It may not be sexy, but it is smart. Choosing the right contracting solution can make the different between a stressed day and a calm day, a sales target miss and a signed sales agreement, or an audit fail and an audit cleared with flying colors.
Picking the right solution will help your organization to thrive – this guide will help you to go about it.
Best For Small Business: Contract Hound
Designed solely for small business, we believe Contract Hound offers the right feature set if you’re a small organization just getting started with contract management. Read the full review >>
Best For Large Businesses: Agiloft
Infinitely customizable and perfectly set up to support enterprise clients, Agiloft is a market leader for a reason. It’s a full-featured product, has great support and offers tons and bells and whistles guaranteed to please even the most demanding of compliance teams. Read the full review >>
Best Free Solution: PandaDoc
Don’t want to pay? Use PandaDoc for unlimited legally binding eSignatures and document uploads. Read the full review >>
Contract Management Software is a program developed for businesses to store and manage legal documents and agreements, including contracts between clients, customers, vendors, licensing agreements, leases, etc.
With the help of a good contract management software program or suite of programs, all or nearly all aspects of the contractual process can be managed digitally and tracked, including contract creation, negotiation and discussion of contractual terms, and electronic signatures.
By creating a unified digital workspace, members of a business team can simultaneously access the entirety of their business’s contracts anywhere in the world with an internet-connected computer or smartphone.
In addition to most contract management software programs capable of handling all (or nearly all) aspects of a new contract, it will also streamline the contract renewal process. Most software has built-in features for reminding users a contract is about to be up for renewal, among other useful and efficient tools.
You may hear contract management software being referred to as contract lifecycle management or CLM software interchangeably – from a small business perspective, it’s essentially the same thing.
Contracts form the basis of all commerce and business. On a base level, a contract is two (or more parties) agreeing and promising to the other they will act in a specified way, generally for both parties’ benefit – they each get something they want out of the contract. If something doesn’t go according to plan, each party has the agreement to refer back to and protect their interests.
Companies had to keep basements and warehouses full of boxes on boxes and room upon room of hard copy contracts until very recently. For a company dealing with thousands of contracts a month, even with the greatest filing system in the world, it would require someone physically locating a contract, whether that meant going to the basement or making a call to the repository attendant and filing a request. It took time and a lot of it. And imagine if all you needed to do was look up one little clause or detail – all that work for something so small, however important and necessary.
Enter Contract Management Software. As technology evolves and continues to grow exponentially, so does the advanced technology created to assist us in our daily and professional lives. Contract authoring and calling up a completed contract can now be done in seconds with cloud-based contract management software. For example: On page 52 of a ten-year-old contract, that particular tiny but important clause can be found in seconds by a simple digital search through the contract. The amount of time and tedium saved and the increased volume of concurrent contracts a small business to a medium enterprise can maintain with good contract management software is astounding.
Contract management software is a place to store your contracts. Many companies may find it logistically challenging to store a large number of contracts. They could save their contracts to a hard drive, but they still have a collection of documents without efficiently managing them.
Contract management software makes locating contracts easy, along with tracking which stage the contract is in throughout the process. Audit trials normally come as standard with modern cloud-based contract management software.
Therefore, streamlining the administrative process involved with contracts is one of the most important purposes and benefits of Content Management Software.
Generally speaking, many contracts go through changes and rewrites or rephrasing of terms before both parties are in agreement. Contract management software will highlight each of the changes – large or small – made to the document at each stage of the process (hence it is also known as contract lifecycle management CLM software).
Tracking changes to each version of the document shortens the review process and prevents one or the other party quietly slipping in any last-minute changes to the contract. Everyone involved will quickly and easily see what the other parties are doing and manage their interaction more efficiently. This audit trail functionality is vital when audit time rolls around!
Authoring Tools and Language Tools: The main benefit of using semi-automated contract authoring tools is the number of contracts a single user can create in a short period of time. It typically takes 30-40% less time to develop semi-automated contracts using Authoring and Language tools and contract templates, than to create the same contracts manually.
Many software programs with completely contained contract creation tools will include extensive digital libraries of legal and contractual clauses to integrate into contracts, standardizing language across contracts. Full contract templates are commonly available as well.
Integration with Other Productivity Applications: Productivity software like Asana, Workday, Slack, Salesforce, and many others easily integrate with a good contract management system, making things easier for everyone on the team to stay on the same page.
