5 Key Steps to Selecting a Contract Management System
In previous artivles, we have discussed why Excel is not enough for contract management and why email is not a replacement for contract management software. Once management at a company realizes the benefits of adopting a contract management system, the next question is: “how do I make sure to choose the best one?”
Not all contract management systems are alike, but it all comes down to doing your due diligence, setting the right expectations for your employees, and being prepared beyond implementation. The following articles provides 5 key steps to select a contract management system.
Editor’s Note: Read our article on What is Contract Management Software to learn more.
1. Evaluation of End Users
Before you start using search engines to look up contract management systems, you need to do some initial research within your ranks. Just as you knew your desired storage size, processing power, and operating system before you started browsing laptops, you need to determine the needs of your end users before browsing contract management systems.
A key first step is to start by defining what is the right system for your particular business needs. For example, you may look for a system that not only facilitates data entry but also helps to keep an audit trail and document history for meeting compliance requirements. Gather an initial list of evaluation criteria that includes the input from as many end users as possible.
2. Involvement of Key Staff
Once you have your long list of system requirements, it is time to scrub it down a bit. Select a committee made of key decision makers from every department. Make sure to go beyond the IT department because you need to have the buy-in of all end users.
If you don’t involve as many departments as possible since the start, it’s going to be very hard to convince staff that the selected system is truly the right one. While professional networks, trade shows, and corporate sites offer good information about contract management systems, contract managers strongly believe that their peers and colleagues provide the most clear, unbiased information.
Having key staff from each department scrubbing down the list to the essential features will make it easier to convince the finance department that the selected system is worth the investment. Thus, speeding up the approval process.
3. Distribution of Information
There are some criteria that require special attention. This is one of the first three criteria that should be included in any list. Most companies have a very explicit way of doing things. The company culture determines methods of how critical information gets to the people that need it.
Your contract management system should reflect how your company does things. Generally, companies look for systems that increase access to all staff. However, it is also important that the system allows for setting different levels of access.
A survey from the IACCM reveals that staff often requests systems that provide the sales force access to contract data, send renegotiation or renewal alerts to the procurement department, send automated insurance expiration alerts to on-site project managers, and provide key rebate details to relationship managers.
Make sure to find out the specific information distribution needs of your contract managers.
4. Technical Compatibility
This is where your IT department plays a major role. Your committee needs people that can understand the technical details involved with each option. Nothing is worse than fully committing to a contract management system and, then finding out, that it is not fully compatible with existing legacy systems.
“Integration hacks” provide subpar deployments, make budgets go bust, and increase the chances of vendor lock-in. Make sure to establish a clear technical evaluation framework and designate a person that has the technical knowledge to use.
5. Support and Training
Last but not least, never choose a company that has a history of poor user training and support. Remember that any company can make a lot of promises before you sign a contract. It is up to you to do your due diligence.
First, request references from your potential vendor. Set up meetings or calls with those references so that you can find out more about how an implementation truly is. These meetings may provide you valuable information on how to prepare for system deployment. Second, include clauses in your service agreement that establish the terms for support and training that you find acceptable. Also, remember to include what type of remedies are provided in case those terms are not met by your service provider.
These 5 important steps represent a methodical process, and yet, it’s an essential path to making best decision when selecting a contract management system.