Master Your MSA Workflows with Automated Workflow Templates

Good customer experience starts with the contract

The master service agreement (MSA) serves as the contractual foundation that lays out the definitions, tenets, obligations and legalities of all future sales contracts and statements of work between parties.

But, if you can’t turn that MSA around quickly within your own organization and get it to the other party  to sign, their first customer experience will not be a good one. You are signaling to your prospective client that unnecessary and avoidable delays will characterize the work that you do with them moving forward. 

At best, the relationship will get off on the wrong foot. At worse, your prospective client will run into the arms of a competitor who can create and execute an MSA faster than you.

A better way to create MSA workflows

The solution to this challenge is to automate the process for creating and routing MSAs to all stakeholders throughout your organization. Ready-made and customizable contract workflow templates embedded in your contract lifecycle management platform can help. 

In a previous blog post, which you can read here, we talked about how your company can use workflow templates in your CLM system to speed workflows between your sales and legal departments to execute sales contracts. In this post, we’re going to talk about how your company can use templates to quickly build workflows to route MSAs to all the various departments that need to review and approve contracts.

Let’s start with the head of the contract manager at your company who’s responsible for overseeing the execution of an MSA. The manager learns from sales that they’ve scored a new client, and the new client needs an MSA. The manager assembles all the pertinent details about the business arrangement from sales and populates them into a standard MSA template. Now the fun begins.

The contract manager must route that draft MSA to all departments and people involved in its execution for revisions, signatures and approvals and all in the right order, or sequence, to get it out the door and to the client to sign. 

Drawbacks of legacy workflow creation

In the old days, the contract manager would put the paper MSA into an interdepartmental envelope and send it to the mailroom or drop it in someone’s mail tray on their desk. The fate of the MSA is up to the honor system. The contract manager relies on everyone to pick up the envelope, open it, read the MSA, make changes, sign it and send it to the next person in the right order. That can take days, weeks or, in some cases, months. That’s not good for business. 

Today, most companies simply do an electronic version of that unreliable process to execute their MSAs. They attach the draft MSA as a Word document and send it to everyone via email. Or they send a link to the draft MSA in a Google doc to everyone via email. Some companies create workflows from scratch or semi-scratch to guide the Word document or Google doc from person to person via email or to a digital version maintained in their CLM platform. That still can take days or weeks.

For example, our 2019 State of Contract Management research revealed that 33 percent of employees said a typical contract like an MSA takes over 30 hours to negotiate and finalize internally, likely due to versioning and modifications.

All the while, the new client is waiting for an MSA to sign and getting more and more antsy. 

How to use workflow templates

What this contract manager and your company need is a faster, easier and more user-friendly way to build customized workflows to speed the creation of MSAs. That superior way is to integrate workflow templates into your CLM platform. 

Workflows for contracts, including MSAs, typically have four components: 

  • Routing (who gets it and in what order)
  • Redlining (revising or recommending changes)
  • Approvals (who is required to approve and in what order)
  • Signing (who is required to sign)

You can integrate predefined, or standardized, workflow templates into your CLM platform for each of those four steps in your MSA creation workflow process. The templates reflect all the possible ways that you can create an MSA internally.

The next step is to customize each of those templates for a specific MSA for a specific client and connect them into a master workflow template. You control who sees it, who approves it, the order of approvals, who can suggest changes, who can make changes, who needs to sign it and the sequence that it moves from one user to another.

In some cases, the workflow sequence of creating an MSA can take as many as 150 steps. If you don’t do them in exactly the right order, you may have a go back to square one and start over again. An example of how that could happen is if someone in sales approves and signs off on language in an MSA that legal hasn’t approved yet. Or if legal approves language in an MSA that someone in sales revises later only to be caught before going to the client.   

You can attach time limits or expiration dates to each step in the MSA creation workflow as well as make the entire contract workflow process visible to all approved users in real time via your CLM platform.  

A better experience for you and your client

What you’re doing is building your optimum MSA creation workflow faster, which makes creating your actual MSA faster. It’s more efficient and the user experience improves for everyone involved.

All those benefits then accrue to your clients. They get an accurate MSA quickly and ready to sign. Their user experience is better. And so are your sales.

Learn more about Docusign CLM and how workflow templates can help accelerate your contract cycle times and increase sales.


John Cook is a product marketer at Docusign.