Investing in contract management software doesn’t need to feel like a huge leap for your business. By understanding what each team requires, what they’re looking to achieve and how they want to do it, you’ll be able to prioritise particular features during your market research.
At Gatekeeper, we believe the most important contract management software features are:
- A secure, centralised contract repository
- Role-based permissions
- AI-driven data extraction and Global Search
- Clause and template libraries
- Word compatible redlining
- Native electronic signature solution
- Workflow automation
- Automated alerts and notifications
- A defensible audit trail
- Integrations with your existing tech stack
Why contract management software matters
If your organisation is still relatively small, say up to 25-30 people and is handling a manageable amount of new contract agreements per month, maybe 5-10, then building your contract management processes around Excel or Sharepoint is likely to serve you well.
But will your team still have time to maintain your spreadsheets and your databases when your business grows? What about when it’s twice the size, or ten times the size?
According to a study by EY Legal, while most (92%) organisations surveyed are trying to transform their handling of contracts, the majority of respondents are struggling in the face of significant obstacles.
Technology is often the centrepiece of any transformation attempt. But with so many contract management solutions available on the market, businesses that make a decision without any guidance may find themselves experiencing:
- Failed implementations
- Low internal adoption
- Simplistic solutions that can’t handle complex contract requirements
To help your business avoid any pitfalls when choosing a solution, this article outlines the key contract management features you should look out for.
1. A secure, centralised contract repository
Order, control and a manageable contract portfolio come from knowing where all your up-to-date agreements are. If your business is using spreadsheets, shared drives or offline methods to store contracts, it’s time to change.
A centralised repository is a contract management software feature that offers your business full contract visibility with which it can make informed and accurate business decisions.
Contract repositories create a single source of truth. This visibility allows you to stay ahead of upcoming renewals and potential contract risks. It also allows you to see a snapshot of what’s going on with your portfolio at any given time.
Centralisation is a strategic driver that improves your business’s contract management maturity level. Gatekeeper provides complete visibility of your portfolio, allows you to digitise any legacy contracts that may still be in paper and pen format and allows you to see every version of an agreement.
See everything in one place with Gatekeeper
"Before Gatekeeper, our contracts were everywhere and nowhere." - Anastasiia Mathieu, Ops Integration Lead, BlaBlaCar
2. Role-based Access permissions
Centralising your contracts in a secure repository is a great step forward from working with disparate data. But there's a deeper layer of governance required:
- Who should see these contracts?
- Who can amend them?
- Who can merely glance through them?
- Who can send the contracts to relevant parties?
Enter the world of role-based permissions, a feature that, on the surface, may sound purely technical but delivers greater security for your records.
By implementing role-specific access, you can finely tune who gets to see what. Picture a member of the legal team who requires full edit access, contrasted with a salesperson who just needs an overview.
This important contract management feature:
- Keeps sensitive data protected, reducing vulnerabilities and increasing the robustness of your contract management processes.
- Creates swift decision-making processes and hassle-free as users see exactly what's pertinent to them.
- Ensures accountability with clear definitions of who can access and modify data, so all actions can be traced back.
3. AI-driven data extraction & Global Search
We often hear from Legal practitioners that despite having a well-organised system, they sometimes struggle to quickly locate specific contracts.
This resonates with findings from the Journal of Contract Management, revealing that a significant 71% of businesses can’t pinpoint at least 10% of their contracts.
Central repositories certainly help, especially with migrated contracts, but the key lies in standardising the capture of metadata for new contracts.
The task of manual metadata capture is not just time-consuming; it's prone to errors, especially when businesses deal with a deluge of contracts. That’s why your business should prioritise AI-powered data extraction.
Artificial intelligence, particularly tools like AI Extract from Gatekeeper, transforms this process. Not only does it introduce digitisation, but it is also a contract management software feature that refines the way your business manages contracts - optimising the whole process.
There's a notable reduction in workload, especially for key departments like Legal. It ensures more accurate captures of essential details like key dates, obligations, and clauses. The system even allows users to give feedback on the accuracy of extracted information, enabling the software to evolve and improve over time.