A contract management platform is used by all types of businesses and can be useful for every department, from Human Resources to the Sales team. In small business, we typically see it being used by sales, procurement and executive teams.
With cloud-based contract management software, sales teams can quickly draw up a contract and close a deal before the opportunity is gone, even on the go. Often a deal can cool off by the time a contract is created by the legal team and doesn’t end up getting signed.
Transparency into contracts facilitated by contract management software makes the finance department’s job a lot easier by providing a high level of transparency and data analysis to keep a company on track. Especially relevant ahead of tricky audit trail asks from the taxman!
With contract management platform, a company’s legal team can quickly work on the numerous contracts they draw up and deal with daily.
HR departments with contract management software can quickly produce lawyer-approved contracts for new hires to the company. Any issues like misspelling names, changing dates, etc., can easily be altered. Each signature required can be added digitally, eliminating the need for everyone to be in the room together or pass a paper contract around.
Contract management software highlights the changes made, eliminating the need to review the entire contract when only some parts have been changed. Time saved is money saved.
Creating and developing a contract from authoring, negotiation, reviewing, and signing can be quicker and more comfortable for those without legal backgrounds with the aid of contract management software. Authoring tools with drag-and-drop features provide standardized legalese throughout contracts, dramatically cutting down the number of people required for the successful creation of a contract.
Tracking and auditing that each party performs as required by the contract is easier with contract management software. With a cloud-based contract management system in place, contract responsibility can easily be assigned, ensuring a higher level of attention to individual clients and contracts, fewer errors, or things slipping through the cracks.
$95 per month starting price, includes 50 contracts.
Contract Hound is aimed squarely at small business (up to 100 employees) and comes equipped with a suite of features and tools designed to simplify the contractual process and move the process online and out of filing cabinets and Excel spreadsheets. It’s designed to be the most easy to use contract management software on the market.
The purpose of Contract Hound is to help move small businesses to cloud-based storage, saving them time and optimizing the ease of use and searchability within an organized management system. All the fancy bells and whistles of the more expensive, enterprise-focused software aren’t clogging up the Contract Hound user interface. The overall user experience is straightforward and covers all the bases small to mid-sized businesses need in contract management software.
Contract Hound does not support in-app contract creation or authoring; however, what it does offer is easy to use and covers all the main functions of contract management software. Pricing scales up from $95 per month for 50 contracts to $190 for 100 contracts, and so on.
Intuitive Mobile User Interface: Contract Hound has a consistent, easy-to-access user interface whether using a desktop, tablet, or smartphone.
DocuSign Integration: Users can send documents to DocuSign for signatures, and the signatures will sync back in and save in Contract Hound.
Easy Tracking and Document Storage: Track contracts through all life cycle stages and safely store all documents on the Cloud.
Drag-and-Drop Approval Workflow Engine: Send contracts and documents to team members and users as they are uploaded to Contract Hound. Easily track who has approved, who is next for approval, and so on.
Document Collaboration: Though not as robust as other contract software, document collaboration between users is simple and suitable for small-scale contracts not requiring numerous parties and complex negotiation.
$19 per month starting price, billed annually.
PandaDoc is targeted towards sales teams, which makes sense when examining the strengths of the software. The cloud-based PandaDoc provides the ability for users to create beautiful, professional-looking contracts with interactive features easily. This ease of contract-creation makes the PandaDoc contract management solution particularly attractive to time-crunched sales teams that need to spend their time focusing on selling and generating more income for their company.
Templates: PandaDoc contains a smart template feature that makes contract creation of the same type a breeze. Using a tool called “variables,” PandaDoc can automatically populate fields on a template. For example, a sales team uses a template to create contracts for selling Product A to groups B, C, D, etc. and populates the necessary fields with their respective information.
Complete Document Customization: Users can customize every field on a contract, including font size and color, image and video insertion, tables and figures, etc.
Digital Signing: PandaDoc, like most contract management software, includes digital signing/e-signature features, making contract approval smooth and straightforward.
Tracking: PandaDoc contains a multitude of tracking capabilities to continuously stay abreast of the status of a contract, who has viewed it or made changes, and even how much time each party spent on each section.
Mobile App: There is a mobile app for PandaDoc; however, it is quite limited compared to the more robust apps included in other contract management software. The app will allow users to view documents and track simple features like who has signed, but that’s about it.
