In a recent survey, 92 percent of federal contracting professionals agreed that effective contract management is vital to their organization’s success. At the same time, 40 percent reported that their organization’s contract management policies are either not consistently applied, not documented or are nonexistent. Six in 10 respondents also reported using Microsoft Excel to manage contracts – a manual solution that lacks vital features for improving the security and efficiency of contract management.
In other words, although an overwhelming majority of contracting employees recognize the business imperative of improving contract management processes, many are still not taking advantage of readily-available tools for doing so.
Dedicated contract management software can help organizations better manage the entire contracting lifecycle, improving the end-to-end ease and efficiency of contract management from the initial drafting of a contract through signing, execution, and renegotiation. In a survey of organizations that have adopted contract management software, 63 percent saw faster and more profitable negotiations, 57 percent saw increased compliance with corporate or government regulations, and 44 percent saw a reduction in labor costs, along with other benefits.
While there are many reasons to consider switching from a manual solution to contract management software, an abundance of solutions on the market can make choosing the best software seem like a difficult task. But deciding which software solution makes sense for your organization doesn't have to be complicated. Below are some tips to help you evaluate and implement the right contract management software to fit your needs.
1. Involve key stakeholders in the process
It’s vital that the contract management software you select meets the needs of everyone involved in your organization’s contract management strategy. As such, the first step in the evaluation process should be identifying key stakeholders and ensuring that they have a voice at each stage in the evaluation process, from developing a list of requirements through testing of prospective solutions.
2. Before you start looking, make a requirements list
Different organizations may have different needs in their contract management software – and before you start looking, it’s important to identify your requirements based on your internal processes. A requirements list can help you to easily determine which software options are not suitable and discover which solutions will best work for your organization.
When compiling your list, consider the following:
- The number of users the software can support
- The number of contracts/storage space
- Your organization's compliance and security requirements
- Features able to improve the ease and efficiency of your contract management, like text-based search, automated notifications, and customizable classification/metadata tools
3. To evaluate pricing, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples
In order to compare the price of different software, you must first know what tools are included and what items are considered extras. For example, one platform may have a low monthly subscription fee but charge per user or number of contracts. If you have a high volume of contracts to manage or require access for numerous employees, these fees could work out to much higher cost overall than an all-inclusive plan.
4. Take advantage of free trial offers and/or request a product demo
While it’s important to read up on the features of any contract management software you are considering, there’s no substitute for trying it out firsthand. Testing the software will give you a clearer picture of how easy and intuitive it is to use, and whether it can support your optimal contract management processes. Before you lock in on a plan, request a guided product demo – which can better help you to understand the functionalities and features – and ask if a free trial is available so that you can test out the software for yourself.
5. Don’t forget to ask about customer service and support resources
No matter how intuitive and cutting edge your software, confusion or technical issues can still arise from time to time. As such, it’s important to understand what levels of support are available, including applicable time frames and cost associated with post-purchase customer support. Ideally, your software should include 24/7 support by phone and email so that you can get help quickly should the need arise.
Once you’ve identified the best contract management software for your organization, these tips can help you to implement it.
1. Align your contract management processes to your software’s features
Before you implement your contract management software, take some time to revisit the requirement list you developed in the evaluation phase with an eye to how the features of your new software will support your processes. Now is the time to draft specific contract management procedures that use the tools available to you to fulfill your contract management objectives. For each step in your contract management process, look at what you are hoping to achieve, and determine precisely how to use your software to make that happen.
2. Track down all of your contracts and contract templates
If your previous approach to contract management was disjointed, it’s likely your contracts exist in all sorts of locations, from SharePoint to filing cabinets. Rather than uploading contracts haphazardly, take some time to track them all down and then take stock of your portfolio. This can help you to determine the optimal storage structure and classification standards that will best fit your needs.
3. Develop an onboarding/training plan
A lack of training is a key reason the integration of new software can fail within organizations, so make sure you don’t overlook this vital step. A tailored training plan that communicates your organization’s contract management goals, processes and the responsibilities and requirements of all parties can help you to reap the full benefits of your new software.