Managing contracts is the key to good business as it can lead to financial and qualitative benefits. It’s also a responsibility of the legal team. Without one, things can get disorganised. Benefits include streamlining processes – like drafting contracts, renewal dates, search and retrieval. In short, it optimises deals.

It’s no small thing to choose to automate some of the processes in a contract lifecycle, so some serious thought must be put into what you need as a viable solution for the whole team and of course, with the right price tag.

You need to:

  1. Establish a project team
  2. Identify what you want to achieve
  3. Conduct a selection process

Establish a project team

Decide on a budget and understand the scale of the project to begin with. It will require dedication and an investment of time and resources. Get everyone involved for their input to minimise risk. You’ll need advice from everyone- from IT experts, legal and finance teams to your commercial stakeholders. Make sure there is a project leader with a defined support team. Create a timeframe for development and understand the criteria that needs to be met.

Identify what you want to achieve

In detail, outline exactly what you want your Contracts Management System to do. For example, a CMS should have a contract repository, reporting and interrogation, contract generation and authoring, contract integration.

Before you do anything, you ought to analyse your current practices, so you know how you want them replicated in a management system. By doing so, you will discover where things can be done a lot better and make new processes accordingly. One of the key benefits of creating this system is understanding and amending processes that are not effective.

It’s also worth knowing that if you are generic in your descriptions about what you want from system providers, then they are likely to say they can do it. However, if you are more specific and detailed with that description of your needs, it will help whittle the field down, as some providers may not be able to demonstrate they can achieve your exacting wants. This also helps arrive at realistic, accurate prices.

Integration is important. If you can integrate the new system into systems you already rely on, like sales, finance or HR, then that presents a big advantage.

Conduct a selection process

There is a lot of choice out there for these systems. Think about the future, which companies are likely to be around still, as you will need on-going support and maybe updating of the system in the future.

Also – try to find out how the product is judged elsewhere by those that have used it. The system you choose should be a reflection of your business style, for example, so if it’s overly technical or needs a lot of training, consider whether it will be used well. What are your team likely to think of it?

Find a system that looks and feels right for your way of doing things. Ask for a demonstration of the kind of functionality you expect to see – and see how it’s possible to make modifications, so you know what it will take when it’s up to you to do. The truth is that the more user-friendly the system is, the higher chance it will be adopted effectively.

Question and track the responses from vendors to compare them so you can look back on your notes objectively, before making the big decision.

All sorted!

If you successfully navigate the process of acquiring a new system, it will mean you’ll be able to get hold of documents on demand, which will make life and business a lot more efficient with less stress in the process.

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