How to Encourage Consensus in Contract Management
Nothing undermines contract management processes more than a lack of cohesiveness on what the final product should look like. This is often the result of negotiations that focus on the needs of a small group of stakeholders, rather than on those of an organization as a whole.
While the challenges faced by organizations may vary, there are some issues that appear in most industries. By focusing on these five activities, your organization can achieve better consensus throughout its contract lifecycle.
1. Include Representatives from Key Internal Groups
To draft a contract that includes clauses for all possible situations, it is critical to receive input from all stakeholders. For example, your company should go beyond the legal and financial departments and include a representative from the IT team. Even though a top-level manager may be knowledgeable of the latest technologies, he or she may not have the holistic view of an IT employee:
- Are the applications compatible with legacy systems that are still used extensively throughout the enterprise?
- Do the warranties properly address system requirements from all departments?
- Do the schedule of fees include fees for maintenance routines?
- What is the cost of future upgrades?
Make sure to include representatives from each department so that you have a higher probability of addressing all commercial, operational, technical, and financial aspects of a contract.
2. Establish the Contract Lifecycle in Collaboration
A common problem from members of contract management team is that they are unsure of what are the steps of the process. They may be overlooking unintentionally certain processes because there is no charter that details them.
The solution is the use of an enterprise contract management system that allows you to build a custom contract lifecycle. This type of software simplifies the organization and tracking of your contract documents and data by automating sophisticated workflow processes. The contract lifecycle becomes visible to everybody and facilitates an understanding of requirements and next steps.
Look for a solution that allows you to customize processes, capture data in several formats, and stage mission critical objectives.
3. Share Objectives With the Other Party
While the two previous activities focused on your organization, you also need to think about the people across from you at the negotiation table. If your team works without any consideration for the objectives of the other party, then it may often ran into negotiation standoffs.
Contract processes that get stuck often end up never seeing the light. Encourage your contract management team to share goals with external stakeholders and gather the objectives of those external stakeholders. By having a clear idea of the specific goals of both parties, everybody has a better chance to find common ground and establish targeted collaborations.
4. Encourage Communication
A common obstacle to achieving consensus is the lack of active communication throughout the contract lifecycle.
- Don’t wait until the monthly or quarterly meeting to address issues. Set up in your contract management system brainstorming sessions to prepare for important meetings ahead of time.
- Use automated emails that alert team members of upcoming tasks and remind them of the objectives from both parties.
- Set up additional meeting times for discussions that only involve two people. If you have a room full of people, you cannot waste their time.
- Make sure to provide a back-up point of contact in case a team member becomes sick, is out of the office, or is unresponsive for a long time.
- Take the time to celebrate achievements and progress. By focusing only on the problems, you promote disengagement and lack of collaboration because nobody is acknowledged for their hard work.
5. Focus Early on Renewals
There are two main reasons why renewals are important. First, there are great opportunities to address pain points that resulted from miscalculations from either party. This exercise builds trust between both parties and encourages further collaboration.
Second, addressing renewals is necessary to prevent erroneous assumptions and preventable costs. Remember that a renewal date may coincide with a fiscal budget review or other important milestone and may pass completely undetected. An unintended renewal is a costly mistake that hinders trust and creates obstacles for future negotiations.
Your organization can achieve better consensus throughout its contract lifecycle by including representatives from key internal groups, establishing the contract lifecycle in collaboration, sharing objectives with the other party, encouraging communication, and focusing early on renewals.