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Randy Bishop

Contract Automation: What It Is, What It Isn’t, And How To Use It

Just as we've swapped briefcases for cloud storage and boardroom meetings for virtual chats, it's high time contract management got its modern-day makeover.

Imagine if each contract, regardless of its intricacy, could follow a seamless path from initiation to closure: no overlooked clauses, missed renewal dates, or untimely negotiations. Well, that’s contract automation for you. 

By leveraging specific tools, you can transform your contract management processes, reducing the risk of human error, saving invaluable time, and enhancing overall operational efficiency all in one fell swoop. 

We’ll show you how to use contract automation in your business, ensuring you can make strategic decisions, foster stronger relationships, and propel your business forward with confidence.

TL;DR 

  • Contract automation can streamline your operations, reduce human error, and help keep stakeholders informed and happy. 
  • Though automation can revolutionize how your company handles its agreements, it’s essential to know that it is not without its limitations.
  • AI is rapidly becoming a key tool in the automation process, allowing users to handle large volumes of contracts more efficiently and accurately than ever. 

What is Contract Automation?

Contract automation leverages technology to simplify the creation, execution, and management of contractual agreements. 

While manual contract management might leave you sifting through dusty old file cabinets or getting lost in email threads looking for a specific version of a contract, contract automation streamlines the entire journey by harnessing contract management tools that simplify these tasks so you can focus on “big picture” stuff like strategy or making your next big deal. 

This is a game-changer, especially for businesses dealing with a slew of recurring contracts. 

Automation also ensures that each contract is consistent and follows the same rules and guidelines. This uniformity reduces some of the need for oversight, making the process not just faster but also more reliable.

What Contract Automation Can and Can’t Do  

Now, like any tool, contract automation has its own set of superpowers and, of course, limitations.

contract-automation-can-and-cant

What it excels at:

  • Streamlining processes: With contract automation, most of the grunt work is taken care of, enabling quicker turnarounds.

  • Reducing human error: We're all human, and errors can creep in with repetitive tasks. Contract automation reduces these errors, ultimately saving time and potentially a lot of money.

  • Insightful overviews: Contract automation can help provide actionable insights into various contract stages, helping businesses make informed decisions.

  • Ensuring consistency: With predefined templates and guidelines, every contract churned out is consistent with the last, ensuring brand and legal cohesion.

  • Facilitating collaboration: The digital nature of contract automation makes collaboration a breeze. Multiple stakeholders can review, edit, and approve contracts seamlessly.

  • Set timely reminders: Forgetfulness can be costly in the contract world. Automation ensures you're always on top of renewals and milestones with automated reminders and alerts.

However, it's not a magic wand. Here's what it can't do:

  • Replace legal expertise: Technology is smart, but it can't replace the nuanced understanding of a seasoned legal professional.

  • Negotiate terms: While it can present terms clearly, the art of negotiation remains a human endeavor.

  • Understand context: Automation operates based on defined rules. It can't gauge the context like a human can.

  • Predict the future: As much as we'd love it, contract automation can't foresee future business needs or changes in the legal landscape.

  • Eliminate all risks: While it significantly reduces risks, especially those stemming from human error, it doesn't eradicate them entirely.

Though contract automation revolutionizes how businesses handle their agreements, it's essential to understand its capabilities and boundaries. By harmonizing its strengths with human expertise, companies can harness the best of both worlds.

Using AI Contract Automation

AI tools are having a huge impact on contract automation, making the process more efficient, accurate, and less prone to human error. 

Here’s how AI can enhance your contract automation processes:

Contract creation: It can speed up the contract creation process and reduce manual errors by automatically filling in data like names, dates, and other key terms based on pre-set rules and data from integrated systems. 

Intelligent contract analysis: AI can analyze contracts to identify key clauses and terms, comparing them against standard templates and compliance requirements. This analysis helps in quickly spotting deviations or potential issues, ensuring contracts align with business standards and legal regulations.

Efficiency in handling large volumes of contracts: AI can process and analyze  contracts much faster than a human, making it ideal for businesses that handle a high volume of contracts regularly. 

Enhanced risk management: Through its predictive capabilities, AI can assess and flag potential risks in contracts, such as unusual clauses or terms that might lead to future disputes. This proactive approach helps mitigate risks before contracts are finalized.

While AI is undoubtedly changing contract management, it is still important to remember that it’s a fairly new development. And a lot can go wrong. Because of this, it’s important to always double-check any documents processed by AI for accuracy. 

5 Problems Solved By Contract Automation 

Contract mismanagement can lead to lost opportunities, disputes, and financial penalties. But what if we told you there's a way to transform these challenges into seamless processes? 

