Close deals in the smart way: an honest comparison of best contract management software
Contract management software is one of the most essential parts of your business workflow. The time of advanced technology is upon us, and still, most large enterprises struggle to efficiently manage this essential part of their routine, contract management. On the market today we see poor visibility, decreased compliance and control, high risk of human error, and slow completion cycles.
So what’s wrong with the current process? And how do you finally get to the next level of contract management? This is where the right tool for streamlining your operations comes into play. And that’s exactly what we are going to cover in this article. So hold on tight and get ready to learn about how to start closing deals and managing processes the smart way.
Common pitfalls in a contract management process
Let’s start with the basics.
Contract management is the process of managing contract creation, execution, and analysis. It aims to maximize operational and financial performance in an organization while reducing financial risk. Even though the aim is to save money and reduce risk, the process proves to be a very time and cost-consuming element for a business.
When a contract is phrased or processed poorly, an organization can lose thousands of dollars just because of a simple mistake they missed. Or because the negotiation process took too long. You don’t have many chances to produce a poorly organized contract or cause delays in business today. Whether we like it or not, in our cruel world of business, we all have to be quick and mobile. Or we’ll leave the arena tomorrow.
The tradition of managing contracts manually through folder and file cabinet storage is sinking into oblivion. And most businesses prefer to rely on a contract management software or platforms that streamline administrative tasks and create a centralized and uniform record for each contract and its process.
Administrative costs associated with contracts are reduced by 25%-30% through implementing automation, according to Aberdeen Research.
However, just because you integrated automation doesn’t mean you eliminate all of the bottlenecks. Businesses that purchase sophisticated tools to automate and manage contract lifecycles, still often fail to use the software effectively.
The point is that automation is a trend. And like with other patterns, we can see a lack of understanding of how it works. Because actually, it works differently for different businesses and for different areas in a business you want to automate.
Another problem is that 74% of legal departments consider vendor name and reputation as necessary when assessing new technology. Still, only a few of them think whether they would or could use at least half of the features the software provides them with.
To choose the right software, you should first depict the stages of the contract management process. This way, you’ll see all of the pain points you can then solve with automation.
Nine key stages of the contract management process
Let’s go over and name the stages of contract management because you do need to know the enemy before you can fight him.
Contract preparation. The first thing that always has to happen is each party, separately, has to identify needs, establish goals, set expectations, and define risks. Contracts are legally-binding documents that have to be taken seriously. That’s why it’s extremely important to look ahead and understand the potential outcomes. The terms of a contract should address a lot of different things like what happens if the client files for bankruptcy or goes out of business, or for example, sells the company. Everything is possible and it’s important to be ready for it.
Authoring contracts. After you’ve laid out the general ideas it’s time to consult with an attorney or in-house counsel to draft a contract. The best idea is to use a template composed by your legal team. This way, you can make sure that all the necessary information is relevant, and all of the required terms are included. Additionally, pay attention to specific wording. Words provide a wide field for ambiguity, which leads to an interpretation that may not work in your favor. And of course, do not forget about state and federal laws. These play an especially important role when the parties are in different locations.
Contract negotiation. It’s the moment when you face your counterpart’s needs and desires. Transparency and trust are what you need here ( so it’s better to do some research first and anticipate the other party’s needs). When redlining contracts, you most likely can’t avoid using a contract management platform. This way, both parties can view and work on a document together in real-time.
The approval. Now that the most painful processes are past, it means it’s time to start finalizing the deal. For larger companies there are some extra steps; manager approvals or audit procedures that might be required before finalizing the deal. For instance, if your company has specific procurement policies, they have to be met before gaining approval for the contract.
Execution of the contract. The moment that is usually long anticipated for. This is when all of the parties agree and sign the contract. It’s the most straightforward part if you use an e-signature tool. Otherwise, making agreements across the country or the globe are nightmarish headaches. One of the biggest things to pay attention to when using an e-signature is to make sure it meats country regulations and is considered legally-binding.
Obligation management. Once everything is signed the process of ensuring that the signing parties are meeting their legal commitments begins. To better understand what that means, take a look at a few things that usually need to take place after a contract is executed; obligations of payment, delivery, quality of goods, etc. Contract obligations management ensures that contracting parties fulfill the obligations laid out in the agreement. Most companies today use special contract obligation management systems to make sure that a business deal is working per the mutual terms and conditions.
