Realyst E-Book Series:
3 Ways to Implement a Streamlined Contract Management Approach for Complex Customer Agreements
“It’s 8:45 on a Friday night.
After four days, contract negotiations are finally over. All the parties involved have agreed to the terms and conditions, and the responsibilities of everyone have been committed to paper. The CEO looks away from the city lights visible from his corner office, and his eyes rest on the stack of legal documentation on his desk. He feels relief, but it is short-lived. Anxiety takes its place and he thinks to himself: ‘What is going to happen to this contract? Are all of these agreements, roles and responsibilities going to form the basis of a working relationship or is this contract going to land in the filing system with all the others, hidden from view and only brought out again if the relationship sours and someone needs to be sued? What is going to happen with all of this information, this consensus, and yes, even this insight? Hours of meetings condensed into legal documentation… Wouldn’t it be great if this information could be captured while it was fresh? Translated into tasks… maybe even a dashboard made visible to the organisation and part of the daily life of my employees? No… That will never happen.’ The CEO picks up the stack of papers and walks to the filing room.” Does this scenario seem familiar to you? If yes, then take heart. It is not an uncommon scenario and can be addressed. With this Realyst E-Book, we will explore why a lack systems can prove to be a thorn in your side and how you can implement best practices to take control of your contractual agreements and integrate these agreements into the inner workings of your company.
A Typical Manual Contract Management Environment
Multiple Complex Contracts Per Client
As you know, the process to enter into a contract with large enterprises for the delivery of a service often involves complex contract negotiations, determining SLA’s, benchmarking, foreseeing potential damages for non-performance, and ultimately, you end up with a document fit to bursting with legal terms and obligations. Since it is commonplace to have several of these agreements for a single client, with underlying supplier and/or sub-contractor agreements to enable delivery of the service, complexity increases. The problem is even more exacerbated when there are several of these client agreements, each with differing terms and obligations as negotiated over time.
Assigned To The Bottom Of The Drawer
More often than not, these agreements are signed and dispatched to the bottom drawer, to be referred to when there is an issue or the relationship has deteriorated to the point of legalities becoming involved. All of that trouble for a what-if scenario, it’s not uncommon for these documents to go missing either.
Employees come and employees go. Account managers often approach contract management differently to their successor, which will result in different standards, and corporate amnesia once you reach the point where you have to hire a new account manager.
Not Embracing Technology
Technology is constantly improving the way we interact, reducing the friction in back office processes and redefining the customer experience. Paper- based systems with the underlying manual processes add layers of unnecessary processes, require higher levels of management intervention, exposure to higher levels of risk and ultimately, make organisations less competitive.
Regulations also drive the need for a more structured approach, from Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements, to the latest POPIA/GDPR compliance, difficult to comply and manage without technology.
Every organisation is different. The processes they adopt and the types of contracts they enter into will not be uniform across the board, but there are common criteria for any company when it comes to applying a best practice model:
1. Determine the objectives for a best practice delivery model, and standardise these as far as possible across the client delivery processes
2. Translate the SLA requirements into a set of obligations and tasks
3. Understand the underlying data that needs to be exposed from the agreements to make visible:
- Milestones or activities that exist in the contract life-cycle
- Revenue that is available to be collected
- Risks and mitigating measures
- Contract obligations and tasks, key dates and deliverables
- Contract hierarchy and potential gaps in responsibility and risk
- Account managers KPI’s
- Ideal levels of customer engagement and reports and dashboards required to ensure you can show you are on top of your game.
If you systemise and incorporate a standard approach from the outset, you will allow your organisation to set up the framework for consistent, superior customer service delivery:
4. Draft your contracts. Standardise as many of the contract terms or clauses across the variety of contract types. Once approved, empower the field staff in contract negotiations. This frees up the legal teams to focus on the more important part of their responsibilities to the organisation. Standard clauses extrapolate into standard obligations and tasks, which opens up the opportunity to automate responsibilities and apply consistency across delivery.
5. Identify the data required from the contract types, pulling it through from the contract drafts to the underlying database for tasks and reporting, roles and responsibilities. Integrate into 3rd party systems where it makes sense.
6. Set up delegations of authority, approval work-flow, escalation events, customer and contract reporting dashboards. Additional functionality allows your organisation to improve the contract turnaround times, reduce the administrative burden, and to book revenue sooner, such as:
- E-Forms linked to associated supporting documentation to allow for self-service on boarding, either customer or supplier contracts.
- E-signatures and bulk approvals alleviate the burden on executives required to sign multitudes of agreements
- Document management – a record of all related information and correspondence for the delivery of the service.
Since 1998, Realyst has been consulting on best practice and deploying technology to assist organisations to improve the way they manage their contractual obligations. This is the first in a series of commentaries outlining what we have learnt and where we have employed customisable solutions, and why we believe in the benefits that accrue. In our next E-book, we will look at large volume standard customer agreements.