Integration with Other Applications: PandaDoc delivers a slew of supported app integrations, including SalesForce, HubSpot, and Quickbooks.
User Interface Ease-of-Use: The primary functions of PandaDoc will lead you through the various stages of a contract. The problem comes when attempting to access the full functionality of PandaDoc. The proprietary terminology such as “variables,” “roles,” and what each means makes for a steep learning curve to utilize the software’s full capabilities.
$500 per month starting price, billed annually.
ContractWorks is much steeper in price than some of the other contract management software we reviewed. Still, they deliver a robust suite of tools for users focused on organizing and tracking contracts, making ContractWorks an ideal contract lifecycle management (CLM) solution for both small business and medium-sized organizations. Unfortunately, ContractWorks does not contain contract creation tools nor built-in collaboration features or tools.
Tagging and Template Categorization for Contracts: Any field a user wishes to make searchable can be assigned a custom tag. This feature is incredibly flexible and can be used for dates, text, yes/no responses and more.
Templates group tags based on contract type making specific contractual provisions easily searchable.
Security for Document Storage: One of the strongest features of ContractWorks is the high level of contract security in their ‘digital filing cabinet.’
Ease-of-Use: The user interface is kept relatively simple. It’s easily navigable with an icon-based dashboard and only six tabs to the top menu. You won’t get lost down a UI rabbit hole with ContractWorks.
Unlimited Users: Any number of users can be present on one ContractWorks license to manage contracts and use all included features without additional cost. They don’t allow unlimited eSignatures, however.
Native E-Signatures: ContractWorks doesn’t support third-party e-signing applications like DocuSign or Adobe Sign but contains a native eSignature feature. Companies/organizations can use five free (included) eSignature users without accruing additional costs. One drawback of this is that after using their five eSignature users, additional users come in packs of five for $1200 per year.
$775 per month starting price, billed annually.
GateKeeperHQ is one of the more expensive software packages included here, but in that expensive box is a collection of useful tools and features not included with competitors’ products. The Gatekeeper core platform is a powerful workflow automation engine that scales to match a user’s needs on each contract or type of contract. Less suited to small business and better for companies with over 100 employees, GateKeeperHQ is a strong choice for any organization with a dedicated contracting team.
Also included is a Vendor Portal that takes care of new client onboarding, saving a company from assigning this role to an employee and significantly increasing the number of incoming new clients that can be added. With GateKeeperHQ, vendors also have access to a Self-Service Dashboard to view contracts, documents, and other data.
Automated Workflow Engine: New contracts are automatically directed through the workflow engine, which runs 24/7 throughout the entire contractual process, keeping the contract moving and each phase automatically beginning once the previous has been completed.
eNegotiate Feature: Ideally suited for companies with clients located worldwide to complete their transactions entirely online, including e-signatures.
Vendor Portal: Vendors are automatically onboarded as new clients and have access to a Vendor Dashboard displaying contracts, other documents, and related data.
Fully Searchable Audit Trail: AI can identify information from pre-existing documents and newly created, organizing and integrating them seamlessly, creating an easily searchable document repository.
AI-Powered Contract and Data Analysis: Once a document has been uploaded, the AI engine will extract clause language and key metadata, significantly reducing the amount of manual work required by users.
$99 per month starting price, billed annually.
ContractSafe is a solid choice for basic, simple content management software for small business. Most of the typical base-level tools and functionalities are suited for small to mid-size businesses not looking to shell out a fortune on monthly contract software.
Easily searchable contract storage with tagging, alerts, and basic data analysis is included-all the fancy bells and whistles of more expensive software are not. That means no in-app authoring, advanced collaboration, or automation. For small to mid-size businesses, ContractSafe might have all the features and functions needed.
The basic ContractSafe package gives users 100 contracts. They also offer a range of packages with larger contract capacity and additional premium features and functionality.
Straightforward User Interface: Much like Contact Hound, ContractSafe is easy to use and straightforward, covering all the bases of basic contract management software.
Strong Search Features with Automated OCR (Optical Character Recognition) Capabilities: Easily find a specified field in documents and organize results.
$95 per month Professional Plan, billed monthly.
