As a business attorney for over 30 years, I think I have a very different view of “contract management” than most non-attorneys. When I started my law career, the personal computer was in its infancy, especially in the legal world. We managed contracts for our clients as part of our, especially for smaller and medium-sized businesses. Keeping up with our clients’ contracts allowed us to keep up with our clients. Management was done primarily by hand. We did this through the use of word processors (and typewriters), calendars (ye old tickler system) and intricate filing systems (clients, documents and terms), meticulously maintained and adhered to throughout the life of each contract and each client.
Today, if you are not using software to help create, manage and maintain your contracts, you cannot compete with your competitors. The development of database and enterprises software took the management of contracts in house and provided real-time information where it belonged in the management of your business. The storing of client and customer data which can be used over and over again for each contract created provides quick and vital turnaround to closing deals. I remember traveling with a client to a trade show back when laptop computers were starting to be used, and I had developed a document production merge system for Wordperfect which allowed me to create tailored-made agreements. That ability provided my client with the edge they needed. We were able to complete several contracts in two days beating my client’s competitors to the punch.
Necessary contract management software doesn’t give you an edge, and it is required to maintain a balance. If you want to be better than your competition, you want your software to be flexible, customizable and easy to use. Most contract management software will provide you with the basics of maintaining and accessing contract information. However, the better contract management system, the one that provides you with a competitive edge will do more. It provides not only your IT with the ability to track and monitor your contracts, it gives your (i) Legal department with the ability to create, negotiate, execute, manage and audit your agreements; (ii) Sales with the ability to close deals quickly and efficiently; (iii) Finance with easy access to financial information and contract valuation for planning and forecasting; (iv) Procurement with information for proper planning and budgeting; and (v) Human resources with the necessary information to properly manage your businesses’ staffing needs. You need contract management software that helps you create, negotiate and execute agreements; then use those agreements to provide tools throughout your enterprise to help you and your clients to succeed. That is what gives you the edge.
In conclusion, contract management has come a long way from my old tickler and filing system. But it is essential that each business understands the potential of this information and uses it in a way that provides it with a competitive edge. Find software, that not only notifies you when your contracts need to be renegotiated or when insurance certificates need to re-issued but find software that will provide you with the tools that give you the information to succeed.
Jack J. Vultaggio, Jr., J.D.