Buying contract management software (CMS) is not like buying other office software. You need to find the right match for your existing contract management practices, and that is compatible with your existing software systems. \n\n\n\nThe right CMS for your organization will solve your current contract management pain points without creating new problems. \n\n\n\nProcess Overview\n\n\n\nIf you want to make the best investment for your company, you need a thorough purchasing process. The process needs to strike the right balance between cursory and exhaustive. If you rush the process, you increase the chances of making a mistake. But, if you take too long, you increase the chances of your overworked contract management team making a critical mistake. \n\n\n\nChoosing the right CMS for your business is a five-step process:\n\n\n\nInternal ResearchExternal ResearchEvaluationFinalistsPurchase\n\n\n\nSkipping any step will mean making a mission-critical purchasing decision without all of the right information. Each step in this process is broken down into smaller milestones to help you efficiently make the right choice. \n\n\n\nInternal Research\n\n\n\nBefore spending time evaluating all of the different CMS products on the market, you need to understand what your needs are. During this step, you will develop the standards you will use to evaluate the different features of the various CMS products you will come across. \n\n\n\nThe internal research phase can be broken down into these steps:\n\n\n\n\u2022 Evaluating your current contract management process\n\u2022 Understanding your biggest pain points\n\u2022 Choosing between open source or proprietary software\n\u2022 Create a budget\n\u2022 Create a checklist and a wishlist\n\n\n\nWhat is Your Current Contract Management Process?\n\n\n\nCMS is a tool to make your contract management process more efficient. While almost every product comes with a basic set of features, it\u2019s impossible to decide what features you need until you understand your current contract management process.\n\n\n\nIf you are hoping to radically change your contract management process with the addition of CMS, you need to design the new process before making any purchasing decisions. \n\n\n\nCMS is not a contract management department in a box. It is a powerful tool, but it is only as effective as the users wielding it. You will want a CMS that fits into your existing workflows as much as possible. \n\n\n\nUnderstanding Your Biggest Pain Points\n\n\n\nOnce you understand what your contract management process is, you need to identify the areas that are causing you the most problems. \n\n\n\nYou need as much clarity as possible on what problems you are seeking to solve with software. By identifying your biggest pain points, you will make the external research much easier. You will be able to instantly identify software that claims to solve your issues. \n\n\n\nCommon pain points include outdated manual filing systems, difficulty finding contracts and supporting documents, inability to perform advanced analytics on your contract data.\n\n\n\nOpen Source vs. Proprietary Software\n\n\n\nThe CMS world is divided into two parts. There is open-source software and proprietary software. You will need to decide early on what type of software is best for your company. \n\n\n\nOpen-source software is usually free to license. It is completely customizable. However, you will have to invest money in hiring programmers to create customization. You will also need to devote IT resources to the security and maintenance of the open-source CMS. There is no customer support for open-source software.\n\n\n\nMany companies find that an open-source CMS is more expensive over the lifetime of the product than proprietary CMS. \n\n\n\nCMS software is sold as a software as a service (SaaS) business model. Every proprietary product has a different set of features. It is usually less flexible than open-source software, so it is important to choose a CMS that fits your needs out of the box.\n\n\n\n Get online in minutes, implement in hours, realize ROI in weeks! Easy-to-use, helps you increase productivity, contracts & revenue. Available anywhere, anytime & on any device.Try a Free Demo today! \n\n\n\nMost CMS is cloud-based and can be hosted on the provider\u2019s server or on yours. Proprietary software usually includes regular maintenance, security updates, and customer support. \n\n\n\nAnother key difference is that proprietary software has an onboarding process to get your company set up and running. You have to run your own onboarding with open-source software. \n\n\n\nSet a Budget\n\n\n\nYou need to know how much money you have to spend on CMS. CMS comes in a variety of different price points. Many CMS vendors also have several different plans that they offer. \n\n\n\nYour budget will help you screen out products that are too expensive. \n\n\n\nCreate a Checklist and a Wish List\n\n\n\nThe last step in your internal research is to make two lists. You want a checklist of essential items that the CMS must-have. These are non-negotiables. The contents of this list will come from your review of your existing contract management process and your biggest pain points. \n\n\n\nThe other list you make will be a wishlist. This will include features you would like in your CMS, but that are not deal-breakers. Your budget, your checklist, and your wishlist will help you make the right CMS choice for your organization\u2019s unique situation. \n\n\n\nExternal Research\n\n\n\nOnce