Amendments and revisions. A crucial part of the contract management process. Tracking all the changes in the contract is usually confusing and time-consuming. However, by automating the process, you can easily record and track any edits and add amendments. In this way, you stay ahead of all the changes and get the ability to respond quickly.
Auditing and reporting. Regular audits are a part of ensuring that all the obligations are met. A company determines what it wants to accomplish by examining the contract. For example, many companies are concerned about costs and going over budget, so they might want to investigate the contract for efficiency and potential redundancies. One of the primary purposes of conducting a contract audit is to identify potential issues and sort them out before they turn into more significant issues.
Contract renewal. The stage in the contract lifecycle when the contract is scheduled to expire. So the parties may renew their contract based on current terms, or renegotiate them and enter a new contract. Automatic renewals can save you time, but without a proper review, they put the deal at risk.
These processes are often long and even though they’re just a few points here in this article, in real life this lifecycle can take up to weeks, months and sometimes years depending on the project’s size. However, let’s see how streamlining the stages of contract management can be as simple and relaxing as drinking a morning cup of coffee.
The benefits of contract management automation
Now that you’ve learned about the typical process of a contract management lifecycle, it’s time to learn about the benefits of automating it.
High level of security
Paper documents are not safe. You can lose them, they can be stolen, damaged and easily tampered with. Contracts stored in the cloud are secured by encryption, data loss prevention, secure server locations, and file corruption prevention.
Platforms like airSlate encrypt user communications with the NSA developed SHA-256 encryption algorithm. This algorithm protects data transfers between users, or transfers between user and server, against external access. User documents are stored on Amazon S3 data centers located in the US.
Compliance with necessary regulations
Most of the time contract compliance appeals to rules or guidelines regarding and related to equal opportunity policies and regulations. For example, equal opportunity for employment without regard to age, gender, religion, disability, or national origin.
However, when you decide to use contract management systems you should also pay attention to the platform’s compliance measures. Ensure contract compliance by archiving and locating all of your contracts in a single, secure place. Analyze contracts with AI-powered widgets. Protect your contract’s information with HIPAA and GDPR compliant platforms.
With a contract management automation you greatly decrease the risk of mistakes in the contract. Avoid having to re-enter names, email addresses or numbers. With platforms like airSlate you can generate contracts automatically by populating fields in a contract template with data from CRM records, SQL databases or Excel/Google spreadsheets.
Negotiate contracts in real time
By automating contract management you can share a contract with business partners and let them easily redline and annotate your contract. In doing that, you get a chance to collaborate with your partners over large distances in a fraction of the time. Seeing all the changes to drafts and content becomes fast and simple while gaining the ability to record and retrieve data efficiently and accurately. The best part is, you get contracts approved in seconds not days or weeks. To execute digital contracts all a party has to do is add their e-signature and apply it to the necessary pages.
Connect your essential business tools
With automated contract management you can increase efficiency by collecting all your favorite tools in one place. Easily integrate with Salesforce, MS Dynamics 365, Google Suite, MS Office 365, Airtable and much more.
Automate actions with Bots
With business process automation platforms like airSlate you can automate repetitive actions with Bots, software robots that perform actions based on pre-set if-this-then-that conditions. Configure automation Bots to set notifications, send reminders, populate documents with CRM data, etc., for the purposes of automating your workflow to the fullest. Integration Bots allow you to integrate your workflow with the cloud services you’re already using and keep everything you need in one place. For instance, you can transfer data from CRMs, SQL databases, spreadsheets and other sources without any additional hassle.
Choosing the right contract management software is never an easy task. Everybody is trying to find a reasonable balance between: paying less and spending less time on setup & deployment.
The market for contract management software is reaching a peak in its development these days, with dozens of different solutions available. Analyzing the pros and cons of the market leaders carefully is the key to making the right decision.
So, let’s have a closer look at the list of contract management software that proves to be the best in contract management automation today.
An honest comparison of best contract management software
PandaDoc, for those already using Hubspot
One of the most well-known digital solutions on the market. It boasts a wide range of features, from an image library to e-signature and document analytics.
Variety of features and functions, intuitive e-signature tool, easy to use, integration with Hubspot.
The platform isn’t affordably convenient for teams and users complain about the learning curve and problems with the document search tool.
Nintex, powerful but costly
A powerful and globally known platform offering several smart solutions and supporting multiple languages. Nintex once started out as a process management solution, then turned into a much more complex platform.