Let's delve into the top five problems that contract automation can solve to offer businesses a smoother, error-free path to success.

problems-solved-contract-automation

Human Error

Manual contract management comes with a lot of risks. Human touch, while invaluable in many contexts, can lead to oversight in contract creation and management. 

We're all human, and despite our best efforts, there might be slip-ups. Maybe we miss a clause, write a wrong date, misfile a document, or overlook a signature. These little errors can snowball into disputes.

So, what's the solution? How do you mitigate these risks?

Contract automation acts as your digital backbone, transforming the traditional contract management process into an error-resistant and efficient system.

At the core of this is pre-built contract templates. Crafted and vetted by legal experts, these templates ensure that every contract you create starts on solid ground. They include all the necessary legal clauses and terms, tailored to different types of agreements. When you need to draft a new contract, simply choose the appropriate template from your automated system. 

Then, the power of automation really shines with auto-populated fields. Imagine a system that automatically fills in the routine information like dates, names, and numbers, drawing from your existing database. It's a safeguard against the all-too-human errors of typos and data mismatches, streamlining the contract creation process and ensuring accuracy.

The final piece of this automated puzzle is a smart, organized digital system for document management. It replaces chaotic paper trails with a clear, accessible digital format. This system keeps track of every change, organizes documents logically, and guarantees that everyone involved has access to the most current version of a contract. 

Low-value Tasks

Managing contracts involves a fair share of repetitive tasks. Data entry, filing, basic drafting—you know the drill. These tasks, while essential, eat into valuable hours that you could better spend on strategic initiatives or fostering business relationships.

Fortunately, contract automation can alleviate much of this burden.

Tools like AI data extraction can swiftly pull relevant details from documents. Instead of manually copying and pasting essential information between documents, these tools do the heavy lifting, ensuring you don’t overlook small details. This means more time for strategy, innovation, and growth and less time on the administrative grind.

Duplicates and Incorrect Versions

Ever have to sift through a pile of paperwork trying to find the latest version of a contract? Without a clear system, drafts multiply, old versions sneak back in, and confusion is pretty much unavoidable. Keeping everyone aligned with a single source of truth and the most recent contract iteration can become a Herculean task.

So, what's the best way to sidestep this mayhem? Well, contract automation, of course.

It provides a centralized repository where it logs each modification, and version histories are clear. No more sifting through emails or digging through files to find the "final" draft. Real-time notifications keep everyone updated on changes, ensuring all hands work from the same, most up-to-date document.

Strained Counterparty Relationships

Building strong relationships with counterparties is crucial, but manual processes can often get in the way. Mistakes and delays aren’t just inconvenient; they can erode trust. Every missed deadline or oversight can push a potential partner or client away, making them question your organization's efficiency.

Enter the transformative power of contract automation.

Fewer mistakes reinforce streamlined negotiations, on-the-dot agreements, and trust between parties. In today's digital age, the ability to finalize contracts with e-signatures and offer easy digital access points amplifies this trust, enhancing overall counterparty experiences.

Questionable Data Integrity 

Solid decisions rely on solid data. Inconsistent contractual data isn't just a minor hiccup—it can lead to flawed business decisions. The reliability of your data can make or break critical choices, and traditional methods can often muddy the waters with inconsistencies.

That's where contract automation shines.

By employing contract automation, you harness the power of uniform templates and precise data extraction. The result? Consistency across all your contracts. And it doesn't end there. Contract automation offers dynamic dashboards that provide real-time insights, ensuring crystal-clear, reliable data for every decision.

How To Automate Contracts In Your Business

Transitioning to automated contract management is a big decision that has the potential to drastically redefine how you do business. By optimizing every step, you can transform a traditionally cumbersome process into a streamlined, efficient, and powerful system. Here’s how to master the process: 

contract-automation-process

1. Craft Perfect Templates

Your automated contract journey starts with solid templates. Templates will help kickstart contract generation, as well as establish a structured process that ensures you don’t miss any clauses and everyone knows what to do.

Make sure to vet your templates. Remember, the goal is to ensure these documents align with your business’s unique needs. It's essential that they’re adaptive and can grow with your changing needs and the ever-evolving industry landscape.

How ContractSafe does it: 

ContractSafe offers easy-to-create templates, allowing businesses to create reusable documents that perfectly align with their unique business requirements and legal standards.

Templates might include standard service agreements, non-disclosure agreements, employment contracts, and purchase orders. Each template is designed to cover various scenarios and contract types, providing a comprehensive foundation for contract drafting.