you have completed your internal research, it\u2019s time to go out into the marketplace and perform your external research. One mistake many companies make at this stage is to collect as much information as they can about as many different products as possible. This leads to analysis paralysis. \n\n\n\nThere is too much information available to sift through it all. Instead, you want to use your lists and budget to guide you so that only research CMS that meets your minimum requirements. \n\n\n\nDuring the external research phase, you want to examine:\n\n\n\n\u2022 The content of the vendor\n\u2022 Key features\n\u2022 Pricing options\n\u2022 Onboarding\n\u2022 Support & Maintenance\n\u2022 Security\n\n\n\nWhile many vendors will want to encourage you to demo their products, your time is better spent in this phase evaluating the products based on their online marketing materials. Once you have a smaller set of possibilities, you will want to demo the products before selecting your finalists. \n\n\n\n Content Review\n\n\n\nCMS vendors want to make the purchasing process as easy as possible. This is great news for you. Your first step as you research different products and providers should be to review the content the companies produce. \n\n\n\nThis content may include blog posts, webinars, white papers, and free reports. This content will help you learn about the different focuses and philosophies of the different vendors. \n\n\n\nYou will find that the content from some vendors turns you off. You can eliminate these vendors from consideration right away. You will also find that some content \u201cspeaks\u201d to you. This is an indication that this vendor is more closely aligned to your needs and business style than others in the marketplace.\n\n\n\nYou don\u2019t need to review all of the content every company produces. You should spend your time reviewing the content that seems the most interesting and relevant to your business. \n\n\n\nWhile you cannot make a purchasing decision based solely on content, you can learn a lot about your options and what types of companies are the best fit for your business. \n\n\n\nFeatures\n\n\n\nYou will want to focus on the differences in features between the different CMS providers. You also want to see what the differences are in the most common features they offer. \n\n\n\nA features list will be most helpful in eliminating vendors from contention. Use your checklist and do not waste time on any vendors that do not offer everything on your list. \n\n\n\nSome common features you will want to take the time to learn more about include:\n\n\n\n\u2022 Reporting & Analytics\n\u2022 Cloud-Based\n\u2022 Organizational Structure\n\n\n\nYou want to make sure that the reporting and analytics function is easy to use and that the reports you need most are among the reports supported by the software. You may need to send an email to get more details about the reporting and analytics features. \n\n\n\nCloud-based can mean several different things. You want to know if the software is hosted on the vendor\u2019s server or if it can also be hosted on your own servers. You will want to know about server downtime and the speed of the cloud server. \n\n\n\nYou want to make sure that the CMS you purchase will have the right organizational structure for your company. One of the most valuable features is the ability to assign searchable tags to contracts and documents. This will allow you to find contracts by company name, region, execution date, expiration date, or any criteria that are critical to your business. \n\n\n\nPricing Options\n\n\n\nYou can\u2019t overlook the price. You will want to understand early on how much the CMS will cost. You want to understand what is included in the price, how the price is structured, and if there are different pricing plans.\n\n\n\nSome pricing questions you will want to ask include:\n\n\n\n\u2022 Is there a seat license?\n\u2022 Is there a charge for additional support?\n\u2022 Can you cancel at any time?\n\u2022 What is the billing process?\n\n\n\nOnboarding\n\n\n\nCMS has a learning curve. You want to make sure that any software has a thorough onboarding process. Some onboarding questions you will need to have answered include:\n\n\n\n\u2022 How does the onboarding process work?\n\u2022 Do they provide technical help uploading the existing contracts to the CMS?\n\u2022 Is additional training available?\n\u2022 How long does onboarding typically take?\n\n\n\nSupport & Maintenance\n\n\n\nIf you are dealing with a proprietary CMS, you want to understand what their maintenance and support practices are. If you are looking at an open-source CMS, you will need to design your own maintenance and support system.\n\n\n\nMost proprietary CMS vendors do not charge for maintenance, and they automatically update the software. \n\n\n\nOne of the major differentiators will be supported. You want to know if you will have access to quick solutions when you have a problem. \n\n\n\nNever lose a contract again! Work more effectively, increase your revenue, centralize & secure your contracts. Available anywhere, anytime & on any device.Get your Free Demo today! \n\n\n\nSecurity\n\n\n\nEvery company, regardless of size, is now a potential target for hackers. If you are using open-source software, you face additional security risks. You will need to develop a plan to keep your data safe.