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Contract Lifecycle Management: The Definitive Guide

Printed out contract

Working with contracts can be likened to parenting. The contract is your child and you need to provide it with all the information it will need to handle life in the real world. Your approach to handling contracts and what you add to them will ensure the success of the agreement you make with the other party. It is a lay description of contract lifecycle management. However, let us understand the technical aspect of this process.

Definition of Contract Lifecycle

This is the entire process involved in capturing terms of a contract, authoring the document, negotiating terms, approvals and appending signatures, and following through to meet obligations and handle the renewal of the contract.

As you can see, there is a lot involved in this process which is why contract lifecycle management is necessary. This process makes it possible for everyone to understand what they are agreeing to without hidden obligations popping up in the course of the relationship between clients.

Even with parties that may have the best of intentions, it is still important to have written agreements that have been negotiated, approved, and formally consented to with signatures. The contract also needs to be safely stored. This avoids sticky situations that can arise because of the absence of an organized system.

Benefits of Contract Life Management

Person signing a contract

Contract life management can result in substantial progress and efficiency and it has legal implications that every business should endeavor to secure by complying with legal requirements. The benefits include:

Reduced Time Spent Administering Contracts: Contract lifecycle management software streamlines the process of administering contracts. These processes usually take up a lot of man-hours and incur high financial costs. With a management system in place, this is something you do not have to give a lot of attention to.

Avoid Costly Penalties: It is not uncommon that a supplier or client finds that they are guilty of breach of contract because they did not perform a particular obligation. With contract administration in place, this cannot happen. Payment errors and rebates can be avoided because everything that is expected of each party is well defined and there are systems to ensure obligations are met on time.

Contract Managers are Free from Administration Tasks: Administrating contracts is a task that can be automated so that the contract managers can focus on other tasks instead of constantly following up compliance issues as well as having to author contracts. CLM software takes care of most of the administration.

Impress Customers With Efficient Performance: Enterprises that have contract management cycle processes can deliver services to customer expectations or even exceed expectations.

Prevent Litigation: Incomplete contracts expose parties to non-compliance litigation when they fail to live up to their end of the agreement. This can be avoided by having a lifecycle management process that enables the following:

Steps in Contract Lifecycle Management

As mentioned above, there are several processes involved in managing contracts right from start to finish. With the right contract lifecycle management software, any enterprise can achieve the following.

Creating Contracts

Person writing on a document

Anyone who has had to author a contract from scratch can attest to the complexity of such a task. To ease this process, contract templates can be used. Well designed templates that incorporate all the elements of a particular contract can save time while ensuring the document is compliant with the legal contract best practices. With most organizations faced with the task of creating multiple contracts, automation of this process is a relief. Important and complex contracts can be created rapidly without human involvement through most of the process and the risk of costly errors is reduced to a minimum.

Digitalizing Paper Contracts and Tracking All Documents

The best management systems are paperless, however not every time will your contract process be free of paper. Contract lifecycle management tools will give the user the ability to capture all documents by scanning paper documents and storing the data within a system that makes it easier to track. These systems are not different from other document management software that enable cloud storage for easier and safer management of documents.

Remember, contracts usually have accompanying documents that also need to be filed within the same system. All these can be captured and digitized easily. Users can then access these documents on the go and that makes compliance and verification much easier.

Collaborative Negotiation and Approval

Two people shaking hands

Regardless of distance and time, contract lifecycle management solutions make it possible for different parties to collaborate in the process of negotiating and approving contracts. Each party can receive an electronic copy of the draft contract on which they can suggest changes that will be highlighted and considered when making a final draft. Every contribution can be easily traced to whoever has made the remark and everyone can see the changes that have been suggested.

Because this process is carried out electronically, time is saved. There’s no reason to involve courier services or risk documents getting misplaced. Contracts between parties in different time zones or continents can be concluded just as fast as it would be if all parties were seated in the same boardroom.

