We talk to organizations every day that are using SharePoint for contract management. Most are frustrated and know they need more to be truly effective. When we explore this deeper we usually discover the organization is storing their contracts (Word or PDF files) in SharePoint document libraries in a SharePoint site. In some cases, they are also putting some metadata around the documents to provide more detail. And, that is about it.
While this may be an effective way to manage your contract documents, let’s not confuse it with true contract management. Contract management is more than just a document library with some metadata.
So what is SharePoint missing? Here are 3 basic things we think transform SharePoint into a true contract management system.
#1 – A “Complete” View of your Contracts and Contract Artifacts
When one of your business development efforts comes through, you’re awarded a contract. It’s basically a Word or PDF file that contains all the details about the work you’ve been awarded and the framework for how you conduct that work. To ensure you know where the document is, and can find it when you need it, you put it in the SharePoint library. But what about all the other things that become a part of that “complete” contract?
There are countless other “artifacts” that need to be tracked, managed, and accounted for. Contracts have mods, addendums, and other associated documents, not to mention related “contracts,” such as task orders. They have core contract data to be stored in database fields. They have milestones, due dates, and schedules, along with guidelines and instructions to ensure you get paid. So you need a solution that allows you to manage all those documents and important data in the same place, and be able to see and access all the related data, too. All of this together is the true, single-source-of-truth contract record. If it is not all there and not easy to access, you have frustration and problems.
#2 – Alerts, Notifications, and Audit History
Are you on top of all the critical must-do dates and actions? Do you have to go back and re-read contracts to find specific dates? Do the appropriate people know when a date is approaching and what needs to be done? If you’re just storing your contract documents in SharePoint, then you are probably using spreadsheets to track these items. Wouldn’t it be better if the information was centrally stored and your system would send you an email in advance of that due date telling you it was approaching?
Every contract and all the associated artifacts are loaded with due dates, milestones, cancellation dates, contract action items, deliverables, and more. It is so easy to let some of these slip through the cracks. Sure I can identify a milestone as part of my metadata, but that’s not enough. You need to be able to set up email alerts and notifications that let you know when a deadline is approaching. Also, it’s important to know that you’ve taken certain actions or met specific criteria. Introducing an audit history into the mix will ensure you have a complete record of all the actions you take.
#3 – Workflows and Task Automation with Information
With all contracts, there are bound to be review and approval processes, and other workflows of data and information. Having the ability to automate and build stage-gate processes around your contract and artifacts adds structure and visibility to these types of activities and makes it very clear when things are complete—or not complete. Automating these processes and some of the everyday tasks you’re responsible for makes things easier and makes you more productive.
You will need to have processes to support different types of contracts and different phases. For instance, you will usually need contracting processes for customer-facing contracts, vendor purchases, and also subcontracts to bring a vendor/subcontractor/partner in as part of a customer-facing contract. You may also want to track the processes of contract modifications or invoice approvals as separate processes to support the main contract process. Ideally, when people do the work within these processes they have all the information they need at their fingertips to make the right decisions.
So, are you simply storing your contract documents in SharePoint? Are you looking to do better? Would you like to transform SharePoint into a true contract management system?
R3’s Contract Management for SharePoint is an off-the-shelf software solution that can be dropped into an existing SharePoint environment. It adds a layer on top of SharePoint that transforms your environment from a contract repository (just content management) to a true contract management system. It brings you the 3 capabilities mentioned above and much more. You can gain greater control over your contracts, improve your productivity, and reduce your risk.
Watch our video below to see our Contract Management solution in action!