Central storage of precise information simplifies contract location. But you can also combine this with another contract management feature: Global Search. Once the data is extracted, powerful OCR technology can help you to:
- Swiftly navigate through all data points and documents.
- Easily pinpoint specifics within contracts, reducing the time spent on manual location.
- Streamline compliance checks by quickly referencing terms and clauses.
- Enhance collaboration by efficiently pulling out contract details for cross-departmental discussions.
- Reduce the risk of overlooking contract milestones or obligations due to its comprehensive search.
4. A redlining solution of your choice
As you research contract management software, you’ll notice a wide variety of native editors available within the market too. Many are designed to make the negotiation process easier, but do they fit in with your current ways of working?
Contract management software features should enhance your existing processes, rather than require you to adopt entirely new ones.
Redlining involves back and forth between different parties. Without the right solution in place for your needs, the business could experience:
- Inability to track version control with different agreements being created and saved.
- Difficulty comparing markups and knowing who made what change.
- Time lost to having to download, edit, and re-upload agreements.
Rather than limit your choices, Gatekeeper offers a range of redlining options. Its document editors include Microsoft Word® and Office for the Web integration. Let’s take a look at how these different options can save hours of training, chasing up-to-date versions, and uploading and downloading documents.
|Redlining Option||How Gatekeeper helps|
|eNegotiate||Native support for Microsoft Word®. Track all versions and store them against contract records automatically. Generate unlimited Microsoft Word® templates from existing metadata for ease of use.|
|Office for the Web integration||Eliminate the need to download and re-upload agreements. Edit internal agreements directly in your browser, collaborating with colleagues at the same time. Improve version control with real-time edits.|
5. Clause and template libraries
If you speak to your Legal team about why they need contract management software, you are likely to find that they are consistently swamped with requests for contract drafts.
On top of their strategic responsibilities, they may be asked to provide the latest version of an NDA or vendor agreement. These situations become all too common and can increase the administrative workload of your teams.
Think of a Clause Library as a treasure trove of all those painstakingly crafted, compliant, and pre-approved legal clauses that businesses often reuse.
Instead of recreating the wheel with every new contract, or worse, accidentally using outdated language, a Clause Library, like the one in Gatekeeper, ensures standardised, up-to-date clauses are always at your fingertips.
Now, imagine coupling this with Contract Templates. Teams can centrally manage their legal agreements right in Microsoft Word®, setting them up to dynamically adjust based on the given scenario. The days of sifting through folders or cloud storage for the “right version” are over.
Contract clause library from Gatekeeper
Clause Libraries and contract templates save time, improve accuracy and help your business to safeguard compliance.
“The ongoing benefits will be significant. Gatekeeper will help with version control over template documents, streamline processes, meaningful reporting, assist the legal team with prioritising contract reviews, get the legal department moving forward with technology and increase exposure and interest in contracts with senior management.” - Jacqui Ward, Senior Legal Counsel, Melbourne Racing Club.
6. Native electronic signature solution
Teams that once relied heavily on wet signatures found a massive shift in their operations when they incorporated electronic signatures as a core feature in their contract management software. Here's why it became indispensable:
- Immediate turnaround: Gone are the days of waiting for contracts to be mailed, signed, and returned. Deals can be sealed in hours instead of weeks.
- Cost Efficiency: Elimination of printing and shipping costs and no need to pay for a standalone solution.
- Enhanced transparency: Real-time tracking of where the contract is in the signing process and instant notifications once the contract is signed, eliminating the guesswork.
- Security and compliance: Provides a secure method of signing, ensuring each contract is legally binding. Electronic signatures are compliant with international laws, providing an added layer of assurance.
- Environmentally Friendly: With reduced paper use, teams contribute to sustainability efforts, lessening their carbon footprint.
7. Workflow automation
Businesses that are still reliant on manual, fragmented processes expose themselves to greater contract risk, missed renewals and issues related to non-compliance. This is due to a lack of process visibility, non-standardised ways of working and bottlenecks that delay a contract’s progress.
Workflow automation is a key contract management software feature which optimises internal processes, increases collaboration and eliminates unnecessary delays."
With the CLM solution, you can automate simple notifications or entire processes such as contract reviews, onboarding suppliers or escalating risk mitigation practices.
