When it comes to contract management, non-specialized tools such as Excel spreadsheets, email, and Sharepoint are still the norm. But while these platforms can be familiar and easy to use, they don’t offer the dedicated features that are necessary to manage the complexities of handling your company’s most important documents.
From e-signature tools to automatic notifications for milestones that exist throughout the contract management lifecycle, dedicated contract management software gives you the tools you need to minimize contractual risk and help you maximize the value of your agreements with suppliers, service providers, and customers. But with numerous offerings on the market, it may seem challenging to sort through all the options and determine which contract management software will best serve your business’s contract management needs.
As you consider the options, here are four key areas to evaluate.
1. Technical considerations
The more easily and quickly you can get your contract management software installed and configured, the sooner you will see its benefits. But the process of getting up and running – and the resources you must invest in doing so – will vary from product to product. For example, if you are considering open-source software, there is often heavy lifting upfront as you configure and customize the code upon which the program is based. Open-source solutions also require more IT expertise and resources to set up and maintain. On the other hand, there can be fewer technical barriers with some proprietary software solutions, which may need no IT intervention at all and can be ready to go from the first time you log on.
In business, profitability and success hinge upon driving the greatest return on investment – and your contract management software is no exception. But when it comes to evaluating the cost of contract management software, it’s important to go beyond the sticker price and understand what is included and whether it will fit your needs. If it doesn’t, you may find your software either doesn’t deliver as you need it to or that it is an unexpected budget drain.
How can you determine the true cost of your contract management software? First of all, it’s important to consider the bandwidth required to support your contract portfolio both in terms of storage space and user needs. If your business manages a high volume of contracts, with numerous stakeholders who require access to contracts, then an a la carte pricing model – in which you are charged on a tiered basis for the amount of storage space and number of users you need – can get expensive fast. But if you look for software that offers unlimited storage space and authorized users, you can keep costs manageable and predictable. Some features – even on-demand support and technical assistance – may also be considered premium add-ons, so when you compare fees, make sure you understand what’s included and what isn’t.
3. Ease of use
While the contract management software you are considering may have many features that sound appealing, they won’t actually be helpful or improve your contract management processes and results if they are so complicated that no one ever uses them. As such, when it comes to introducing new software in the workplace, your path to adoption will be far easier if you make sure the program is intuitive and easy to use. Conversely, if your contract management software comes with a big learning curve, you may find people don’t have the time to figure it out and continue to abide by old, inefficient contract management processes and tools long after you have rolled out your new software.
You can reduce this risk by making sure that the software you are evaluating makes life easier for contract managers (and anyone else involved in the contract management process) from the get-go, with functionalities that don’t require lengthy tutorial sessions, how-to guides, and user manuals. Look for software with a clear user interface and usability features people already know how to use, such as drag and drop and folder-tree organizational structures. But don’t just take your software vendor’s word that their platform is easy to use – before you invest your time and money, ask for a demo so that you can see it at work. Even better, some software providers offer free trials so that you can test out the ease of use for yourself.
Your contracts contain vital data that, in the wrong hands, can be extremely risky to your business. From trade secrets to sensitive personally identifiable information, it’s crucial to ensure that the contract management software you are considering offers state-of-the-art security features that can protect you from breaches, both accidental and malicious. These include access controls such as multi-factor authentication and audit trail reporting, which allow you to ensure that only authorized users are able to access your contracts and that report back on all activity within the system, and state-of-the-art cloud security to ensure your contracts are not vulnerable while they are being uploaded and stored in your contract repository.