Getting Started with Paperless Contracting in 2022

Is your workplace still wedded to old-fashioned physical contracts? The year 2022 is the right time to switch to paperless contracts. Do you know how to get started? It’s easier than you might think.

Key Takeaways

  • Paperless contracts replace old-fashioned physical contracts—and your existing manual workflow
  • Paperless contracting helps you standardize your contracts, improve your workflow, and reduce your costs
  • To get started with paperless contracts, begin by analyzing your current processes, gathering an internal team, identifying potential problems, and choosing and implementing a contract lifecycle management solution
  • When you implement a paperless system, start small, establish guidelines and responsibilities, train your staff, and learn to evaluate and adapt

What Is Paperless Contracting?

Paperless contracts are just as the name implies—contracts that exist without the benefit of ink and paper. A paperless contract is an electronic contract that exists as a digital paperless contract file. Paperless contracts are part and parcel of an automated contract lifecycle management (CLM) system. This solution is completely digital from start (contract initiation) to finish (contract execution and archiving). 

With an digital CLM system, such as the Premium CLM Platform from Contract Logix, the entire contract lifecycle exists in the cloud and is accessible from any device such as laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Ink never touches paper as the entire contract workflow is now electronic. 

How paperless contracting impacts the contract lifecycle

This digital-driven approach takes what was formerly a manual and often cumbersome system and automates it as follows:

  • Request and intake. All contract requests happen electronically, and the key information intake is via web-based intake forms. 
  • Initial draft. No one has to write a new contract from scratch. Requests made electronically become paperless contracts via digital contract templates that use standardized language and preapproved terms and conditions. 
  • Collaboration and redlining. Paperless contracts are routed electronically through the cloud using automated workflows. Everyone who has to see a contract is guaranteed to see it—and marks it up with electronic editing and redlining. 
  • Final reviews and approvals. Electronic workflow routing makes it easy for the right individuals, including your legal team, to give their final reviews and approvals of paperless contracts.
  • Signatures and execution. Paperless contracts don’t have to be printed out and signed. Instead, CLM systems use e-signatures to capture all the proper signatures and execute the contract. 
  • Deliverables tracking. All its key dates and deliverables follow when you enter a paperless contract into a digital CLM system. This enables the system to track all deliverables and automatically generate notifications and alerts of all upcoming due dates and other obligations.
  • Archiving and reporting. All paperless contracts are stored in a centralized digital contract repository that takes up less space and is more secure than physical filing cabinets. Archived paperless contracts are easy to search and access and feed into a robust reporting and analysis system.
  • Renewals and termination. CLM systems also track the end dates of paperless contracts and notify key parties when contracts are due to end. The electronic system can also analyze the performance of expiring contracts and recommend whether to renew, renegotiate, or let expire. 

How Can Your Workplace Benefit from Paperless Contracts?

Benefits of paperless contracting

Your organization can realize many benefits by switching to paperless contracting. The most significant include:

  • Easier contract creation
  • Standardized contract terms and language
  • Streamlined workflow
  • Faster and easier approvals
  • Easier search and retrieval (Ernst & Young reports that 90% of legal professionals have trouble locating traditional contracts
  • Fewer errors
  • Fewer missed deadlines
  • Improved compliance (57% of senior-level executives say regulatory compliance is one of their top priorities) 
  • Less paper = lower costs and increased security

How Can Your Workplace Get Started with Paperless Contract Files?

If you’re convinced that 2022 is the year to move to paperless contracting, how do you get started? There are a few key points to keep in mind.

Analyze Your Current Processes

Before you adopt something new, take a good look at your current contract processes. Look at what’s working well and what isn’t, then focus on those areas you most want to improve. 

Equally important, document your entire current process. You need to know how you’re doing something now, so you better map it to the new paperless system. Make sure nothing gets left out in the transition. 

Gather a Team

Implementing paperless contracting is not a one-person job. You need to assemble a cross-departmental, cross-discipline team to execute the change. This team will determine what you need in a paperless contracting system, evaluate potential CLM solutions, and implement the new software. The team should include members from all levels of the company, including senior management. Every department and every level of the organization needs to be involved. 

Identify Potential Problems Ahead of Time

Before your team implements the new solution, they should identify potential pain points. Where might the new system bog down? Where might you have difficulty transferring from the old to the new? What departments or individuals might resist the change or have trouble implementing it? The more you anticipate potential problems, the better you can deal with them before they become intractable. 

Implement a CLM Solution

The goal of your paperless transition team is to choose and implement a CLM solution. While you could try to go paperless on your own, there are too many variables and complexities to make that a feasible approach. It’s better to partner with a company like Contract Logix, which has helped thousands of companies like yours with paperless contracting. They know what to look for and how to prepare for all contingencies. 

Start Small

You don’t have to force your entire organization into the new system all at once. You probably shouldn’t. It’s better to install the system in a single department or location as a test, then learn from that experience before you roll it out to the entire business. This lets you work out all the bugs before everyone goes paperless.

Establish Guidelines and Responsibilities

Part of moving to a paperless contract system is establishing guidelines and responsibilities for the use of the system. Who in your organization has permission to initiate a new contract? Who is responsible for the intake process? Who needs to review your contracts? Who needs to give final approval? Who has access to contracts both in-process and archived? You need to determine all of this ahead of time and ensure those individuals are part of the implementation process. 

Train the Staff

A CLM system is something new and different for your staff to deal with. They’re used to handling contracts the old way and won’t automatically know how the new system works. You must train all employees using the system and have support available once you press the go button. 

Evaluate and Adapt

The job of implementing paperless contracts doesn’t stop the day you fire up a CLM solution. You need to evaluate how the new system works, identify any problem areas, and adapt to how things function. You’ll discover additional ways to improve your processes and learn how to fix those areas that aren’t performing to expectations. Going paperless is a gradual process and a learning process, but one that is worth the effort. 

Turn to Contract Logix When You Want to Go Paperless

If you’re still dealing with paper contracts, the experts at Contract Logix can help you go paperless. Our CLM Platform is an easy-to-use solution that automates every step of the contract workflow, replacing your old manual processes with an all-digital, all-paperless system. Once you go paperless with Contract Logix, you’ll wonder how you did it any other way. 

Contact Contract Logix today to learn more about paperless contracting.

Looking for more articles about Contract Management? Check out our previous article “How to Drive Effective Collaborative Contract Management“.