Contractual relationships date back to 2600 B.C. when the first Bill of Sale was etched on a Sumerian clay tablet. The first commercial contracts, in a modern sense, appeared in the mid-18th century during the Industrial Revolution. In time, with further refinements to contract law, non-commercial contracts came into wider use. Today, SMBs and enterprises create contracts to govern a range of interactions, both for internal use and with third parties.
In 2015, a typical Fortune 1000 company had between 20,000 to 40,000 active contracts at any given time. However, as business relationships diversify, contracts become more difficult to manage. Poor contract management results in companies losing an average of 9% of their annual revenue. Thus, optimizing the process of contract management has become a critical factor for success.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to an exponential growth in the number of electronic contracts for businesses in every industry. Social distancing requirements forced US legislators to allow for online contracts to be notarized remotely with e-signatures. Today, more and more businesses are progressing through the process of digitization with the help of electronic signature services in their contract management workflows.
What is contract management?
Сontract management is a business process involving a scope of activities across every stage of the contract lifecycle. Efficient contract management implies that a contract is handled at every step, from the moment of its creation, leading up to its execution by each party involved, and concluding with its deliverables and deadlines. Other important aspects of contract management include changes to the contract and its termination.
Due to the complexity of modern business transactions, paper-based contract management is becoming obsolete. Paper trails expose businesses to the risks associated with manual handling. For instance, the possibility of human error and, most recently, health hazards. Using digital workflows enhances every stage of the contract management process, makes it safer, and helps to deliver essential information fast.
Even though using contract management solutions does not completely automate the process, it can help streamline many of the essential stages. On the one hand, services like signNow can be used to get new contract requests, draft contracts, collect e-signatures and payments, and so on. On the other hand, stages such as contract negotiation and revising will most likely demand a more hands-on approach from any of the parties involved.
How to streamline your contract management workflow with signNow?
Enhancing contract management with signNow can help SMBs and enterprises score a few key wins at almost every stage of the process:
Request attachments during contract preparation
In the most general sense, the contract preparation stage is meant to develop a roadmap for a business relationship. At this stage, the parties discuss the scope of the contract, important milestones, set goals and expectations, define the steps required to fulfill the contract. Also, the documents and quotes needed to draft a contract are collected and the key contacts are identified.
Using signNow’s ‘Request Attachments’ feature, the author of a contract can request that signers attach extra files. It is possible to request a document package from the signer before they e-sign a contract or agreement. All it takes is to place a ‘Request Attachment’ field wherever is needed within the document and then specify the attachment type.
Draft a contract using document templates
Creating a draft contract is the next stage of the contract management process. By writing out terms and conditions, the parties consent that they fully understand their legal obligations and responsibilities towards one another. Typically, the draft is based on the quotes and documents obtained during the contract preparation stage. The draft contract must use clear wording to avoid confusion and ambiguity.
In paper-based workflows, drafting a contract can sometimes result in bottlenecks caused by the involving legal team(s). signNow allows users to upload document templates and edit them by adding fillable fields. This way, it is possible to speed up the process and exclude burdensome interactions. What’s more, signNow eliminates paper-pushing with its searchable database of legal forms.
Optimize contract negotiations
At the contract negotiation stage, the drafted contract is circulated among the key stakeholders to gather feedback and identify possible issues. Once the feedback is collected, the parties negotiate the terms and conditions until they reach a final agreement. Eventually, the suggested revisions are documented and the contract is prepared for the formal approval.
With signNow, you can optimize the contract negotiation stage in a few clicks. Feel free to add fillable text fields to get instant feedback and get notified about the changes to the contract. Using signNow as part of the airSlate Business Cloud, you can pre-fill, comment on, redline, and approve contracts within a single platform. It is also possible to set up role-based contract routing when executing e-signatures.
Speed up the contract approval stage
Alongside the key stakeholders and management, the contract approval stage typically involves a legal team. Depending on the size and scope of the contract, it is possible to use one of the following approaches:
parallel approvals with various departments collecting signatures simultaneously
serial approvals with signatures collected in a consecutive order.
Using paper-based workflows often ends up as a time-consuming affair during the approval stage. signNow allows for setting up a workflow to ensure that whoever needs to approve a contract can view, modify, and comment on it in real-time. Using e-signatures can simplify the signature collection process, especially if the involved parties reside in different time zones or on different continents.
E-sign and store contracts with minimal effort
Once a contract is approved, the parties add their signatures to finalize its execution. At this point, the parties should have no objections about the terms and conditions of the contract and understand how it will work. Finally, copies of the signed contract are distributed to all parties for further storage. When it comes to paper-based contracts, the contract management process usually stops right here for many businesses.
With signNow, the “sign and forget” attitude just doesn’t cut it. E-signatures are legally-binding, secure, and easy to use. One can e-sign a contract or invite other signers on the go using a mobile phone or tablet. Not only is it possible to send signature invites and customize signature workflows but it is also possible to store signed contracts for later use. Storing contacts on an online server makes them easily accessible for auditing and renewal.
Report and audit contracts by keeping track of every change
Contrary to popular belief, contract management does not end once signatures are in place. Auditing and reports help to ensure that a contract is properly executed and its obligations are met. It is crucial to identify any hazards that may put a contract validity at risk and eliminate them before any violations occur.
signNow’s Audit Trail tracks complete document histories and e-signature steps to ensure customer information is secure. Using the ‘History’ feature, one can trace changes made to a contract at any particular stage of the signing process. It is possible to see who accessed a contract, when the changes were made, and view timestamps and IP addresses linked with the actions in a document.
Use Case: GRBM contract management with signNow
Integrating e-signatures into their digital workflows has helped many businesses make contract management more efficient.
GRBM Inc, The Contractors Insurance Agency
Before signNow, a GRBM broker would spend at least an hour on tracking down a customer to get their signature on a paper-based contract. The time and expenses required would only increase if a meeting in person was required. Using signNow reduces the time spent on document preparation and signing to about five minutes. Going paperless with signNow not only reduced the paper and ink costs but also freed up the office space used to store paperwork.
We save almost 300 hours per year. Using rough wages and paper costs: we’re saving over $6,000 by using signNow
Robert McCarthy, GRBM Vice President
When it comes to refining contract management, e-signature services play a pivotal role in saving time and money. With signNow, businesses can streamline their document-based workflows, maximize efficiency, and keep data safe at every stage of the process. Try signNow today to see how your business can benefit from its contract management and signing features!