If your company is dealing with more contracts than ever before, you’re not alone. The causes for this exponential growth include an increasing number of regulatory requirements, supply chain issues and the complexity of business relationships that are a result of globalization. In addition, employees change jobs more frequently and working as an independent contractor is more prevalent. So, there are more employment contracts, and confidentiality and non-compete agreements to manage. Sales contracts and vendor agreements are a concern for any company that sells or manufactures products and successful contract negotiations are critical because of the pressure to reduce costs. Business partnerships are more common too.It’s time to stop relying on your memory, reminders on your calendar, checking an Excel spreadsheet or hopping onto Google Docs to find out when a contract is scheduled for automated renewal or about to expire. Missing one of these deadlines can result in paying for services you no longer use or missing out on negotiating better terms for the next contract period.
Managing contracts by relying on paper, email or a partial digital solution is time-consuming and stressful. Contracts are too important to be stored on paper which may be lost or misfiled. In addition, sending them back and forth for revision and signature by snail mail slows down the process and introduces the possibility of human error. Emailing contracts is a somewhat better solution, but it may not save time unless you use software that integrates with Outlook and other email software.
Implementing document management provides a comprehensive solution that automates contract workflows so that stakeholders can see the progress of a contract from first revision to completion and eliminates unnecessary process steps to save time and effort. You’ll find a few examples of how document management helps DocuWare customers manage contracts more efficiently in the next section of the blog post.
Electronic personnel files and automated workflows ensure good customer relationships
The companies of Hamburg-based CCP Management Holding specialize in temporary employment, personnel placement and consulting. The service provider employs about 500 people at 10 locations throughout Germany.
Prior to implementing DocuWare, all HR documents, including activity reports and accounts for the temporary employment agencies, were archived in paper form and stored in file cabinets. They were filed inconsistently – so it wasn’t easy to find documents when staff needed them. Because of a ten-year retention period required by law, the company also had to rent additional storage space.
DocuWare now enables more productive work in the branch offices and the billing center. All personnel documents — from signed employment contracts to bank account records — are scanned and automatically indexed with Intelligent Indexing which uses machine learning to remember each document and your indexing input, so every capture increases the speed, accuracy and reliability of the tool. Then the documents are available in an employee’s digital personnel file for authorized access. Today, about 65 employees use the system, most of them in the branches and 15 in the Hamburg headquarters. Around 7,000 HR documents are archived and processed every month.
Digital vehicle contract files result in greater efficiency for thriving auto dealerships
Stoll Automotive Group is a Volkswagen and Audi dealership based in southern Germany with four car dealerships and an online business. DocuWare has been in use at the company since mid-2019.
With electronic vehicle files, when a customer decides to buy a car, the signed contract is digitally archived. After review by the sales manager, the document is forwarded to the disposition department where various subtasks are completed. The salesperson then receives an email notification that all documents are ready for the customer to sign.
Thanks to DocuWare, dealership employees always know which tasks have already been completed or are still pending. And all documents are available at any time via the digital vehicle file.
Integrating digital signatures optimizes contract management
WSM Personal is an HR service provider for temporary staffing. The company recruits employees from central and eastern Europe who want to work in Germany. The staffing company focuses on providing workers for the food, construction, logistics and manufacturing sectors.
Managing employment contracts is a central process for WSM Personal. Since the company hires staff from abroad, and new employees want a signed employment contract in their hands before they leave for Germany, a digital signature process is essential. This used to be handled by a third-party provider, but now it can be managed directly from DocuWare through integration with the trusted service provider Validated ID.
The process starts with the creation of the employment contract which contains a status field that will indicate that the contract is ready for signature; the new employee's email address and telephone number are stored for two-factor authentication. Once the document has been transferred to Validated ID, a trust service provider that DocuWare integrates with, a link is emailed to the employee. The signature is validated via text message containing a verification code. The signed contract is automatically archived in DocuWare. The digital signature process is also used for other contracts, such as termination agreements and assignment notifications.
How document management improves contract management
It’s easy to organize, store and retrieve contracts
With a central repository, a document management system provides electronic filing that is standardized so you can always find the information you need. You have an overview of the status of every contract, past and present. The information is also instantly available to any team member who has permission to access it.