Easy to configure, convenient mobile app, quick support and very helpful community forums.
Skyrocketing prices make Nintex unaffordable for many businesses, it only integrates with one CRM and many users complain it has a poor interface and a lot of error messages.
airSlate, advanced free plan and comfortable interface
To the best of our knowledge, airSlate is the most recent player on the market for contract management automation. The brand has been gradually developing for several years, from being a simple PDF editor, then to an e-signature tool, now to a full-cycle no-code business process automation platform.
A free subscription plan, free automation courses, e-signature tool, massive library of document templates, large library of automation and integration Bots, Support, powerful PDF editor, HIPAA & GDPR compliant.
The library of airSlate Bots is quite big and some users complain that finding the right Bot can be tricky.
Conga, hybrid and flexible
Conga is positioned on the market as a “hybrid contract lifecycle management solution,” thanks to its Salesforce-native applications.
Accurate document versioning, flexible customization, Salesforce users usually avoid Conga’s learning curve.
The pricing policy is rather mysterious (“Pricing built for your company”, whatever that means) and users complain there aren’t enough training opportunities to master Conga.
DocuSign CLM, affordable but confusing
SpringCM was acquired by DocuSign back in 2018 to become DocuSign’s CLM (Contract Lifecycle Management). The solution has multiple integrations, Salesforce being probably the most widely used.
High quality support, useful versioning and commenting features.
Setting up workflows is a lengthy and confusing process and syncing between mobile and desktop apps is glitchy.
Qwilr, for impressive presentations
The solution is oriented for sales and marketing processes within creative industries. It features a huge library of animations, pictures, colors and much more for creating visually appealing presentations.
Easily create and customize original content, powerful tools for visualization and analytics.
The free trial is only 14 days and after the basic package is $75 which might be a problem for smaller businesses, the interface is clunky and isn’t very flexible.
GetAccept, for initial proposal messaging
The company is proudly serving over 9500 companies worldwide. The solution primarily shapes the initial proposal and tracks it throughout the contract’s lifecycle.
Document e-signing, sending notifications and reminders, pre-saved templates.
Just like with Qwilr, the free trial period is only 14 days, limited integrations and 24/7 Support is only offered for with more expensive subscriptions.
And the reality is that this overview could be extended as the list of contract management software is growing every day. When choosing a solution that would be a perfect fit for your business, we recommend paying attention to the following three key points:
Pricing policy and free trial: Do they offer a free trial? How long is it? Is the pricing policy transparent and publicly available to all interested parties? How big is the price difference between a basic package and an advanced one? It’s important to remind yourself that your team will grow, so finding a solution that will grow with you rather than against you is important.
Is it really no-code or will you still need assistance from engineers during setup and configuration? Some solutions might look cheaper at first glance, however, if you need to pay extra to a freelance developer to set it up for you, the initial costs may grow significantly.
The presence of learning materials: Are those publicly available or only upon customer request? Are they free? How much time will you need to complete the course and master the product?
If you’re still at the early stage of searching for the perfect contract management software for your office, let’s figure out how it should actually work.
An automated contract management cycle should cover the entire process from creation to execution.
Below is an example of an automated contract management workflow.
Create a data-driven contract by uploading a .pdf, .docx or .jpeg, or use a document template from the platform’s form library. Modify it to a specific customer, add fillable fields, signature fields and checkboxes.
Add roles and assign fields and checkboxes to each role. Doing that ensures that certain roles (recipients) only complete what is intended for them. After that, share the contract with all involved parties for negotiation and redlining.
Adjust Bots to send notifications to all parties (recipients) so that everyone stays up-to-date in real time while commenting and redlining take place.
Send the contract for signing with a signing order and role-based actions to execute it.
Archive executed contracts automatically to the CRM or Cloud storage of your choice.
Every step is quick and simple. And there’s no chance you’ll miss any changes. While processing contracts with business automation platforms you can focus on primary issues and not waste hours and days on organizational, repetitive taks.
The main things to remember about contract management automation
Contract management software helps eliminate errors, negotiate contracts in real-time, increase contract visibility and the level of security. Basically it saves you time, money and helps you reach your business goals much faster.
Contracts are the heart of business relationships and revenue in a company. That’s why it’s critically important to give them as much attention and innovation as every other aspect of business. Today automation is playing a major role in business, and by implementing it to your contract management processes you’ll make the leap towards better and more systematic business development.
We hope this article will help you select the best software for contract management automation for your business.