If you’re reading this it’s probably because you’re looking to make the running of your business (and your life) easier – with Contract Management Software. Managing contract lifecycles is one of those processes that starts out small – like a cute, easy to manage little dog. But, as the number of your contracts, and your business grows, that little dog can mature into an animal that hasn’t been trained – the kind that’ll jump on you with muddy paws and knock you flat on your back.
When faced with the many options available, though – which software choice is going to keep you on your feet? Shopping in a crowded market can be overwhelming, but if you keep in mind these five Contract Management Software essentials, you’ll be more likely to find success.
Software has made some big advances over the last decade, one of these being the switch from on-premise installation to delivery via cloud. Both modes of delivery will help you organise your contract lifecycles and improve compliance, risk and quality management. However, which one is right for your business?
This mode was once the standard for all software delivery. It’s a tried-and-true way to implement a system and it’s probably the way you’ve used countless programs over the years. On-Premise delivery involves the installation of Contract Management Software directly onto your computers. It’s a delivery that requires IT people to stay on top of updates and maintenance, and it needs to be renewed regularly. If the software is installed on your computer at work, this will be the only machine you can access it on.
Comparatively, SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions that update from the cloud, can be accessed on any device. This might be anything from a desktop computer to a smartphone, meaning that you’re never limited to one machine. As more people work from home these days, this aspect of SaaS is particularly beneficial to workers who can’t make it into the office.
Cloud based Contract Management Software also removes the need for IT specialists. With a cloud service, there’s no wait time for bug fixes or new versions of the software to be installed. Instead, any issues can be addressed by the software vendor from their end, placing the responsibility directly into their hands. This means more downtime for you and less stress! It’s also easy to stay up to date, as any updates can be downloaded directly from the cloud to your device as soon as they’re available.
You might think that your sensitive information would be more secure with on-premise Contract Management Software. You’d be forgiven for thinking that – a device maintained by an IT person sounds far less permeable than data floating around a cloud! These days, however, the reality is that cloud-based software offers security and storage solutions that on-premise software isn’t capable of. For example, cloud systems are regularly updated to combat new threats as they emerge – preventing those bugs or malware from ever finding their way to your device.
Many cloud solutions also offer data encryption in transit and rest, which protects the security of your contracts on your device and when sharing. Nobody wants a hacker getting hold of their sensitive information, so make sure your Contract Management Software offers superior access control, so that sensitive documents are viewed by authorised eyes only.
And while data was once stored on local computers and servers within a company, unforeseen disasters could easily see that business permanently lose their contract information. This could be anything from an earthquake to a sophisticated hacker – yet another reason to keep data stored in the cloud. Make sure that your vendor’s servers are held in an accredited data centre with full DRP and BCP capability.
Shopping for Contract Management Software usually involves a trial period. During this time, you’ll be wanting to evaluate the software against other systems and take all of the features for a test drive. This is the time to really delve into features unique to that vendor. Ask yourself if those features will benefit your organisation. Is the software intuitive or will it take you months to learn its most basic features? You’ll also need to check that the system meets the regulatory requirements of your jurisdiction.
If you need to make a case to get approval for new Contract Management Software, you’ll want plenty of time to gather your facts and consider an implementation plan. Depending on the vendor, different systems offer different trial lengths. While it used to be standard to offer three months, this has been reducing over the last five years, with some software vendors only allowing a two-week trial before subscription. To get a proper feel for the software, look for vendors that offer a no-obligation trial of at least one month, although three months, if possible, is always the best.
There’s nothing worse than needing help and having to wait, and wait – and wait to get it. When you’re selecting your new Contract Management Software, make sure the vendor offers timely support through channels additional to email. Can you pick up the phone and give them a call? What is the expected turnaround time on support requests?
Also, as well as the standard ‘how to use’ handbook you get with the software, do you have access to video tutorials? By now, you’ve probably used video tutorials for everything to do with operating appliances and fixing your kitchen sink. Tutorials can mean the difference between a good day and a frustrating one, which is why you’ll be ever so grateful they’re available when you’re learning the ropes of your new Contract Management Software.
Another point to consider with a Contract Management Software vendor is their practice around software updates and security. Do they have the reputation, expertise and the proven track record your busines requires? And finally, and perhaps most importantly, make sure the vendor understands the specific Contract Management needs of your industry and that their software is aligned with those needs.
Ease of use is inarguably a must-have feature of any Contract Management Software you’ll be implementing for your business. Many companies won’t have a department just for Contract Management – contract governance is often just a small part of someone’s job description. Depending on the business size, they may need to only use the software now and then, which means they’ll need to easily recall how to use it. When that staff member leaves and is replaced, it will also take time to train them to use the software, but exactly how long that takes will depend on how easy it is.
When shopping for Contract Management Software, look for a friendly interface built with user experience in mind. A slow, clunky system will turn anyone off using it. If you’ve chosen SaaS cloud-based software, you can be assured the interface will be clean, load times will be fast and so will user input reactions.
Basically, the process of understanding how to use good Contract Management Software should be intuitive. This doesn’t mean it should be able to read your mind, rather it should help you do what you need to do quickly, easily and with limited need for an instruction manual.
So, keeping the above points in mind – you’re ready to start shopping for your Contract Management Software! Making the switch from older methods might seem overwhelming – but so is a big hairy dog knocking you flat on your back!
With the right system in place, you’ll keep that animal in check – with many an admiring glance at how well behaved it is. Sifting through all the software choices to make that happen needn’t be difficult if you take an informed approach. Research your options well and ask questions before buying, that way, you’ll be assured of the satisfaction that comes with knowing you’ve got it all under control.