Automated routing and approvals eliminate unnecessary delays
A department manager can start a typical contract approval workflow. Then the contract may be submitted to the finance department for their sign-off. If finance authorizes it, the contract can automatically go on to the legal team for review. After legal approves it, the contract is finalized and a copy of the original document gets stored in a central database. Then the contract is sent to the parties involved who use a secure, digital signature to sign the document and the signed contract is routed back to the company to initiate the execution stage.
Email notifications and reminders can be scheduled to ensure that processes are completed within a specific timeframe. Because your team has a real-time overview of the process, bottlenecks can be identified and resolved early in the contract lifecycle. Your company can create a flexible contract infrastructure that supports your ability to withstand the pressure caused by unforeseeable changes in economic conditions.
Signing a contract that has been approved without following company policy can result in long-term financial and legal consequences. Designing automated workflows that enforce company guidelines ensures speedy execution and compliance with government regulations.
Version control ensures that everyone is working with a current contractWithout version control, it’s impossible to be sure you’re working with the most current version of a contract. This can be especially concerning when your company uses contract templates. In this situation, it’s not unusual for someone to send out a contract using an outdated template. A lack of automation can even result in old versions sneaking into the approval stage.
Some contracts need to be managed continuously throughout their lifespan. This type of agreement will likely undergo many changes over time. This is a recipe for disaster without automated version control. By using document management, your company can cut down on time spent on drafting/reviewing contracts and spend more time on value-added activities.
e-Signatures that are secure and often legally enforceableDid you know that electronic signatures are often as legally binding as “wet signatures” that are signed in person? E-signatures are also more secure because you can be sure of the identity of the originator, that document is genuine and that the contents have not been altered. Although they were once the benchmark, a “wet signature” can’t do any of these things with certainty.
Often, businesses that haven’t fully implemented e-signature or don’t use it at all are influenced by outdated perceptions of the technology. Use of the e-signature was authorized before the advent of the smartphone. In 2000, the E-signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) made some e-signatures legally binding in the US. The Electronic Communications Act of 2000 did the same thing for digital signatures in the UK. Since then, e-signature use has exploded worldwide and is commonplace in many international transactions.
Compare these two examples to understand just how much e-signatures can speed up processes:
Scenario 1: You email a contract to a client. The client prints, signs and mails the paper
document back to you. Total time: 3-5 days minimum.
Scenario 2: As part of an automated workflow, you email a contract to your client for digital
signature through a Trust Service Provider (TSP). The client reviews the document and signs it electronically. Then it’s sent to you automatically and ready for you to process. Total time: A few minutes.
Electronic forms bring even more efficiency to your processes
Electronic forms collect information that’s central to a variety of business processes including contract management. The use of modern web forms has even more impact when combined with automated workflow and integration with back-end systems. Your company can eliminate paper forms, PDFs and manual data entry and replace them with accurate, convenient online forms.
For example, with electronic forms, you can easily create contract templates and use version control to be sure that your staff is always working with the most current version. You can simplify, improve and accelerate data collection. Not only are they instantly available to anyone on any device, but forms provide structure to data so it can be used to automate information flow through your team.
Integration with Outlook and Microsoft Office eliminates time-consuming searches through your inbox and enhances collaboration
Document management integrates with the tools that legal and procurement teams live by, Microsoft Office and Microsoft Outlook. This functionality puts emails and attachments in the correct folder automatically so you don’t work from your inbox resulting in time-consuming searches for the information you need. You can choose to archive only emails, only attachments or both of them. You can set up workflows to send contracts to a fully searchable folder that anyone on your team with permission can access.
Live collaboration on Microsoft Office documents (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) brings a higher level of collaboration to your team. These documents can be edited natively in Microsoft Office for the web so coworkers can work on a document together in real-time. Editing is much faster, as documents no longer need to be downloaded and then uploaded after edits are complete.
These are just some of the ways that document management can simplify contract management in your company. To find out more attend our webinar, How to automate contracts now from start to finish and never miss another deadline on Thursday, November 17 at 2 p.m. EST.