Last updated on May 9th, 2020 at 08:33 am
A completely paperless contract approval system offers incredible advantages for your business. It’s even more advantageous in the middle of a situation like the COVID-19 pandemic. Many businesses must make a fast transition to remote work so they can provide a high quality of service to their customers. By transferring to a paperless contract approval system for remote workers, you:
Make it easier for your employees to access vital information.
Remote employees don’t have the luxury of walking down the hall to go through a paper file. Instead, they need to be able to access that information from home. They also need to be able to move quickly, without waiting for paper documentation, to make it easier for them to complete vital work tasks.
Streamline contract approval processes.
Using paper contract approvals for remote workers can substantially slow down your contract approval process. This will make it harder for you to get the documents your customers, vendors, and subcontractors need in their hands. You might have to physically mail papers back and forth or deal with the need to print and scan documents. With a paperless system, on the other hand, each member of the team can instantly access needed information.
Prevent potential roadblocks due to shelter-in-place orders.
Shelter-in-place orders mean that you can’t sit down with a client, vendor, or subcontractor to get your documents signed. You can, however, send those documents via the internet. You can move them through your contract approval process without ever having to come into contact with other people.
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Enable easier collaboration between remote workers.
Dealing with paper contracts can make it difficult for remote workers to collaborate with one another on contracts, terms, and implementation. You may not be sure that everyone is dealing with the same document. You might have to scramble to make sure everyone has a copy of the relevant documentation. With remote, paperless contract approval and management, on the other hand, all your employees can easily access the documents they need.
Many businesses already have a solid contract management system in place. But it’s one that, at best, requires a few adjustments to make it possible for them to make the shift to remote, paperless contract management. Others, however, may find themselves starting from scratch as they make the shift to remote work for their employees. Follow these steps to make the transition to a paperless contract approval system for your business and your remote workers.
1. Use a cloud storage solution for your contracts and related documents.
Cloud storage offers several clear advantages for a remote team. If you’ve been using a physical storage system or storing your contracts on a local network, it can pose many challenges when most of the team shifts to a remote environment. Using cloud-based contract management software, on the other hand, will:
Allow all employees to easily access all the information they need to accomplish their business tasks.
Sales teams need to be able to access sales templates and other information about those contracts. Implementation teams also need ready access to information about deliverables and contact information. Despite roadblocks like shelter-in-place orders, your employees need to be able to access that information on the go.
Maintain awareness of the current version of each contract.
Thanks to cloud storage, you can keep up with all versions of each contract within your contract management system. This includes making it easy for all employees to access the current version of those documents quickly.
Allow multiple employees to work on the same document without the need to save multiple copies.
Cloud contract management solutions substantially improve collaboration in a remote environment.
2. Create clear policies governing remote access for your paperless contract approval system.
You may need to create new policies to govern remote access to your contracts and other related documents — including how contracts will move through the approval process during this time. Remote contract approval processes may look very different from the physical approvals your employees handled in the past, as may your process for creating new contracts or implementing current ones. Your policies should include:
Who can access specific contracts or specific processes.
Your sales team, for example, might need to access new sales templates to allow them to create those new contracts effectively. But your legal team may not need to create contract templates directly. In the rush to go remote, you may not properly assign permissions within your contract management software. As soon as possible, go back and check those permissions to ensure that team members do not have access to secure information they shouldn’t be able to see.
How you’ll handle electronic signatures.
Electronic signatures carry just as much weight as physical signatures, but you still need to manage and control those documents. What does your e-signature policy currently look like? Does it need to change as you make the shift to remote work, especially in response to an emergency situation?
What processes you’ll put in place to allow management to monitor contract approval.
You may need to put more effort into monitoring contract approval processes and ensuring that your contracts are approved in a timely manner. Throughout a crisis that mandates a shift to remote work, you want your contractual partners to know that your business is still operating as efficiently as possible. That includes ensuring that you do not fall behind on contract approvals. Clearly set forth policies governing how you will handle monitoring those contracts to ensure that you don’t miss anything important along the way.