The Workflow Engine from Gatekeeper is completely customisable and entirely visual. This allows teams to see where a contract currently is, what actions still need to be taken and who owns them.
Workflow automation keeps teams one step ahead of their contracts, streamlines internal processes and eliminates manual overheads. Using workflow automation creates greater internal efficiency throughout the business, keeps all teams on the same page and makes collaboration seamless.
Automate and visualise your internal workflows
Gatekeeper offers best-practice workflow templates that allow you to transform your business through self-serve capabilities. Complete with in-depth set-up guides, users are taken through what each workflow accomplishes, the functionality included and the mandatory configuration required to get up and running.
"I can’t talk enough about the power of Gatekeeper’s workflows." - Darin Van Duser, Vendor Management Supervisor, NYCM Insurance
8. Automated alerts and notifications
Navigating the intricate maze of business responsibilities is no small feat.
Think about contract managers within your business who often found themselves buried under stacks of papers, trying to remember crucial dates, or waking up in cold sweats fearing they’ve missed a critical contract renewal. The stress of keeping track of every detail, especially in the world of contracts, can be overwhelming.
Automated reminders and alerts aren’t just a key contract management software feature. When it comes to those nerve-wracking contract renewals, expiries, and compliance dates, they can actually be a business’s lifesaver.
Imagine the peace of mind your Contract Owners will feel when they no longer have to manually track each approaching deadline. Missing a contract renewal isn't just a mark on a calendar. It could mean a blow to the business’s revenue, cause trust issues with partners, or even incur financial penalties.
With automation, your business is longer caught off guard. This feature leads to better strategic planning, avoiding unintended costs and maintaining compliance.
With automated reminders and alerts:
- Teams stay on track: No more missed renewals or forgotten expiry dates.
- Productivity increases: Teams can focus on what they do best, leaving the date-tracking to the contract management software.
- Compliance becomes stress-free: Regulatory deadlines are flagged well in advance, ensuring your business is always compliant.
9. A defensible audit trail
Every business decision, every contract negotiation, and every partner interaction carries weight. The stakes? Ensuring that every action can be traced, justified, and defended, especially when external audits or internal reviews come knocking.
One missing piece of evidence or one unaccounted action can spell disaster for your business. This is why an automatically built, fully defensible audit trail is a game-changing contract management software feature.
In some situations, auditors can descend with little notice, demanding evidence of compliance on a particular project. If your business is using manual processes, someone would have to scramble through files, emails, and databases to piece together a coherent story.
See a defensible audit trail in Gatekeeper
But implementing contract management software means that - with the click of a button - you can access a clear, chronological record of every action taken, every approval granted, and every document version.
An automated audit trail is a feature that offers:
- Peace of mind: Knowing that every detail, no matter how minute, is recorded and ready for review.
- Time savings: Gone are the days of manual collation. Everything is organised, timestamped, and easily accessible.
- Enhanced accountability: Every team member knows that their actions are logged, encouraging transparency and responsibility.
10. Integrations with your existing tech stack
When assessing contract management software features, you should think beyond the CLM solution itself. After all, introducing a new solution to the business often leads to a learning curve for employees if it doesn’t work effectively with other solutions and platforms that are already in place.
Ask yourself how a CLM solution fits in with your existing tech stack:
- Will teams need to duplicate their efforts?
- Will they prefer to stay in the environments they’re already working in - leading to poor user adoption?
- Does the CLM solution work with databases that already exist for different teams, from Legal through to Sales?
Integrations are an important contract management software feature that can bring your teams together - regardless of the platforms they are required to use.
The best contract management software features never make you choose between ways of working. Instead, they are designed to make your current process more seamless. They bring entire systems together, make the secure sharing of data easier and allow all stakeholders involved in the contract to complete the actions they need without disruption.
Choosing the right contract management software for your business can be a difficult task with so many options on the market.
Above, we have outlined some of the key features that you should look for when selecting a solution for your business. But the features themselves won’t be enough if you don’t know how to apply them correctly to your current processes.
If you’re ready to reach out to the experts and make the most of contract management features, get in touch with us today.