4 Ways to Automate the Contract Management Process

Organizations are investing in contract management solutions at higher rates than ever. In a poll, we found that 92% of Docusign small business customers expect to maintain or accelerate their digital solutions to grow their businesses. They’re realizing the negative impact of outdated, disconnected systems: the longer the contract lifecycle drags on, the more deals stall, stunting overall business growth. 

The main cause of stalls is a standard, fragmented process that requires too many steps to finalize agreements. Our survey also found that contracts go through as many as three or more versions before reaching the signature stage. To speed up the sales cycle, it’s important to implement a contract management solution that automates tasks such as redlining, review management, versions, and approvals. Digital solutions must manage processes from start to finish, including generation, negotiation, and approval of agreements.

The cost of inefficient business processes

To clearly see the importance of digital transformation, you must identify the risks of not making these changes, and how opting out or delaying digital optimization will impact your bottom line. Here are some of the effects of outdated, manual contract processes:  

  • Inefficient contract management costs businesses 9.2% of their revenue each year (Docusign research).
  • The average contract goes through 3.1 versions before it's finalized.. Negotiation includes modifications, versioning, back and forth between various parties, including internal stakeholders. 
  • 63% of sales professionals report needing to rework their proposals and contracts due to human error and data entry errors (Docusign research).

Four ways to digitize contract management

By focusing on digitizing four key areas of contract lifecycle management, small businesses can avoid errors, streamline workflows, and do business faster.

Seamless contract formatting 

Manual document generation can be time-consuming and error-prone. To digitize this process, implement a technology solution that seamlessly merges data from sources like Salesforce. When a contract management solution can automatically pull information from a central database, sales reps no longer need to waste time re-keying data into the agreement. For example, with Docusign Gen for Salesforce, tables and formatting are auto-filled based on content belonging to the specific customer you’re preparing the agreement for. 

Centralized reviews and approvals

The best contract management solutions allow you full control over your agreement content and organization.

Digital solutions keep formatting consistent to prevent sales reps from leaving out critical information when generating sales orders. Final documents are in Microsoft Word, formats familiar to the rep, allowing them to preview and download the doc right from Salesforce. The document is automatically saved within the Salesforce Files  for easy access in the future. 

Conditional content drives automatic inclusion or exclusion of information with the agreement. As an additional benefit, admins will only need to maintain one template to support multiple variations. When updates are needed, they’ll only need to update one version which will be reflected across the different variations. 

You can easily import documents from or access what’s already in Salesforce for approvals.

Before sending the document out, they’ll have the option to select a due date and preview the document name, allowing them to customize all messaging before it goes out. Your digital solution should create a record that tracks all activity. 

The end-customer will receive a notification that a document is waiting for their review. With one click, customers gain access to the portal and receive high-level instructions on how to complete the contract.

Automatic change detection for managing negotiations and revisions

Document redlining can cause confusion and errors without automated change detection. To streamline the revision process, implement a solution that automatically pairs any two versions of a document to show changes. This feature eliminates reliance on change tracking on external programs like Word or Google Docs. 

Your contract management solution must make it easy for customers to download and easily make revisions or additions to the contract. The customer won’t need to turn on change tracking because changes will automatically record, making it impossible to miss anything they added, removed, or edited. 

The record will automatically update in Salesforce, indicating where it is in the review process. The sales rep can manage the entire process, gaining visibility into which parties have received the document and when. The rep can then send documents out for additional internal or external review.

Automated tracking for improved accountability

Proper tracking of document activity is necessary for auditing and overall accountability. Your contract management solution should record a history of changes, including comments and version comparisons. No matter how many versions there are of the agreement, they should be easy to access in the audit trail. 

Activity history shows you centralized document records so you can view a document's status at any time. You should instantly be able to know if the agreement is out for customer review or internal approval.  Solutions like Docusign centralize all of these records in their respective Salesforce opportunities. Organizing documents into opportunities keeps everyone on the same page, giving all parties access to the opportunity and history at any time.

Digitizing processes like contract management are becoming an increasingly urgent priority for businesses. The right contract management solution will effectively save time, reduce costs, and streamline tasks. The costs of inefficient processes far outweigh any cost-savings that come from opting out of a digital solution. Manually managing agreements leads to proposals that don’t accurately represent your company, critical information forgotten on contracts, version and redlining confusion, and lack of insight into the sales process. 

Companies must adopt digital solutions that automate formatting, conditional content, redlining, and activity history to keep up.

Austin Miller
CLM Expert