How to Select Contract Software

Contract software selection can be time consuming however when measuring the cost benefit after having implemented the right contract software for your business makes the entire process worth while. Starting with a contract software requirements document that lists required and optional features, must have features and optional features, can help narrow down the vendor selection process. Understanding contract workflow needs is a key part of this requirements gathering process. When assessing contract software workflow requirements, it helps to involve multiple departments involved in contract administration. These departments can include finance, legal, human resources, sales, and customer service. As more contracts are in circulation it becomes increasingly difficult to track contract expire dates, contract documents, and responsible parties for contract review, approval, and follow up. For many companies this process is done  manually, via email and fax and is very time consuming. Additional time and unnecessary contract management steps can result in inaccuracies or omitted contract action items. This often leads to an increase in contract liabilities and additional required oversight. The contract software selection process may not at first seem like a necessary part of reviewing and selecting the right contract software however this ultimately leads to assurance that your business invests in the best-fit software that meets your requirements.

Contract Software Customization & Service

Part of the contract software selection process should also cover how end-user and contract administration training will be accounted for, both by the vendor and internally on an ongoing basis for new contract management team members or external users if such resources are to utilize the software. The contract software SLA (Service License Agreement) is a key piece to reviewing contract software vendors, what’s covered as part of the service and what levels of support are available. This includes hosting models, backups, contract software security, and of course cost structure. All businesses deal with contracts, whether small or large, and contract software requirements documents often differ by industry, size of the organization, and contract processing volume. Contract software vendors may sometimes adapt their software to meet certain for your organization that’s not included with the base package, and the costs of such modifications should also be reviewed during the contract software selection process.

Contract Software – Hosted Vs. On-Premise

IT departments have a vested interested in ensuring company data integrity is maintained and users have access to critical business resources. The debate over whether contract software should be hosted or on-premise is often a confusing question. Contract software can in fact be installed on-premise while at the same time still offer the benefits and accessibility of a web-based software. Installed software requires workstation installation, where the contract software is installed onto individual workstations. Installed contract software often has mandatory requirements such as certain operating systems and versions where web-based contract software has fewer restrictions. How upgrades are distributed to workstations is another question an IT department would be involved with, as the cost of contract software extends beyond the actual cost of the software but also includes what other technologies are required for the software to function and what level of support and maintenance is required by IT departments. Sometimes contract software hidden IT support costs overrun the actual cost of the software, which is not discovered until a purchase commitment is made for a specific software and decision makers neglected to consider how much IT support would be required to maintain and update the contract software for workstations.

Contract Software Security & User Access Control

It’s typically easier to control user access in a web-based contract software, therefore this option is ideal for companies requiring multiple users to access the system and add or review contracts. Tracking contract issues may require certain levels of customer or vendor access. Contract managers in various departments or levels in the company may require access to certain contract records as well, based on their level of authority in the company. Contract access controls would be a necessary section in the contract software requirements document, and cover both contract security as well as which users are responsible for various steps in contract approval processes.

Contract Software Versatility

The original need for contract software may come from a contract manager or department based on certain types of contracts for that given contract manager or department, such as human resources or finance & vendor management. It may well be the case that other departments within your organization share the same set of contract management problems that can be solved with the same contract software implementation. The properties of a lease agreement, rental contract, service center contract, supplier contract, and customer service contract share many similar properties. This sharing of properties can strengthen the return on investment for a contract software implementation and give people in the company a consistent and standardized method for processing contracts of all types. Other types of contracts that may share similar properties include facilities maintenance contracts, certificates of insurance, and work agreements.
If your organization has not before considered drafting a software requirements document and is in the process of selecting software, you may consider engaging a temporary 3rd party IT resource to help facilitate a software needs assessment. Such a resource with experience and expertise in this matter increases your chances of maximum benefit of the time and money invested in a software implementation and training. Sometimes a contract software vendor may assist with this process however it is important to remain cognizant that the needs assessment should focus on the actual needs of the company before reviewing specific types of contract software.

Copyright 2012 A-1 Enterprise, Inc.