Execution of the Contract (Signatures)

Person signing a document

Once the contract has been approved and all parties involved are happy with the draft, a final copy is drafted and sent to all involved for signing. All signatures can be collected electronically and with the final document signed, every party will receive an electronic copy that is also securely stored in a contract library that only authorized individuals to have access to. E-signatures have made it easier to execute legally binding contracts across geographical locations.

Amendments and Revisions

Contracts tend to be dynamic especially when they are binding over a long period. Often there will be amendments and everyone needs to keep track of the changes that are made. Often, amendments may confuse if there isn’t any reliable management system in place. Notifications can be used to alert signatories of any changes made to the contract.

For example, a contract might be made for the supply of a particular amount of goods over 12 months with the possibility of increasing the supply after that period, a notification can be sent to all parties before the time elapses and the contract will be automatically updated if no one has objections to the new quantity.

Performance Audits

People looking through documents

Even after the ink has dried, performance audits will have to be undertaken continuously to ascertain that everyone is meeting their obligations. The contract will have clear benchmarks that will help to measure if the value is being realized. An automated CLM contract will have notifications to alert parties about deadlines that may have been missed.

Such a system ensures that a business provides prompt and quality service to the client. At the same time, the business will avoid lost revenue as a result of missed deadlines or failure to renew contracts.

Managing contracts manually exposes a business to many pitfalls and it takes up a lot of time. Automating the process, however, will ensure a lucrative business relationship with fewer burdens placed on the shoulders of legal teams.

Businesses will avoid risk by guaranteeing compliance through the use of approved professional templates. A streamlined process of handling negotiations and approvals makes things move much faster towards execution.

Despite the natural human tendency to forget dates, notifications can help remind concerned parties of upcoming deadlines. Businesses that are employing lifecycle management tools are seeing smoother operations with less time spent dealing with litigation.

Tags Start & End

Tags Can Start & End Anywhere

Appendix B

.NET code for multi-page image output

Appendix A

Java code for multi-page image output

Data Bin Search

The Data Bin can now be searched to find a table, column, node or other piece of data without scrolling through it all.

Shrink to Fit

This will shrink the contents of a cell until it fits the defined cell size.

Time Zone Conversion

A new Windward macro has been added to help with converting dates and times from UTC time to the local time zone.

Image Output Format

New image output formats added.

PostScript Output Format

PostScript, commonly used with printers and printing companies, has been added as an additional output format.

New and Improved Datasets (Designer, Java Engine, .NET Engine)

Datasets have been re-written from scratch to be more powerful and easier to use.

Stored Procedure Wizard (Designer)

This works for all tag types that are connected to a SQL-based data source (Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, or DB2).

Boolean Conditional Wizard (Designer)

Before, conditional statements could only be written manually. Now they can also be built using our intuitive Wizard interface.

Reorganized Ribbon

The ribbon menus have been re-organized and consolidated to improve the report design workflow.

XPath 2.0 as Data Source

Adds various capabilities such as inequalities,descending sort, joins, and other functions.

SQL Select Debugger

SQL Select  Debugger

  • The look and feel was improved
  • Stored Procedure Wizard
  • Improved Exceptions pane

Tag Editor/Tag Selector

Added a Query tab as a field for typing or pasting in a select statement

  • Color Coding of Keywords
  • TypeAhead
  • Evaluate is now "Preview"

Rename a Datasource

All tags using that Data source will be automatically updated with that name.

Connecting to a Data Source

New single interface to replace 2 separate dialog boxes

Tag Tree

Displays of all the tags in the template, structured as they are placed in the template. This provides a simple & intuitive way to see the structure of your template. Also provides the capability to go to any tag and/or see the properties of any tag.

Added Javelin into the RESTful Engine

Support for Google Application Engine Integration

The ability to integrate the Windward Engine into Google’s cloud computing platform for developing and hosting web applications dubbed Google Applications Engine (GAE).