Agiloft is widely considered one of the leaders in the contract management solution field, due to the depth of tools and features, along with excellent and far-reaching customizability. The software is free to use for up to 10 users (five employees, five users), and pricing and functionality scale up from there, so it’s great for small business.
It’s an incredibly friendly to use program that’s been in the game a long time, with a massive body of monthly users. Agiloft supports direct file editing in Microsoft Word, advanced workflow automation, and many more useful features along with the standard contract management tools and functions.
Near Limitless Customization: Throughout the entire contractual process, Agiloft allows users near limitless customization tools to tailor a contract or other document to their precise requirements.
Contract Lifecycle Management: Agiloft can be tailored to fit a business’s needs and manages contracts and documents expertly throughout the contract life cycle.
Detailed Reporting and Data Analytics: Reporting and extracted analytics can be as basic as needed or scaled to give a highly detailed view of all aspects of a contract.
Free Plan for Small Businesses: The basic software (which is extensive) is free-to-use for up to 10 total users on an account, giving small business entrepreneurs access to a great tool that will give their business a leg up.
Easy-to-Use Wizards: A host of useful and simple to use Wizards guide users through different features of Agiloft and the contractual process.
$619 per month for Up to 5 Users and 50 Transactions.
The primary benefit of using Updraft is its questionnaire-based approach to contract creation, making for a very beginner-friendly user experience. The intuitive contract creation format was designed to mimic a lawyer’s process when drafting contracts. As their website states, Updraft was “designed by lawyers for lawyers.”
Updraft incorporates all of the essential tools and functions of contract management software. Their unique questionnaire-based system for creating contracts is what sets the software apart from other software. The process is designed to save time and reduce the opportunity for errors to be introduced to a contract, regardless of the user’s knowledge of the software and its features.
Unique Questionnaire-Based Contract Creation: this is where Updraft really shines. Their questionnaire-based contract creation tool simplifies the creation process in a way intended to mimic a lawyer drafting a contract.
Task Management Tools: Administrators can assign users tasks within the software, speeding contracts along their life cycle.
Native eSign: The e signature signing process is fluid and straightforward. Users receive an email when it’s their turn to sign, and then the contract is automatically moved to the next stage.
Reporting and Data Analytics: Though not as advanced as other contract management software, the reporting, and data provided by Updraft give users the ability to configure reports to suit their needs.
Still wondering about your contract management needs? We’ve tried to include some of the most common questions we get here.
The “best” contract management software is the one that offers just the right balance of functionality and usability for your business. Therefore, large businesses with complex contracting workflows – and contract-centric businesses such as real estate – will benefit most from an all-in-one tool such as ConcordNow or iCertis. Smaller businesses who are simply looking for contract storage and reminders should consider software such as Contract Hound.
We’ve tried to include software pricing in our reviews above. However, we’ve seen costs that range from:
It’s possible to ‘roll your own’ contract management workflow – generally we see customers trying to do this using Excel workflows and cloud software such as DropBox, Google Drive or Microsoft Office. You’ll need someone to be on point to develop and manage the solution, as well strict processes to ensure you’re covered if they’re ever unavailable.
“CLM” stands for “contract lifecycle management” – so essentially, software to manage a contract through its entire lifespan. The terms “CLM software” and “contract management software” are often used interchangeably.
Contract management software is typically used to ensure organizations are in compliance with their legal responsibilities. It is also used to save money (through expiring contract notifications) and to streamline business processes (such as the issuance of sales agreements or vendor contracts).
In typical organizations, contract management software will securely store contracts, limit access to them, manage the review and approval process for new contracts, and send reminders ahead of contract expiration.
Simple contract management software helps to ensure full adoption in your organization. If your team doesn’t find your solution easy to use, they won’t use it – and you’ll have invested your time and money for nothing.
We’ve covered the main features and the strengths and weaknesses of some of the most popular contract management software programs available for 2021. It’s always important to educate yourself on new software that will transform your business, and we hope this guide has provided valuable information to help guide your decision.
For small to mid-size businesses, all the fancy bells and whistles of software like Agiloft, GateKeeperHQ and ContractWorks won’t be needed, as cool as some of the features are. The free-to-use customizability of PandaDoc is an excellent tool for beginner or very small-scale entrepreneurs.
If you’re moving to the cloud for the first time and looking to get your contracts online and quickly searchable and trackable, contract management solutions like Contract Hound might hold the key to your business’s needs.
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