For businesses looking to optimize their approach to contract management, there are numerous software solutions on the market that can help. As you evaluate the options, here are some important considerations.
1. Cloud vs. traditional
Traditional, on-premises software is installed directly on your computer, whereas cloud-based software (also referred to as SaaS or software as a service) is hosted virtually and accessed over the internet. Even if the features of cloud and traditional software are otherwise similar, the delivery method can have implications for your business. One big difference is access: traditional software can only be used on the machine upon which it has been set up, whereas cloud software can be accessed securely from any connected device at any location. This makes it easier for remote employees, external vendors and other stakeholders to view and perform contract-related tasks regardless of where they are; this can help to reduce access-related lags within contracting cycles.
Your company’s contracts contain highly-sensitive and often competitive information about how you do business, from brand specifications to pricing and vendor details. Compliance regulations may also require that you take extra care to protect customer data that exists within your contracts, with steep penalties for failing to do so. As such, the security features of any legal contract management software should some of the most important considerations in making your selection.
One area to evaluate is access control – who is able to access the software and the contracts stored within, and what access do they have. One key approach to reducing risk is the principle of least privilege, meaning that users should be granted access to only the information they need to do their jobs, and nothing more. This can reduce the risk of breaches, unauthorized use of information and other security violations, both intentional and accidental, simply due limited access - and thus, limited opportunity. Granular permission functions allow an administrator to determine who can access individual contracts and what functions (download, read only, etc.) they are able to perform.
But this is only one aspect of security that you should consider. You can also prevent access by unauthorized users via phishing and other methods by looking for software with multifactor authentication. This means that in addition to entering a password, users must use an authentication app or input a unique authentication code that is sent to a registered phone number.
For cloud software, it is also important to vet the security of data transmission and storage. Look for software that offers enterprise-grade encryption or data that is both in transit and at rest.
While dedicated contract management software can improve many of the pain points of legal contract management, it only works if everyone involved in the process actually uses it. However, if your software is not intuitive or has a steep learning curve, then you run the risk that people will continue to abide by older methods and processes, even if they are cumbersome and ultimately less effective. Conversely, you can promote adoption by ensuring it is easy for the end-user. As such, usability is an important consideration as you evaluate your options for contract management software. Look for features with familiar and simple functionalities – things like recognizable folder-tree organizational structures and drag and drop uploads. Text-based search and easily-inputted metadata are among other features that can also improve ease of use.
4. Flat-fee vs. a la carte pricing
Just as the features of different contract management software may vary, so may the pricing models – and depending on what you need from your software and how you use it, differences between plans can have a big impact on how much you pay. As such, it’s important to look beyond the sticker price to determine what is actually included and whether you might incur additional costs in order to scale the software to your needs. Two key areas that can vary between software offerings are storage space and user licenses. In an a la carte scenario, your cost is dependent on how many contracts you need to store in your repository and how many users will require access to the software. Features such as e-signatures may also be considered add-ons. On the flip side, an all-inclusive, flat-fee solution would allow you to store as many documents as you need and provide access and functionality to an unlimited number of users at one predictable fee.
5. Support services
No matter how much you like your contract management software solution, it’s possible that from time to time you may have a question about how to use it or encounter a challenge or difficulty that requires some troubleshooting. If your software provider doesn’t provide responsive and readily-available customer support, this can slow you down – and interrupt contract-related tasks – as you wait for the answers you need. Before you commit to software, it’s important to consider the support offering – look for 24/7 access that is available both online and across other channels such as phone and email.