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Evaluating Contract Management Software Solutions for Sales Organizations

By Anand Veerkar

When organizations that deal with complex sell-side contracts decide it's time to abandon their manual contract management process for something more sophisticated, they have a wide variety of solutions to choose from. Options range from those offered by software suites they already use to those housed within the CRM or CPQ systems their sales teams use, to enterprise-wide contract management software that can integrate into all of the above.

Each carries certain advantages, though some carry serious disadvantages as well. Here are some factors to consider when looking for sell-side contract management software.

Suite Systems: For years, companies preferred large enterprise suites for all their software needs. Suite solutions were simple for IT departments to manage since they only have to deal with one major application provider. Risk-averse senior management saw suite solutions as a safe choice since most suite vendors are well-established. However, for contract management, suite vendors rarely offer a robust solution and are too rigid to conform to the specific needs of an organization. This leaves companies with a "take what they give us" approach to contract management software.

CRM/CPQ: Some contract management systems are hosted within Customer Relationship Management or Configure/Price/Quote systems. For sell-side contracting, this approach makes some sense as contracts are managed within a system that salespeople are familiar with. The solution is not so ideal, though, for other departments in the company that are not on the CRM or CPQ system—including legal, accounting, and procurement. These departments may have substantial stakes in the sales contracting process, not to mention their own contract needs independent of sales, yet don't have full visibility or access to the contract management system because they are being managed in an interface they don't use.

Enterprise Contract Management Software: An increasing number of global enterprises, including Daimler, Microsoft, and Johnson & Johnson, are turning to cloud-based enterprise contract management software to address their contracting needs.

A best-of-breed enterprise contract management system creates a central contract repository where every department in a company can access the contracts and contract language they need to do their job. The software can seamlessly integrate with CRM and CPQ systems, meaning sales teams can enjoy the benefits of enterprise contract management—including faster contract turnaround time—from within their primary sales application.

At the same time, because it is enterprise-wide, other departments including legal and finance also have easy access and control over the contracting process. The legal department can define language and clause libraries to make sure contracts adhere to corporate rules, and can also set up workflows that streamline the review process. This means sales can enjoy their self-service contracts while legal is confident rules are being followed. Last but not least, best-of-breed solutions are easy to deploy, easing IT concerns.

Contracts, including sales contracts, form the foundation of an enterprise, and enterprise contract management software is quickly picking up steam as a must-have solution for successful organizations.