Enhancing Contract Usability Through Visualization

Contracts are complex just like the same business relationships, processes and projects they seek to describe. Even though they are essential parts of businesses, contracts are a common source of frustration for all parties involved in them. Particularly, paper based contracts make the contract management process overly complicated and difficult to understand. The exclusive use of paper contracts creates an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality that promotes a lack of visibility and  accountability.

In a recent study from Stefania Passera titled “Enhancing Contract Usability and User Experience Through Visualization – An Experimental Evaluation”, the researcher explored the possibility of using information design and visualization to facilitate knowledge transfer and collaboration in complex contracts. In order to make contracts more usable, you need to use terms that make sense between your team members so that they can process what they are reading at a much faster rate.

Passera and her team created a contract prototype and tested it with users, in order to assess whether visualized contracts are more usable and provide a better user experience than traditional contracts. Throughout the project, the researcher involved the team members in a series of interviews and workshops to analyze the different stages of the contract process. Constant input from the end of the users was necessary for the success of the enhanced contracts.

The end result was a visual connection of all the elements of the contracts and how they interact with each other. Also, most of the clauses were highlighted in different, yet consistent, ways so that the users could have a better understanding of what key pieces of data to pay attention to. Passera and her team found that using better design techniques (e.g. highlighting key terms, using flow charts, using better naming conventions) created better contract usability.

Application of Visualization in Contract Management Software

The researcher argues that visualization helps reducing the typical frustration that many readers often experience when working with complex contracts. This visualization process is important when implementing a new contract management system because it can be a difficult task for any company. It is necessary to work with a dedicated team of consultants and system specialists that will provide you detailed, customer focused services throughout implementation.

If we expect employees to experience more confidence and work satisfaction when working with contracts, then it is important to involve them in the visualization process from the start. You need to complete a formal assessment of your team’s needs and business objectives. During this assessment, capture key information about your infrastructure, data requirements, and other needs depending on your industry and volume of activity.

By selecting a contract management system vendor that has hundreds of software deployments under their belts, you can insure that the implementation will go smoothly. Look for a company that provides customization and development services that give you the ultimate in flexibility to meet every need and demand of your team.

Making Contracts More Visible

A powerful example of how to make contracts more visible example is the setting of email alerts for key contract milestone dates so that employees can keep better track of necessary action steps much easily and prioritize accordingly. Look for an enterprise contract management system that has this feature because it will help in developing a staff that will have a much clearer expectation of what  is needed from them. In a proper contract management system, every contract becomes a training opportunity as the system keeps tracks of the history of alarms sent. This history can be used as powerful pool of “what if” scenarios. You can train your staff how to react to specific email alerts and what action steps are expected.

Another feature that helps make contracts more visible is the ability to quickly route documents for approval to one or multiple parties simultaneously. By conveniently viewing and receiving approval updates of how stakeholders approve, approve with changes, or reject documents, the contract processes become a much more active conversation that is trackable in real time. There is no way you could have achieved this in a paper based system.