In our daily lives, we’ve become very accustomed to the power of skipping. You can decide to skip a workout if you think you deserve a cheat day. You can sign up for a free panel or webinar and never show up with little to no repercussions. You can absolutely skip pre-roll YouTube ads. 

This hard-fought freedom to skip does not exist in the world of contract negotiation. You can’t afford to cut any corners in contracting, especially when it comes to pre-signature. And yet—skipping abounds. Many legal teams working remotely over the last seven months have been smacked over the head with oversights they really shouldn’t have skimmed over. 

It’s true that the pre-signature process is different now that we’re not in the office. Not being in the same physical space creates workflow friction and drop offs. You can’t walk over to finance to get the approval you need. You can’t leave a printed contract on someone’s desk for redlining. 

In particular, skipping tends to occur during the tricky middle phases of pre-signature: drafting, negotiation and approval. Today we’re providing tips for distributed teams to uplevel contract review and negotiation workflows. These tips even apply to teams that are well-adjusted to remote work. You can always stand to make the pre-signature contracting process more streamlined and automated. 

Tip #1: Don’t rely on email

BYOS (bring your own snacks) is a great policy for parties. BYOS (bring your own system) is a horrible policy for the contract management process. 

Some large organizations may not have a top-down mandate to standardize on certain platforms. The marketing department might be using Google Drive while finance uses Box and IT swears by Excel Spreadsheets. 

Trying to manage contracts using three different systems is like herding sheep in the wild west. Email might be the only tool these contending departments all have in common. Cue lots of parsing through back-and-forth on various lengthy email threads. 

Without a standard workspace for contract communication and storage, valuable pre-signature collaboration and transparency disappears. Competing versions of a contract tend to spring up and circulate among these siloed channels.
 

The moral here is to make contract collaboration as simple as possible. Use one centralized, shared workspace that all contract approvers can access. Move those conversations out of email and turn them into actions. Lots of contract management platforms offer project dashboards where stakeholders can assign, receive and check the status of tasks. 

Evisort, for example, features built-in communication tools that notify reviewers when they’re falling behind schedule. It also allows teams to add in new business users on the fly if the original reviewer is out of office or otherwise unavailable. 

Tip #2: Encourage contracting self-service

Any time legal spends filling out contract templates and reformatting existing documents is time wasted. 

Contract automation facilitates a smoother remote pre-signature process and saves legal time as they prepare for negotiation. Evisort’s AI-powered contract generation software provides self-service automated templates. Departments can customize these by selecting from a legal-approved provision and clause library.

If the contract is on third party paper, some platforms, like Evisort, also provide workflow builders. Teams can create approval workflows based on the type of the contract—e.g. A master services agreement always gets sent to the CFO for signature first.

Finally, these automated workflows should be integrated with existing business processes to become fully formalized procedures. Ideally, your contract management software should automatically sync with your ERP or CRM solution.

Let’s say a client submits a contract via email. The contract management system will extract, tag, classify and populate the data in the appropriate solutions. For example, renewal dates get auto-populated into Salesforce. That way, sales teams know when to proactively start warming up the client in advance of the renewal.

Tip #3: Leave a contract audit trail

Disorganized, multi-channel contract management workflows also make it hard to enforce version control. No one is sure which version of the document is up to date or whose signature is still needed.

Your contract management software should act as a system of record. Look for a platform that automatically creates an audit trail by capturing every edit, signature and handoff. 

Audit trails help you reduce risk and ensure compliance. If the IT team is neglected during review, other teams may not catch that the vendor lacks certain data privacy standards.

Finally, auditing will also help you find and eliminate other logistical bottlenecks that come up while working as a distributed team. Pay attention to when contracts keep getting “stuck” with one department or stakeholder. That’s a classic example of a pre-signature workflow bottleneck. 

How Evisort helps distributed teams streamline contract workflow 

The more you automate contract workflows, the more you eliminate time-consuming manual processes. That will help you make fewer simple mistakes, such as data entry errors and saving files in the wrong format. The fewer inadvertent “skips” and mistakes you make, the faster you can close deals. The faster you close deals, the more you help raise the bottom line.

Once you establish a standard procedure, it doesn’t matter when—or if—your company returns to the office. It doesn’t matter if it introduces new contract types or swaps out stakeholders. Your team will always have the same established rules to follow.

Evisort Contract Workflow automates the entire contract creation and approval process, reducing time-to-signature from months to minutes. The whole workflow from review, redline and signature is automatically tracked and managed in one centralized platform.

Evisort also creates legal-approved templates by using key data from stored contracts. Teams from different departments can self-service contract requests and document generation in seconds, allowing contract review and negotiation to get started much faster.
Evisort’s Contract Lifecycle Management platform provides a single location for workflow approval and accountability. This helps organizations streamline collaboration and sharpen their negotiation strategy while providing real-time visibility into their contracts. It also syncs and integrates with any document storage system, CRM or ERP. Contact us for a demo or to learn more about our contract workflow solution.

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