Additional Refinement for HTML Output

  • Improved indentation for ordered and unordered lists
  • Better handling of template header and footer images
  • Better handling for background images and colors

Redesigned PDF Output Support

This new  integration will allow for processing of complex scripts and bi-directional  text such as Arabic.  Your PDF output  will be much tighter and more closely match your template, and we’ll be able  to respond rapidly to PDF requests and fixes.

PowerPoint Support

Includes support for new ForEach and slide break handling, table header row repeat across slide breaks, and native Microsoft support for charts and images.

Tags are Color Coded

Tags are color coded in the template by type, making it easy to visually identify them.

Increased Performance

Version 13’s core code has been reworked and optimized to offer a reduced memory footprint, faster PDF generation and full documentation of supported features and limitations in the specifications for DOCX, XLSX and PPTX.

Advanced Image Properties

Documents can include advanced Word image properties such as shadows, borders, and styles.

Improved HTML Output

Windward has updated HTML output to reflect changing HTML standards.

Version 13 New Data Sources

Windward now works with a slew of new datasources: MongoDB, JSON, Cassandra, OData, Salesforce.com

Generate Code

The Generate Code tool in the designer allows you to open an existing template and, with a click of a button, automatically create a window with the code needed to run your current template with all data sources and variables. Simply copy this code and paste into your application's code in the appropriate place. You now have Windward integrated into your application.

You only need to do this once. You do not do this for each template. Instead, where it has explicit files for the template and output, change that to parameters you pass to this code. Same for the parameters passed to Windward. This example uses explicit values to show you what to substitute in where.

Pivot Tables Adjusted in Output

Any pivot tables in an XLSX template are carried over to the XLSX output. The ranges in the pivot ranges are adjusted to match the generated output. So your final XLSX will have pivot tables set as expected in the generated file.

This makes creating an XLSX workbook with pivot tables trivial.

Imported Template Can be Set to Match the Parent Styles

In an imported sub-template, if its properties for a style (ex. Normal) differ from the parent template's properties for the style, the use in the sub-template can be set to either use the properties in the sub-template, or the properties in the parent.

You set to retain when you don't want the child template's styling to change when imported. You set to use the parent when you want the styling of the imported template to match the styling in the parent.

Any explicit styling is always retained. This only impacts styling set by styles.

Tags can be Placed in Text Boxes

Tags can be placed in text boxes. Including linked text boxes. This gives you the ability to set the text in a textbox from your data.

Tags can be Placed in Shapes & Smart Art

Tags can be placed in shapes & smart art. This gives you the ability to set the text in a shape from your data.

HTML Output Supports Embedded Images

When generating HTML output, the engine can either write bitmaps as distinct files the generate HTML references, or it can embed the images in the HTML providing a single file for the output.

Footnotes & Endnotes can Have Tags

You can place tags in pretty much any part of a template, including in footnotes & endnotes.

Document Locking Supported in DOCX & XLSX

Any parts of a DOCX or XLSX (PowerPoint does not support this) file that are locked in the template, will be locked the same in the output.

Specify Font Substitution

If a font used in the template does not exist on the server generating a report, the font to substitute can be specified.
In addition, if a glyph to be rendered does not exist in the font specified, you can specify the replacement font. This can be set distinctly for European, Bi-Directional, and Far East fonts.

Process Multiple Datasources Simultaneously

If you need this - it's essential. And if you don't need it, it's irrelevant.

Windward enables you to build a document by applying multiple datasources to the template simultaneously. When Windward is merging the data into a template, it processes the template by handling each tag in order, and each tag pulls from different datasources. (As opposed to processing all of one datasource, then processing the next.)

This allows the select tag to use data from another datasource in its select. For example, if you are pulling customer information from one data source, you can then pull data from the sales datasource using the customer ID of the customer presently processing to pull the sales information for that customer. If you're interested in patching together your data from multiple datasources, read this post on our blog.

Genesis Abel

Written by:_
Genesis Abel
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