Your contract management system (CMS) is the beating heart of your business, capturing your relationship with customers, suppliers, employees, projects, assets, and liabilities, but your system should be more than an expensive electronic filing cabinet. Without a modern CMS, you are missing out on opportunities for efficiency, shorter cycle times, partnership-based operating procedures, and growth. While the contract lifecycle hasn’t changed that much over the years, how people create, implement, and manage the full lifecycle of contracts has drastically shifted—prompting software to advance with the ever-demanding business times.
There’s no one-size-fits-all business model, so why would you invest in just any one-size-fits-all CMS? If a system is supposed to extract, summarize, and analyze critical information from a plethora of agreements, it needs to do so with your business policies and your specific business goals in mind.
Each department and individual contributes to and uses various parts of an agreement differently and requires unique information at precise times, which is why flexibility is so important. Modern, flexible, CMS features your business can’t live without include the following:
The ability to define different user roles: A system should allow you to define who sees what information and when in the contract lifecycle. For example, the finance department may not need to see every detailed contract language change, but the legal department needs to closely track and control every language change made to assess legal liability and security. Additionally, certain, specific executives may need more access to information in contracts than other operating personnel. The ability to differentiate users’ access ensures only the right information is seen by the right people, insuring the right level of risk management based on your company’s policies and fortifying overall security measures.
Compatibility with browser-based systems: Increase system accessibility by looking for a system that is browser-based—that is, a system that can be hosted through Internet Explorer, Safari, or Google Chrome. Managers are busy and their on-the-go lifestyles require CMS to operate where they are, whether it’s at the office, at home, or remotely, and today’s competitive, high-speed business often cannot wait until tomorrow.
Rich text search functionality and document libraries: A modern CMS should have built-in keyword search features and a robust document library where users can easily pull any contract by name or type, in whole or in part. This feature can save people hours, if not days, searching and tracking down specific contracts or contract types. Additionally, it easily allows managers to pull contracts with specific language in them so when it comes time to update clauses or modify sections, it can easily be done with a quick keyword search and organized library. These powerful search capabilities help insure less risk and less liability and cost in day-to-day operations, helping to manage a predictable bottom line.
Many contract types are supported: A modern CMS shouldn’t be less-feature robust or less effective for your more complex contracts. Your system should equally support all types of contracts and offer workflow-determining data elements. For example, since construction companies work with so many vendors, each of which have its own type and style of contract (e.g., lease, licenses, maintenance, purchasing agreements, service agreements, etc.), you need a system that will create and manage all contract types, with tailored policy and workflow for each type, so each can individually be managed effectively.
Open API integration: Your modern CMS should have open two-way application interfaces, or APIs, to easily integrate with other enterprise business applications, including your email provider and other enterprise databases. APIs makes it possible for application programs to interact and share data easily and quickly, ensuring that every user in your business enterprise, regardless of the application they are using, always has the most current information at their fingertips to make business decisions. With this kind of integration capability, you are able to select the most powerful, best-of-breed CMS and still maintain the integration synergy with your favorite ERP suite.
As business operations evolve, so have contract management solutions and these features will make the contract lifecycle process seamless from request to amendment to renewal. A modern solution should scale—providing workflow and liability management to allow for even greater business growth. Use these features as a litmus test when exploring your second-generation contract management solution and you will future-proof your investment and your bottom line. ■
About the Author: Richard Eckerstrom is the founder and CEO of Ecteon. Celebrating 30 years in business, Ecteon is a contract management software company, featuring Contraxx, a premier CML solution for companies with complex contracting requirements. For more information, visit www.ecteon.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions – August 2016
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