During contract negotiations and drafting, there is a lot of unavoidable back and forth as each side jostles for the inclusion or exclusion of certain terms and conditions. Once the contract begins to take written form, the round and round suggestions and changes can get pretty difficult to keep track of and remember. As a result, it is critical for there to be a coherent data management strategy in place. This is particularly important for contracts and any related documents, as revisions, amendments, and addenda are fairly common practices for these kinds of documents. Here are the three main things to keep in mind to help keep track of contract versions and amendments:
Appoint a Data Management Administrator
One of the easiest ways to ensure consistency with respect to data management is to appoint a primary administrator. This is of vital importance when it comes to contracting given the absolute necessity of a standard approach to managing the contract portfolio. Even the simplest of contracts contain a lot of small details, and virtually any agreement is subject to change at any time. Although contracts will be divided according to type or scope and the administrator will delegate significant authority to different members of the team, someone has to supervise the overall data management process, and centralized oversight helps ensure efficiency and consistency.
Develop a System for Naming and Saving Documents
Another key step to take to manage the many versions of a contract and/or the amendments and addenda that get included or tacked on is to develop a specific system for naming and saving documents. This is something that must also be standardized to ensure that employees and staff across the organization are saving documents in the same manner. One easy method is to simply add a "v" for version along with the pertinent number, so the second version of a document would be v2. Although this is frequently used even this can be confusing if the document resides on a local hard drive as opposed to in a cloud-based solution. If a document is emailed around, it will be easy to forget who owns the most recent version. For this reason, it is really best to utilize a cloud-based contract management solution. This allows for central storage and ubiquitous access, and it is clearly easier to mandate and monitor the implemented naming system. Obviously, this also makes it faster and easier to organize and locate documents.
Refile Outdated Versions
When using a central cloud-based system, it is still important to rely on folders and sub folders to keep documents well organized. To ensure that the primary folder for a particular contract does not become cluttered with a million versions of the same item, it is wise to create a folder for outdated items. It is never recommended to delete something altogether, as information may be needed at some point. In addition, the naming system should include the specific way in which outdated items will be marked, even if the document name just changes to include a note such as "do not use." Ultimately, documents must be named, saved, and filed in a location and in a manner that enables anyone needing to review the item to access it readily, without confusion as to whether it is the correct item.