Whether you’re looking to overhaul or refine current contract processes, start at the beginning — with contract requests. Often, legal departments’ inefficiency stems from juggling and prioritizing the volume of requests, which come to them via email, phone calls, handwritten notes and comments made in passing.
In addition to bottlenecking the overall process, your legal administrators’ valuable time is spent organizing and distributing contract requests instead of working on more strategic initiatives.
To tighten up the contract process, consider:
- When contract requests are submitted, what information must be included? Do requestors always submit all necessary details with their requests? Do they know what information needs to be included?
- Are all requests routed through one person or department, or are they funneled through different departments based on type of contract?
- How are requests received — through email, phone calls, written notes or all three?
- How are requests prioritized?
- Does your legal team have a way to view and check on the status of all outstanding requests at once?
- How long does it take to compile reports on contract requests, showing how requests are prioritized, how long it took to administer a request, etc.?
Once a request has been received, the legal department can draft the contract. While every contract is unique and requires a different amount of time and level of attention, contract creation can definitely be slowed by the same, recurring issues.
Evaluate your current contract creation process:
- How are contracts allocated within the legal team?
- If someone receives multiple approved contract requests to draft, does he/she know which one needs to be created first?
- Do you have a style guide that details how all contracts should be written and formatted? If not, consider adopting a guide that helps ensure contracts are consistent in tone, language and structure.
- Does your legal team have a library of useful templates to pull from? Apply this same style guide to clean up your contract templates, which will help your team save time by starting them off on the right foot.
- Are there options for the legal team to create their own contracts, or start with an already-proposed contract?
- What sort of standard language or clauses, if any, does the team have access to?
- How does the legal team know who to send each drafted contract to for review and approval?
- Do you have a way to get an at-a-glance view or quick overview of all contracts being drafted to see where they are in the process, who they’re with and how long it’s taking to draft each one?
The contract review process must also not be overlooked or breezed through. Here, organization is key to ensure contracts don’t get lost in the shuffle, on someone’s desk or in an email inbox.
To streamline the contract review and approval process, consider:
- How do drafters know who to route contracts to for review? Do contracts need to be seen by certain people in a particular order? In otherwise, is there a definite approval workflow, one that drafters and reviewers know to follow?
- How many people need to review a contract? How do they know when it’s their turn to review a contract; do you have a system to alert them?
- How are revisions, comments and edits handled, and how do they affect the workflow? Does the contract return to drafters for edits, or do reviewers make edits? Does the contract have to go through the entire workflow again if edits are made?
- When making revisions, how are version histories captured, kept and stored?
- Who ensures and how do you ensure that contracts are compliant with local, state and federal regulations, and adhere to company guidelines and policies?
- When contracts are ready to be executed, how are they signed — with electronic or digital signatures, written and scanned in signatures or another method?
- Is there a way for the legal team to get a high-level overview of the progress on and status of each contract?
To increase efficiency in these three processes within the contract workflow, consider automating them with contract management software. According to a recent Forrester report, demand for contract lifecycle management software is growing, with vendors’ revenues projected to increase by 12% this year.
Unlike many other contract lifecycle management software options, which focus on what happens after signature, ConvergePoint’s Contract Management Software centers around your internal processes — from contract requests, drafting, review and approval through obligation and renewal management — with emphasis on managing your before-signature processes.
Because ConvergePoint’s Contract Management Software is built on Microsoft SharePoint, the software integrates seamlessly and uses your existing Microsoft Active Directory groups and Outlook to manage contract requests by contract dollar amount and automate workflows. Documents are kept on your existing on-premise SharePoint server for security purposes, and your existing and new contracts and supporting documents are kept in formats with which your team is already comfortable, including Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Next step: Contract creation is only the first steps in the process. Take a look at the article, Design a Better System for Contractual Obligations and Renewals, to ensure those processes are equally efficient.For a step-by-step breakdown of each stage in the contract workflow, read our How-to Guide.