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What's worse, what you know, or what you don't know? The Contract Management Blues

It's bad enough to realize you've missed a critical contract milestone, but it's far worse to understand that more similar occurrences might be lurking just around the corner. So, how can you tell which of your contracts requires your immediate attention?

One might expect in this day and age that this seemingly simple question would be easy to answer, but is it? Contract Management best practices might be widely accepted, yet it seems that each and every organization has their own way of managing their contracts. Every time I talk to a potential customers one of the first things I want to find out is how contract milestones are managed. Outlook, Gmail, Excel, Sharepoint, GTD, paper trails, not to mention all knowing super-secretaries, without which some companies might as well fold.

To wrap ourselves around this issue, we must ask three major questions:

  1. How do we ensure everyone involved in a contract milestone is notified of its imminence?

  2. How do we ensure that appropriate action is taken on time?

  3. How can we trust a fully automated process to not make mistakes?

As will become evidently clear in future posts, the heart of the issue lies in the standardization of data fields in contract profiles, but I'll get to that in a moment.

Question Number 1 - Assuming data integrity is not an issue, the answer to the first question is that you need to have the ability to create reminders for every event or task associated with every contract. These reminders need to be flexible enough so that you can set their frequency and the number of times they go off.

You need to be able to assign these tasks, events and their related reminders to specific people, role holders, and groups of people in your organization, but you also need to know that if you forgot to assign anyone, you and anyone associated with the contract profile template you are using will be notified automatically anyway.

Question Number 2 - The solution to ensuring action is always taken at the appropriate time, is the implementation of an approval process which requires the intervention of key role holders at critical crossroads of the contract's life-cycle. This process would act as a check list to ensure that the contract's life cycle process isn't bogged down quietly on someone's desk.

Question Number 3 - Here we find ourselves on the stoop of my favorite issue. Remember, data field standardization? If your contract management system ensured that every data-entry into a contract's profile adhered to a rigid, standardized pre-set format, you would be able to rely on the reports that platform generated. Remember, computers don't make mistakes its their users who do. So now you know that all data on your platform is being collected in a unified manner that can be uniformly quearied, and cross-referenced what's left? Oh yes, another human factor, people not filling in the required data in the first place. Well, that would call for a platform that would not enable users to close a contract profile without filling in a set of required fields. Now I think we have this corner covered.