This element of contract management should not be overlooked when choosing the right contract management software for your business. However, most software providers will have secure data encryption, with some offering two-factor authentication.
If a contract management software provider offers hosted solutions, you can select the location of your server and therefore data, depending on your legislative and jurisdictional requirements, and these are protected by the latest encryption technologies.
One of the essential features you should be looking for when weighing up contract management or lifecycle software is configuration ability. As businesses expand and relationships change and grow between your business and third-party suppliers and vendors, contracts and the clauses contained within may also need to change. By choosing software that has a configuration layer, you can configure your management framework to match all processes and risk models, giving you a level of consistency in the overall governance and management.
Thanks to cross-platform XML architecture, some providers offer contract management software that can integrate with a range of different contract management systems and software. Existing tools that are already being successfully utilized within the company can also be retained and implemented into the new contract management system.
It is also worth considering a software provider that can implement contract management software without having to rebuild the IT infrastructure.
For example, Symfact’s contract management software can be integrated into existing ERP systems and you can also configure the software so you implement only the features your business most requires. This makes it a useful and cost-effective solution for successful contract management.
If an automated system is new to your business and employees, then it is worth looking at a software provider that offers regular support. Although most contract management systems are easy to use, with clear dashboards and processes, we understand that sometimes it can take staff some time to get used to using a different platform and system. At Symfact for example, there is a support portal that is available 24 hours a day, with lots of useful information and “how to” guides, as well as phone and email support, which ensures a smooth rollout of the software.
Due to the modern advancement of currently technology, there really is no reason not to implement contract management software to improve the efficiency of your business and to keep at the top of your game, and if your business expands, you will already have the management system in place to deal with any expansion of your enterprise. Simplifying the contract process with document creation, managing commitments, better resource planning and electronic signatures really can make a difference to your organization, so if you feel this is the right step to help you successfully manage your business contracts, the contact us at Symfact and start your journey towards efficient automated contract management.