3. Set up reminders and workflows in your paperless contract approval system.
As your company makes the shift to remote work, you also need to make the reminders and workflows your business uses every day virtually. You may already have clear workflows as your contracts move through their pipeline, but you might not have taken the time to clearly set out those workflows in a way that your employees can view at need. As you make the shift to remote work, make sure you put those reminders and workflows into the system. You might, for example, want to automatically move your contracts on to the next phase of the approval process. Alternatively, you might want to set up reminders that let employees know if a contract has spent too much time sitting in their queue. You may also want to consider:
Contract templates can provide your sales team with more autonomy and enable them to create contracts that are more likely to be approved as they make their way through the paperless contract approval system. Your contract templates should set out standard terms and the potential terms your business might be willing to accept, including ranges for things like cost. Your contract management system can also put checks and balances in place that will prevent a contract from being created or approved that is outside the acceptable range for your business.
Do you already have contract templates in your system? Are you making the shift to remote work in response to a disaster like the COVID-19 pandemic? If so, then you may want to revisit your contract templates to make sure they reflect the current needs of your business and your customers. You may, for example, want to include clauses that will designate how you’ll handle potential future social distancing measures. Alternatively, you might want to change your payment terms in light of the current crisis.
Now, more than ever, you do not want to expose your business to unnecessary risk. You may want to implement a contract scoring system that identifies any potential dangers or risks to your business related to your business. Contract scoring can identify potential compliance risks. It can also identify excessively large orders or contracts that could damage your business if you cannot meet the terms. Check your contract scoring in the light of your shift to remote work. Then determine whether you need to make any changes to that system moving forward.
Your existing customers, vendors, and subcontractors are every bit as important as the new ones. In many cases, they’re even more important. You don’t want to let those contracts slip through the cracks, even if your work may have slowed down or your priorities may have shifted during this time. Make sure your workflows include early reminders about contract renewals to give you plenty of time to take care of those tasks. You may also want to consider what new information needs to be included in future renewals.
4. Search out potential bottlenecks ahead of time.
Bottlenecks can slow down your contract approvals and implementations. The shift to remote work can create new bottlenecks in a system that previously flowed smoothly. Alternatively, it can emphasize bottlenecks in your existing system as it slows things down even further. Consider any potential issues that could slow down contract approval. Also, work out any issues that might prevent you from approving your contracts effectively.
Bottlenecks might include:
Overworked employees with too much on their plate.
Some employees may struggle to keep up with their work when they’re in the office. Making the move to remote work can present even more challenges — especially during situations like the current shelter-in-place order, which could mean that employees are working from home with spouses and children. Identify employees with too much on their plate and look for ways to alleviate those burdens to help get your contracts approved faster.
Employees who do not understand how to use the paperless contract approval system.
As you make the shift to remote work, it’s critical that all of your employees know how to use your contract management system effectively. Provide training as you move into a period of remote work. Also, check in with employees throughout that period to ensure that they know how to use your new paperless contract approval system effectively.
Reminders not getting sent at the right times.
Without reminders, employees may not even realize that they have a contract awaiting their approval. Make sure your contract management system includes the reminders your employees need to keep those contracts top of mind. With this preventative step, they won’t slow down the contract approval process.
5. Check the search and storage features in your paperless contract approval system.
Make remote work as easy on your employees as possible. They need to be able to search for information within your contract database easily. Your employees need to be able to easily access the information they need about your contracts. This is vital whether they’re searching for a particular standard term or seeking more information about a specific client. A better system can help you:
Institute a clear naming system.
Employees should find it easy to locate a specific contract within your database. A good, standardized nomenclature system will help.
Make sure all your contracts are housed in a centralized repository.
If you have multiple businesses under the same parent company or your business has recently acquired a new company, you may need to take the time to centralize your contract management solutions. Migrating to a single contract repository will make it easier for your employees to locate those vital contracts.
Check your search feature.
Make sure the search feature works efficiently. Conduct a few searches and making sure that it pulls up the right documents. If you notice problems with your search feature, contact your contract management software provider.
Making the shift to remote work can pose challenges, especially when it comes to instituting a paperless contract management system. With these strategies, however, you can ensure that your employees and your customers can continue doing business. This can help you continue operations during a crisis. It may also make it easier for you to manage remote employees. If you need a more robust paperless contract approval system and contract management software to make the switch, try ContraxAware free for seven days.