Last updated on May 9th, 2020 at 08:52 am
Metadata is key for organizing contracts (and lots of other things, too). Understanding contract metadata and how to use it will save you a lot of time when it comes to dealing with contracts, especially if you have a large stack of them. ContraxAware lets you use metadata more intuitively than ever before — and that’s only one of the dozens of features our contract management system has to offer.
What Is Metadata?
The basic definition of metadata is data that describes other data. Recursive, right? It’s actually fairly easy to understand when you look at some examples. For example, the author of a file is data about the file, so it’s metadata. Contract authoring users, approvers, signatories, even the date of signature… These bits of information are all types of metadata.
Metadata is often encountered in terms of web pages. Metadata is expressed as metatags, which are then trawled by search engines. They allow a website to show up in searches, even if the relevant text isn’t on the page. Metatags can also determine things like relevance. A contract management database collects contract metadata about various documents and fields.
What Kind of Contract Metadata Does a Contract Management System Collect?
A CLM system such as ContraxAware will collect a variety of metadata as a contract and its associated documents go through the system. Some examples of metadata are:
- Contract author (the person who put the contract together)
- When the contract was created
- Whether it is a third-party contract or from one of your templates
- Customer or vendor data
- The user a task or workflow is assigned to
- Product specifications
- Custom fields
- Document version (for revision tracking)
- The user a document is assigned to for approval/signature
- Dates, such as deadlines, workflow deadlines, milestones, and contract length
- The type of contract
- The user group that has access to the contract
- Contract outcome, once it is known
- Contract score
All of this is metadata. Everyone in your company can use it in a variety of ways, not just your contracts team. Authorized individuals can use metadata to search for specific records, analyze performance, and audit business processes.
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How Can Contract Metadata Solve Your Problems?
A traditional paper-based contract management system (or even some less advanced contract software) only stores contracts one way. For example, they might be alphabetically by the customer.
But contract metadata allows users to organize contracts and documents in different ways. For example, you can list contracts alphabetically by customer, as mentioned, or by expiry date.
What else can you do with an enterprise contract management system? You can:
- Group contracts by contract author so you can see which employee is handling which tasks. Then, you ensure that task distribution is fair at a glance.
- Find a specific document, even if you don’t remember which contract it connects to.
- Check what task a workflow is at and what user that task is attached to. In fact, you can see all of the contracts that are in progress AND that you own by using Boolean search operators.
- Make sure that the right people have access to a contract or document.
- Organize the contract repository by any field you want.
Metadata, in other words, is what you use to sort and organize your contracts. Good organization is one of the key ways technology can simplify contract management. ContraxAware keeps contracts and their attached documents in a central, secure repository. Metadata helps you find the precise document you need without having to waste a lot of time searching for it. You can endlessly filter and organize contracts to search efficiently based on the information you have or the information you need.
Why Is Metadata Beneficial to All Users?
We’ve already touched on one benefit of metadata to users: the ability to find contracts and documents without extensive searching. Many people engage in these searches without even needing to know what metadata is or how it works. Contract metadata is also beneficial in a number of other ways:
- Custom metadata can ensure compliance and flag documents appropriately. This can be useful for legal and HR.
- Metadata can identify high-risk contracts. For example, you can tag counterparties if they have a high credit risk or if they bring unique value.
- Tracking contract outcomes can help sales, marketing, and other users identify when a contract might be a problem. You can also pursue customers or vendors associated with good outcomes.
- You can cross-reference contract metadata with an ERP system. This allows warehousing to predict what kind of contracts might require what kind of parts and, if necessary, adjust order quantities.
Metadata does have its limitations. You need to decide exactly what metadata you need to capture, for example. This may vary with the kind of contracts you generally take on, the type of customers you are marketing to, and more. It’s difficult and time-consuming to go back and add metadata to several hundred contracts after the fact, but it can be worth it when you switch to a new contract management system!
Metadata is also only as good as the person entering it. Aside from very simple contracts that can be automated, everyone has to be careful to ensure that the data that goes into the system is accurate. Field validation can be a useful tool to reduce the amount of false or incorrect metadata that finds its way into the database.
Start Using a Contract Management System Optimized for Contract Metadata Today
For pretty much all use cases, the correct use of metadata is important. Whether you are only using it to allow more precise searches or whether you need to do complex organization of contracts to track metrics, metadata is how a contract database does its job. See how ContraxAware pulls it all together by scheduling a live 1:1 demo today.