Before you buy a contract management software solution, learn which features to demand in your purchase.

  1. Contract Repository

The best contract management software includes a document library with editing, redlining, and more. All parties to a contract can upload files to this centralized repository. All parties can also make edits to the contract and other pertinent documents. Notes can be read and shared to keep communication transparent. Contract management software that includes a contract repository reduces contract approval delays due to clarification questions.

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All parties in a contract can review or edit documents in the contract management system at the same time or at different times. Changes made from one party can be immediately seen by other parties. All work is saved on the cloud instantly. Microsoft encrypts all data, so be sure that your contract management software is running on a Microsoft tenant, typically Microsoft SharePoint or Teams.

  1. OCR / AI

The latest contract management software has OCR capabilities. OCR stands for optical character recognition. OCR is used when scanning documents into a database. The process involves two basic steps. First, scan a paper document into a computer system. Second, use the data in the document in the same way that a non-scanned document, or a saved file on a computer can be used. Edit the scanned document, search, copy, and more. This is a game-changer for document scanning and for contract management software.

Without OCR capability, a scanned document can only attach a few descriptive words to a document (also known as metadata). To later search for that document, the metadata words/phrases are the only options to locate the document from a database. Even if the document has 500 words in it, without OCR that document can only have about 8-10 metadata words or phrases to describe it. As the document is stored, the metadata description is also stored. Without OCR, search capabilities are limited to those 8-10 metadata descriptions and the document name. This may be functional when an organization has only 4-5 contracts. But what if an organization has hundreds or thousands of contracts? What if archived documents from 1960’s need to be referenced for a new contract created today?

With OCR, every character, every word, and every phrase are considered individual search criteria in your contract management software. If the document has 500 words in it, with OCR that document can have upwards of 50,000 words, phrases or sequence of characters. For example, in the sentence, “The car is blue,” search options with OCR include “the”, “the car”, “the car is”, “the car is blue”, “blu”, “bl”, “is blue”, “b”, “l”, “u”, “e”, and the list goes on. As characters are entered into a search bar of a contract management software (to locate one specific document out of a database of hundreds or thousands of documents), the possible document file names are listed instantaneously below the search bar. For example, when “the” is entered in the search bar, there might be every document in the database listed because it is likely that every document contains the word “the”. Then, as the contract management software user enters additional characters or words into the search bar so that search contains “the car,” the list of documents containing this phrase might reduce from 10,000 documents to 100. Then, as the search bar contains “the car is blue,” the list of documents might reduce to 7 documents. Next, the user could add additional characters, a word, or a phrase, until one isolated document is found in the search process of the contract management software.

The ability of OCR to pull characters, words, phrases, etc. from a document and place them into a database that can be searched later is an example of artificial intelligence (AI) in contract management software. A person that is manually taking each possible combination of characters, words, or phrases, and entering each into a database might take a year per document. OCR uses AI to perform this cataloging of data from a document to a database in milliseconds.

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  1. Customizable Contract Templates

As the needs of your organization change, and as it evolves to include dozens or hundreds of contract management software users, your contract management system should be able to evolve with your growth. Contract needs will change over time. Contract terms will change as supply chain resources change. The raw materials needed by your organization to source for supply chain needs will be different five years from now, or ten years from now. Your contract management system should have the ability to add data fields that are pertinent to contracts in the future.

  1. Access Permissions Controls

Contract management system administrators (admins) control access to contracts. There are three levels of access:

  1. Full control
  2. Limited control
  3. Read-only

Admins have full control of all settings and uses of the contract management software and can allocate which other individuals or groups can also have full control. Full control users can edit settings such as which data fields will appear on reports, the types of workflows that can be available for other contract management system users, who has E-sign privileges, and more.

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Limited control options are governed by those with full control. A typical example of a contract management system user with limited control is the ability to add documents to the contract repository, edit or redline contracts, assign tasks to other users, etc. Limited control users in contract management software cannot adjust settings or add data fields to contract templates, but they have more access than read-only users.

While the C-suite executives, legal counsel and regional VP’s will usually have full control of the organization's contract management software, position holders with limited control may be department managers, team leads, and supply chain personnel that interact with vendors or customers to create contract requests to be approved by managers with full control access. Contract management system users with read-only access may consist of new trainees, prospective clients, or third parties.

Read-only users can view documents, but only with temporary access granted by a contract management system user with full control.

Contract management software continues to expand capabilities and modernize. The leading software companies which create contract management systems continue to add new features and enhance current ones. Click here for a free demo of a contract management system that includes all 4 must-have contract management software features.

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