Use them when you're creating a new contract or updating an existing one. These templates are particularly useful for frequent, recurring contractual scenarios in your business, ensuring consistency and legal compliance across all documents.

2. Facilitate Cross-Departmental Collaboration

Effective contract management in a legal setting demands collaboration and control over who accesses information. This is where ContractSafe's capabilities in managing permission groups and secure sharing become invaluable.

How ContractSafe does it:

ContractSafe allows you to set up roles and permissions. This means that each team member can access exactly what they need to see, no more and no less. By configuring these permissions, you avoid bottlenecks that occur when everyone waits for access while also maintaining strict control over sensitive information.

To streamline the approval process, ContractSafe includes email approvals and alerts, allowing for quick and efficient decision-making. This feature ensures that the workflow keeps moving without sacrificing security or oversight.

The key here is striking the right balance between accessibility for collaboration and stringent security to protect sensitive information. ContractSafe’s platform is designed with this balance in mind, enabling legal teams to work together effectively while maintaining the highest levels of data security and compliance.

3. Map Out Review and Approval Workflows

Navigating the approval process for contracts can be a delicate balancing act. It's essential to maintain control and compliance without letting approval workflows become a hindrance to progress. ContractSafe's approach to managing these workflows ensures that contracts move smoothly through approval stages while keeping an eye on compliance and efficiency.

How ContractSafe does it: 

ContractSafe provides structured workflows that clearly outline who needs to approve what. This structure is pivotal in preventing sales teams from bypassing necessary checks while avoiding unnecessary delays in the approval process.

The platform’s contract tracking also offers clear visibility into where each contract is in the approval process, helping identify bottlenecks and areas where contracts might be stuck, allowing for quick intervention to keep things moving.

The system includes automated alerts and reminders to keep all relevant parties informed about pending approvals. This keeps the workflow moving and ensures that approvals are not overlooked or delayed.

4. Integrate With Other Business Tools

You want to make sure your automation tools play nice with your other business tools. When you have smooth integrations, especially with customer relationship management (CRM) tools or e-signature platforms, you can auto-fill key fields and sign contracts quickly. This ensures more accurate data and faster contract execution. 

And when you sync these  with analytic tools, you can get a more detailed view of your business operations, as well. 

How ContractSafe does it: 

ContractSafe seamlessly integrates with popular CRM platforms like Salesforce or HubSpot, allowing for the automatic transfer of client information into contracts, minimizing manual data entry and the risk of errors.

It’s also compatible with leading e-signature tools, making the contract-signing process quick and legally binding, without the need to switch between different applications.

5. Use Alerts and Reminders 

Your contract automation toolset needs to include alerts and reminders. And not just dashboard popups. Look for a tool that will send alerts directly to stakeholders’ emails. Some tools will even send key documents with the alerts to streamline processes even more. 

How ContractSafe does it: 

ContractSafe's alert and reminder system is designed to keep all stakeholders informed and proactive, allowing users to send notifications directly to stakeholders' emails. This includes reminders about contract renewals, deadlines, and other critical dates.

Even better, ContractSafe will send a link to relevant documents, making it easier for stakeholders to review the information directly from their email, streamlining the process and ensuring timely responses.

6. Customize Your Dashboard

Visibility is paramount. Having a clear, intuitive dashboard offers a unique bird’s eye view into contract progression. Beyond just contract tracking, these dashboards should offer:

  • Tailored reporting: Not all businesses are the same, which means you need to gear your reports toward your business’s needs. Customize them to reflect what truly matters to your operation.
  • Intuitive navigation: Time spent fumbling around looking for what you need is time wasted. An intuitive design ensures that everything is just a click away, streamlining operations and enhancing efficiency.

How ContractSafe does it: 

ContractSafe's dashboard customization allows businesses to tailor their contract management experience to their specific needs.

Users can customize their dashboards to focus on the information that's most relevant to their business. Whether it's tracking contract expiration dates, monitoring compliance, or analyzing contract value, the information can be tailored to suit diverse business requirements.

By leveraging these features, ContractSafe offers a comprehensive solution that not only simplifies contract management but also aligns it closely with the broader operational needs and goals of the business.

Learn How ContractSafe Can Help You Automate Your Contract Management 

Ready to get started with contract automation? ContractSafe can help. ContractSafe offers the perfect blend of necessary tools like:

  • Intuitive dashboard
  • Alerts and reminders 
  • AI data extraction
  • Streamlined reporting
  • Powerful workflows

Without a bunch of unnecessary fluff that you’ll never use.

Want to see it in action? Schedule a demo today.

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