Switching from spreadsheets and other manual contract management solutions to software can be a powerful change agent for organizations. An end-to-end contract management software solution can help you to eliminate bottlenecks, reduce the risk of missing important contractual milestones, and help your organization realize the full benefits of its agreements.
But while the decision to make the switch and realize these improvements may seem obvious, the next step – choosing which contract management software vendor to use – may feel anything but. There is an abundance of contract management software on the market, with each solution offering different features, pricing plans and user interfaces. With so many options to choose from, how can your organization determine which is the best fit?
There are a number of considerations to evaluate, from user features to security, and, of course, cost. As you consider your options, these questions can help pinpoint the right vendor for your organization.
Question 1: Does the contract management software offer the features I need?
Contract management software isn’t one size fits all – from storage capacity to user-based permissions, features and specifications can vary from one provider to the next. Before you even start researching various software options, it’s important to determine which features you will need in order to support your contract management processes.
Whether your new software is intended to streamline existing processes or you’re looking to revamp and improve your organization’s entire approach to contract management, it’s important to know what tools you seek in a solution.
In order to compile a list of requirements for your new contract management software, spend some time walking through each of the stages of your organization’s contract management process. Who needs to be involved at each stage? What sort of access do they require? Think beyond the negotiation and signing stages and throughout the contract lifecycle – what information would be helpful when it comes to making decisions around renewal time, and would features such as reminders and custom reporting tools aid in these processes?
Soliciting feedback from stakeholders beyond your contract management team may further help you identify needs and pain points within your organization – and the features you’ll want in order to address these.
Question 2: Are the features you need add-ons or is the software all inclusive?
Once you have identified the features you will need in a software solution, the next step is to determine which vendors offer your desired tools. But it’s important to know not only whether a feature is available, but also on what basis.
You may find that with some vendors, some features are considered premium add-ons or that costs may increase based upon your usage. Storage capacity and users are two examples of variables that can differ widely across products – while one software solution may allow you to store an unlimited number of documents of any size, or to enable access to an unlimited number of employees at a single flat fee, other providers may charge more for greater amounts of storage space or users.
As you are likely seeking a solution that will grow with your organization over time, also consider how the offering will meet your needs as they change, and how such changes may impact the cost.
Question 3: How is the software deployed?
Just as features will vary from solution to solution, so will the technical considerations. Some on-premises software (i.e. software that is installed directly onto your computer or server) have specific hardware, system and other requirements. Such solutions may also require the support of internal or external technical experts for deployment. Other cloud-based solutions required no installation at all, and can be deployed as simply as by opening a browser window. Whether your software is on-premises or in the cloud (or a hybrid of both) can also dictate your support options – and the expediency of the fix – should a problem or outage occur.
Question 4: Are product upgrades and updates included?
Software isn’t static, and the effectiveness and usability of your contract management software and the security of your documents can depend on having a solution that stays cutting edge throughout the duration of your use. But just as all contract management software doesn’t include the same features, different solutions will have different approach to product and security updates.
If you are deploying on-premises software out of a box, there’s a good chance that as far as features go, what you see is what you get – though the vendor may release product improvements and new tools over time, it’s likely you’ll have to pay for an updated version of the software in order to benefit. This may also apply to security upgrades. Meanwhile, a cloud vendor may regularly roll out new features and security improvements that are embedded into the solution. If you’re using browser-based cloud software, you may not even need to do anything more on your end than keeping your browser up to date to access new tools as they are released.
Question 5: How can I access help and support when I need it?
No matter how intuitive contract management software is to use, it’s possible that from time to time you or someone within your organization may need some help. But support is yet another item that can vary. As you evaluate a vendor’s support offering, there are several aspects you’ll want to consider.
The first is the quality of self-help resources. From learning how to set up and use various features to on-boarding other users, a rich library of support resources, such as training videos and FAQs, can make getting started fast and easy.
The second is the ability to access live support when you need it. Because lag time can disrupt contract management processes, you’ll want to ensure that your vendor can meet your support needs quickly and via a format that will get the problem solved with minimal frustration. A vendor that can connect you with help 24/7 – and that offers the clarity of phone support – can help to resolve any issues quickly and efficiently.