The Evolving Role of the Contract Manager

The role of the contract manager has historically involved keeping track of a combination of stacks of paper, scanned documents, and email accounts.

However, as the complexity of business contracts continues to grow, contract managers are increasingly moving towards a more digital iteration of the role. Our white paper, The State of Contract Management, shows that contract managers now increasingly rely on digital tools to help with the contracting process.

To get a sense of why this trend is growing and what the future holds for contract managers, let’s take a look at what that role looks like today and how digital solutions can improve the contract manager’s quality of life. 

What does a contract manager do?

The contract manager is the person responsible for moving contracts through the full contract lifecycle. They are generally considered the point person for internal and external stakeholders for everything relating to the contract and the contract process. The chief purpose of the role is to get contracts from generation to approval quickly. This process, known as the contract lifecycle, has five basic elements:

  • Drafting. Internal stakeholders provide relevant information about what will go in the contract and the contract manager drafts a contract based on those requirements. If any revisions are required, the contract manager will draft the new language to include in the contract. 
  • Facilitating collaboration and negotiation. While representatives from the relevant business units may handle the substance of negotiations, the contract manager advises them on how to achieve the best possible deal. They may also engage directly with the other party during the negotiation process. 
  • Collecting signatures. Most contracts require signatures from multiple people internally and externally. The contract manager routes the contract to the relevant people for signature, which often requires signatures to be collected in a specific order. 
  • Storage. After the contract is signed, the contract manager is responsible for safely storing the document.
  • Retrieval. There are many reasons why a contract will need to be accessed after it has been signed, such as tracking obligations and milestones, confirming language in the case of a dispute or updating specific terms that don’t require the drafting of a new contract. It is the contract manager’s job to make sure every contract is easy to find and access.

For decades, these responsibilities had to be done manually, using inefficient and unreliable paper-based contract management techniques.. Those outdated processes can increase the time it takes to create and sign contracts, and can introduce potentially costly mistakes. 

Contract manager skills

The contracting process requires a lot from the person managing it. Proficiency in the following skills are absolutely vital for any successful contract manager.

Legal knowledge: A strong understanding of contract law and relevant regulations is essential. Contract managers need to ensure that contracts comply with legal requirements and protect their organization's interests.

Negotiation skills: Contract managers must be adept negotiators. They negotiate terms and conditions with both internal and external stakeholders to reach agreements that benefit their organization.

Communication skills: Effective communication is vital for clarifying contract terms, addressing concerns, and building positive relationships with all parties involved in the contract. Both written and verbal communication skills are important.

Attention to detail: Contracts are often complex documents, and even small errors or oversights can have significant consequences. A contract manager needs to be meticulous and detail-oriented in reviewing and drafting contracts.

Analysis: Analyzing contract terms, identifying risks, and proposing improvements or solutions are essential skills for contract managers. They should be able to assess the potential impact of contract clauses.

Organizational skills: Contract managers handle multiple contracts simultaneously. Being well-organized is critical to ensure that deadlines are met, and documents are properly stored and accessible.

Technology proficiency: In the digital age, contract managers should be comfortable with contract management software, electronic signatures, and document management systems to streamline the contract lifecycle.

Risk management: Recognizing and mitigating risks within contracts is crucial. Contract managers should be skilled in assessing the potential risks throughout the negotiation process.

Stakeholder management: Building and maintaining relationships with internal and external stakeholders is important. Contract managers need to collaborate and manage expectations effectively.

Ethical conduct: Maintaining high ethical standards is essential in contract management, as contracts often involve sensitive and confidential information. 

The digital contract manager

The responsibilities of the contract manager have traditionally been focused on executing processes: the drafting process, the negotiation process, the signature process, and so on. For a job that requires extensive legal knowledge, if not an actual law degree, tasks like chasing down signatures and digging through file storage for old contracts ends up being a lot of low value work done by a high value professional.

But there is good news for modern contract managers: nearly all that busy work can be automated.

  • Digital contracts enable real time collaboration and communication between all parties. This keeps the conversation going and often leads to agreeable results more quickly than negotiations done asynchronously. 
  • Electronic signatures make the signing process easier for each signer. Instead of signing multiple copies of a physical contract, electronic signatures mean each line only needs to be signed once. Agreements are automatically routed to the next signer, with visibility into who needs to sign next and status.
  • Digital storage and intelligent search mean there is no concern about where a document is or how to find it. Since the documents are all digitally stored in the same place, there is no need to dig through folder after folder on drive after drive to find the contract you’re looking for.

How Docusign can help contract managers

When the contract manager is no longer focused on the mechanics of each step in the contract process, they can spend more time on more strategic and higher value tasks. Docusign has a suite of tools that enable contract managers to streamline the tedious aspects of their job.

  • Docusign eSignature. Securely send and sign contracts from almost anywhere and maintain a complete audit trail with the leading e-signature solution. 
  • Docusign CLM. Centralize your contracts, standardize agreement processes and eliminate busywork. 
  • Docusign integrations. To maximize the power of process automation, contract managers can integrate their Docusign tools with a multitude of business applications like Zoom, Salesforce, and SAP. 
  • Contract analytics. When details are analyzed by AI, you can skip right to the fun part: turning the raw data of contract analytics into smarter strategies and better deals.

Learn more about contract lifecycle management.