The agreement trap: How inefficiencies add up to A$2.7 trillion in lost opportunities

On paper, agreements look pretty simple. But when you consider all the reviews, sign-offs, stakeholders, and technology platforms involved, they can actually get remarkably complex. And this complexity can lead to costly delays in negotiations and lost revenue.

In fact, a new report reveals that mismanagement of agreements is costing business trillions of dollars each year. The report, Unlocking the value of agreement management, has just been published by Deloitte in partnership with Docusign, and shares the findings of a survey of more than 1,000 business leaders around the world.

According to the research, nearly A$2.7 trillion goes down the drain each year around the world — and it’s all due to inefficiencies in agreement management, which lead to lost productivity and missed opportunities. 

A lot of the issues stem from disconnected workflows. Employees jump from one system to another when preparing or managing agreement, often slowed down by manual processes. And all that to-ing and fro-ing adds up. In fact, the report estimates more than 55 billion hours are wasted each year, globally.   

Pain points at different stages of the agreement lifecycle

The report pinpoints a number of different pain points across the agreement lifecycle. While these stage-by-stage losses can feel small, they all add up over time to significantly impact the bottom line.

For example, in the first stage of the lifecycle, when an agreement is being initiated, 62% of survey respondents struggle to locate and access previously approved contracts, and 61% experience delays in assigning ownership or aligning cross-functional support for an agreement. With the right tools and workflows in place, these delays could easily be averted.

Or, in the signing stage of the lifecycle, 52% have to wait for identity and notary verification, while 49% experience multiple delays in obtaining the correct signatures in the proper order. Again, the tools exist to rectify such problems — it’s just a matter of putting them in place.

What’s the cost in APAC?

Across regions, the impact of agreement mismanagement can vary. For example, in the Asia Pacific, research shows that organisations prefer extensive in-person negotiations — which leads to longer delays in the signing stage of the agreement lifecycle.

The Deloitte survey backs this up, finding that APAC organisations process agreements 6% slower than the global average; and that the Develop and Sign stages represent over half the time across the entire lifecycle. Further, 40% of APAC respondents reported delays from manual, inefficient processes in these stages, compared to 32% in other regions — adding up to around five extra hours per agreement compared to the global average.

These slower workflows, often stymied by a hierarchical approach to sign-offs and a reliance on in-person negotiations, are contributing to an estimated A$770-$930 billion in lost opportunities in 2025 for the region. This equates to around 31% of the A$2.7 trillion total, with APAC a close second to North America (which is responsible for 33%) of the total. 

Can the costs be recouped?

Instead of seeing these massive losses as an inevitability, organisations can take action now to start minimising them. It’s all about identifying the pain points unique to your business and selecting agreement management tools that solve them.

For example, if agreements need to pass by multiple internal stakeholders before any counterparty negotiation, then you’ll need a tool that accelerates collaboration. Or, if your teams are feeling overwhelmed by the volume and complexity of agreements, then you’ll want a tool that empowers different user groups to simplify and personalise their workflows. 

As well as considering which capabilities you need from an agreement management solution, you can also look beyond technology to take a more holistic approach to agreement management. This can include structuring your governance and processes with clear roles, so everyone knows exactly what needs doing and when.

See where you stand today

In the meantime, a great place to start when thinking about the cost of agreement management in your business is by getting a baseline today. Use our Agreement Trap estimator to see how much of your business-critical agreement information is currently trapped in PDFs and lost files. 

By answering a few quick questions, you’ll see how much your current agreement processes are costing you — in both dollars and time. Ready to find out? Use the calculator now.