Contract Management Systems: Tips for Selection and Optimisation

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Louella TindaleWith so many contract management systems (CM Systems) on the market these days, it can be daunting trying to select the right one for your organisation. Getting employees to use the CM System once implemented can be a battle in itself, if the system is not user-friendly or complementary to your organisation’s current processes. Set out below are some of my top tips for consideration when acquiring and implementing a CM System:

  1. Engage with your IT department. Selecting a CM System for your business does not have to be an expensive or time-consuming matter. You will be amazed at the functionality of some of the systems your organisation already has in place regarding, for example storage and milestone tracking. Many of these systems allow for integration with systems providing e-signatures, contract approval processes and even template generation. Furthermore, your IT department will be able to advise on possible integration with other systems such as SAP.
  1. Relook at your, or prepare a, contract management policyand contract approval process. This is will assist you in identifying what is important in a CM system.
  1. A CM System that works for your legal team may not work for the business. Engaging with key stakeholders to understand the way they work, will help you in your selection of a CM System. The bottom line is if it is onerous, it is unlikely that people will use it.
  1. Most CM System providers offer trial periods– use them and trial a few different CM Systems. Some pitfalls in contract template generation, like templates being produced without a particular naming convention or the need for manual updating of clause cross-references when amending during the negotiation phase, will become evident during a trial period. If the fix is not as simple as control A – update links, is the system worth it and is anyone going to use it?
  1. Consider the ease of portability. Firstly, consider the ease of getting your current documents on the new system. Secondly, consider and query with your CM System provider the ease of removing the documents from the system if you decide to change providers down the line.
  1. Some CM Systems include compliance and risk management. While records management is an obvious perk to almost all CM Systems, anti-bribery, data protection and supplier due diligences are some of the compliance processes you could potentially automate with your CM System.
  1. If you choose a CM System with a contract template generation tool, your very first task must be to simplify your templates. Multiple input options for clauses in contracts may lead to template generation being slower than just drafting the contract from scratch each time.
  1. When selecting the metadata that you want your system to capture about a particular document or contract, its very enticing to opt for capturing everything you could possibly think of. Having to capture significant metadata can put people off using the system. Scrap the nice-to-haves and stick to the must-haves.
  1. Be very clear with your chosen CM System provider on the capabilities that you intend using. CM Systems can have a magnitude of capability, but you may only be after it for a small portion of that. Select certain persons in your organisation to have the full training and then do limited training sessions for others based on what they will be using the system for – being overloaded with functionality during training is likely to put employees off using the system.
  1. Lastly, once you have CM System in place, roll it out and use it– it’s the only way you are going to become comfortable working with it and for the investment to be worthwhile.

 

Louella Tindale

Louella is South African qualified attorney, having completed her LLB at the University of Cape Town and having trained and worked for Werksmans Attorneys in Johannesburg, where her focus was predominantly on competition law. In 2012, Louella moved to the UK where she worked as in-house Legal Counsel for an LSE listed hotel group (PPHE Hotel Group – Park Plaza and art’otel) and a FTSE100 travel group (TUI Travel).

At the beginning of 2017, Louella returned to South Africa and joined Caveat Legal.