\n\n\n\nIf you are going to purchase a proprietary CMS, you need to know how they plan on keeping your data safe. Security should include encryption and a reliable username and password system. You will also want to know if you can set different levels of permissions in the software so that users can only access data they have authorization for. \n\n\n\nEvaluation\n\n\n\nThe next step in the process is to evaluate your favorite CMS vendors. Now is the time to collect as much information as possible about a handful of vendors. \n\n\n\nWhen evaluating your options, you will want to:\n\n\n\n\u2022 Demo the product\n\u2022 Review your checklist\n\u2022 Review your wishlist\n\u2022 Evaluate your budget\n\n\n\nDemo\n\n\n\nThere is no substation for actually using the software. When you are evaluating different CMS, you will want to pay attention to how easy the software is to use, how visually appealing it is, and how fast the software is.\n\n\n\nYou will also want to be evaluating the provider. Is the salesperson knowledgeable? Do they listen to your questions and concerns? Did the demo start on time? Problems with the way the demo is conducted could be red flags. You aren\u2019t just buying the software. You are buying a relationship.\n\n\n\nReview Checklist\n\n\n\nAt this point, you should only be looking at CMS that ticks off every box on your checklist. Now, you want to evaluate which products do the best job with each item on your checklist. Don\u2019t settle. You want the CMS that is the best fit for your business. \n\n\n\nReview Wish List\n\n\n\nOne way to differentiate the products is by which ones not only meet all the items on your checklist but also meet all the items on your wishlist. You want to choose CMS that thrills you, not one that just barely does the job. \n\n\n\nBudget Evaluation\n\n\n\nYou will need to make sure you have the budget for the CMS you like the best. It\u2019s important to make sure you fully understand all of the different pricing options. When performing the budget evaluation, you need to consider:\n\n\n\n\u2022 Initial Costs\n\u2022 Ongoing Costs\n\u2022 Cost of Doing Nothing\n\n\n\nThe initial cost of open source software is often thought of as zero. But, while the license will be free, you will have to pay to have the software customized to your needs, or you will need to spend internal IT resources on the project. The initial cost for proprietary software will vary depending on the vendor and your needs. \n\n\n\nWith open-source software, the ongoing costs are usually significantly more than with proprietary software, once you price in security and maintenance. Proprietary software has predictable ongoing costs that include support, security, and maintenance. \n\n\n\nYou also need to understand what the cost of doing nothing is. You may not find the perfect CMS. But, one that is almost perfect may be far superior to your existing system when you factor in the cost of doing nothing. \n\n\n\nFinalists\n\n\n\nAfter evaluating your options, you need to select a few finalists. The finalists will go through more vetting, and you will then present the finalists to the decision-maker or to the contract management group. The purpose of this part of the process is to get some additional feedback. \n\n\n\nThe number of finalists you choose is up to you, but you most companies get the best results with two or three finalists. This makes it easier to drill down into the minutiae of each product. It also allows you to compare and contrast the products and vendors. \n\n\n\nAn essential part of the process is presenting your findings. Even if you are the decision-maker for this purchase, you should still present the finalists a few people who will need to use the software. \n\n\n\nMaking a presentation has a way of focusing your thinking. Getting feedback from other people may reveal problems with your finalists that you missed. \n\n\n\nAfter the presentation you should ask yourself:\n\n\n\n\u2022 How easy was it for you to make the case for each one?\n\u2022 Which software vendor made it easiest for you to present?\n\u2022 Imagine how each option being chosen would make you feel\nAnswering these questions will help you make a final decision or recommendation. \n\n\n\nPurchase\n\n\n\nThe final step in the process is making the actual purchase. However, there is more to this step than just handing over the company credit card. In addition to purchasing your chosen CMS, you will also need to:\n\n\n\n\u2022 Schedule Onboarding\n\u2022 Ask All of Your Questions\n\u2022 Notify Others\n\n\n\nYou want to get the onboarding process started as soon as possible. Make sure you get the first part of the onboarding scheduled as soon after the initial commitment as possible. \n\n\n\nThe moment when you are ready to hand over money is also a great time to make sure you have asked all of your questions. You will have the full attention of the sales team. Now is the best time to make sure you have resolved all of your doubts. \n\n\n\nDuring the selection process, you probably were in contact with several salespeople, and you may have subscribed to numerous mailing lists. Let other vendors that you have been in close contact with know you have made a selection. \n\n\n\nThis keeps them from wasting your time, and the salespeople will also appreciate you respecting their time. \n\n\n\nYou should also unsubscribe to any CMS mailing lists that are no longer relevant.\n\n\n\nOnce you have selected the perfect CMS for your business, it\u2019s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. The right CMS will transform the way you think about what\u2019s possible with contract management.