How to Build a Digital Document Ecosystem

Imagine your office had an 8-step workflow in place for responding to email: 

  1. Print out the email
  2. Make three copies
  3. File one copy
  4. Shred one copy
  5. Write a response on the final copy
  6. Fax your response to the sender
  7. Type your response in your email program
  8. Send the response electronically in case the fax didn’t go through

How many days (or hours) would it take for you to hand in your resignation?

Digitization was supposed to make our lives easier and our businesses more efficient. But the technology only works as well as the processes around it. 

This is especially true for the agreements that drive a business: Purchase orders, non-disclosure agreements, vendor contracts and more. Electronic signatures make the signing part easy—but too many offices still have manual processes on either side of the signature.

To solve the problem, you need to examine the way agreements flow through the business. Instead of a series of isolated transactions, think of it as a document ecosystem. It isn’t just getting a contract signed; it’s contract lifecycle management (CLM).

Here’s how to create a more efficient and profitable system for handling agreements.

Building a digital document ecosystem

Bring together stakeholders

A contract might involve multiple departments in the creation process—it might originate in sales, pass through finance and make several other stops along the way.

Many organizations are still using email and Word documents for this process. This leads to long email chains with multiple versions of the document, introducing the potential for error and making it hard to see which document has the right changes.

A better solution is an agreement system that can offer the ease of collaboration of a cloud-based service like Google Docs, but with enterprise-level security and privacy.

With the right system in place, everyone can collaborate on the document together. That means a single source of truth, one revision history and built-in version control.

Integrate your tools

When creating a document management system, choose a solution that offers integration with the other platforms and solutions you’re already using. For example, you should be able to create and send documents for e-signature from within Salesforce, with the necessary data auto-populated into the document. 

Incorporate e-signature into your workflow

Once you have a secure and collaborative process for creating contracts, you can extend that process to the signing itself. The right solution can handle sending agreements to the right parties for signing, even if you need to send multiple agreements to a group of people in bulk.

Your e-signature solution should be compatible with a range of devices as well, including mobile devices and tablets as well as laptop and desktop computers. 

Automate post-signature tasks

The lifecycle of an agreement isn’t over once it’s signed, of course. Now is the time to organize and file the agreement so it can be referred to whenever needed. Without automation, this is a time-consuming process; every agreement must be archived individually, with its data exported to a spreadsheet for reporting purposes.

A CLM platform creates a central repository where documents can be automatically archived or exported into different formats, without requiring constant human input.

Create a centralized repository

File cabinets are quickly becoming a relic of our paper-based past. But it’s crucial to not try and duplicate their functionality in a digital setting. Don’t settle for virtual folders full of alphabetically-sorted files that can only be accessed from one location.

With the right CLM solution, you can store all of your agreements in one location that is securely available to anyone who is granted access. No more having multiple versions of a contract on different people’s hard drives. No more sending files back and forth over email. 

Use AI to simplify search and document management

Artificial intelligence solutions can further reduce the human effort required to keep your document ecosystem organized. Contract analytics can enable search not just by keyword, but by concept as well. For example, you could quickly find all contracts related to data privacy with a single search. 

AI can also help with organization by conditionally routing and sorting agreements based on rules you create. These could include risk level, contract language, type of agreement and more.

Simplify and automate the entire contract lifecycle

A contract doesn’t begin or end with the signature. Rather, signing is only the midpoint for an entire lifecycle of the document. That lifecycle can be slow, manual and inefficient, but it’s possible to integrate and automate the entire process.

Docusign has several solutions to help automate the contract lifecycle, each of which incorporates our most-trusted eSignature solution:

  • Docusign Gen: empower your reps to generate custom agreements with a click and send for signature without leaving Salesforce
  • Docusign CLM: automate the contract lifecycle from doc gen to negotiation, workflows and routing to contract storage and analysis in order to speed up business, improve compliance and deliver a great experience
  • Docusign CLM+: make CLM smart with over 100 pre-trained AI models to manage, analyze and report on key contract data and concepts

Want to learn more? Contact our sales department today.