Best Contract Management Software for Small Business in 2021

This is the full guide to choosing the perfect contract management solution for your small business.

It may not be sexy, but it is smart. Creating, signing and managing contracts is key to small businesses. Having a great contract management process can make the different between a stressed day and a calm day.

Picking the right solution will help your organization to thrive – this guide will help you to go about it.

Contract uploading

Top 3 Best Contract Management Software Packages 2021

  • #1) Best For Small Business:
    Contract Hound

    contracthound_logo_cmsCreated with Sketch.

    Designed solely for small business, we believe Contract Hound, the world's easiest contract software, offers the right feature set if you’re a small organization just getting started with contract management.

    Free TrialRead Full Review
  • #2) Best For Larger Business:
    Agiloft

    Agiloft Logo

    Able to manage the entire contract lifecycle and perfectly set up to support enterprise clients, Agiloft is a market leader for a reason.

    Read Full Review
  • #3) Best On A Budget:
    PandaDoc

    Pandadoc Logo

    Don’t want to pay? Use PandaDoc for unlimited legally binding eSignatures and document uploads. It's a basic contract management system, but it works.

    Read Full Review

Our Full List of Contract Management Software Picks

Contract Hound : Contract Management Software

Contract Hound

$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.

Key Capabilities and Traits of Contract Hound:

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.

Agiloft : Contract Management Software

Agiloft

$95 per month Professional Plan, billed monthly. Source

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. More information is available in this review by TechRadar.

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.

You may be interested in reading our in-depth comparison of Agiloft vs its more popular competitor Concord, which is available here.

Key Capabilities and Traits of Agiloft:

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.

Wizards A host of useful and simple to use Wizards guide users through different features of Agiloft and the contractual process.

Free Trial of Agiloft

PandaDoc : Contract Management Software

PandaDoc

$19 per month starting price, billed annually. Free also available. Source

PandaDoc is targeted towards sales teams, which makes sense when examining the strengths of the software (see also this review by Fool.com). 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. Its contract management capabilities are more limited than dedicated software, but it remains a strong entry option for SMEs.

Free Trial of PandadocPandadoc Alternative

Key Capabilities and Traits of PandaDoc:

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.

Easy Tracking and Document Storage: Track contracts through all life cycle stages and safely store all documents on the Cloud.

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.


ContractWorks : Contract Management Software

ContractWorks

$600 per month starting price, billed annually. Source

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. More information is available in this review by PC Mag.

Free Trial of ContractWorksContractWorks Alternative

Key Capabilities and Traits of ContractWorks:

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.

Complete Document Customization Users can customize every field on a contract, including font size and color, image and video insertion, tables and figures, etc.

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 PandaDoc delivers a slew of supported app integrations, including SalesForce, HubSpot, and Quickbooks.

User Interface Ease-of-Use 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.


GateKeeperHQ : Contract Management Software

GateKeeperHQ

$775 per month starting price, billed annually. Source

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. More information is available in this Finances Online review.

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.

Key Capabilities and Traits of GatekeeperHQ:

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.

Enterprise-Grade Security

Unlimited Storage

Request Demo of GatekeeperHQGatekeeper Alternative

ContractSafe : Contract Management Software

ContractSafe

$99 per month starting price, billed annually. Source

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. More information is available in this review by PC Mag.

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.

Key Capabilities and Traits of ContractSafe:

Straightforward User Interface Much like Contact Hound, ContractSafe is easy to use and straightforward, covering all the bases of basic contract management software.

Unlimited Users

Strong Search Features with Automated OCR (Optical Character Recognition) Capabilities: Easily find a specified field in documents and organize results. Probably the biggest differentiator with Contract Hound.

Free Trial of ContractSafeContractSafe Alternative

Updraft : Contract Management Software

Updraft

$619 per month for Up to 5 Users and 50 Transactions. Source

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.” More information is available in this review of Updraft by PC Mag.

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.

Key Capabilities and Traits of Updraft:

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.

Request Demo of Updraft

What is Contract Management Software?

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. Being able to do this is essential for companies of all sizes to create a contract lifecycle management setup which works for them.

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 solutions being referred to as contract lifecycle management or "CLM" software interchangeably – from a small business perspective, it’s essentially the same thing.

Image of a desk
Office workers having a discussion

Why Contract Management Software?

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. At first, it was just about providing a central repository - but as technology evolves, so do all the advanced features created to help us with managing contracts. 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.

What are the core functions of contract management software?

Holding and Managing Contracts

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 with a contract repository, along with tracking which stage the contract is in throughout the process. Audit trails 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.

Document management

Managing and Tracking Contract Changes and Responsibilities

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!

Documents on a smartphone

Other Features Often Included in Contract Management Software

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 when managing contracts.

Who Uses Contract Management Software?

A contract management platform is used by all types of businesses and can be useful for every department. Legal and business teams are obvious users, and so are law firms, but such specialized functions may require much more advanced contract management features. In small business, we typically see it being used by sales, procurement and executive teams.

Sales 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.

Legal

With contract management platform, a company’s legal team can quickly work on the numerous contracts they draw up and deal with daily.

Finance

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, as this post by Juro points out. Especially relevant ahead of tricky audit trail asks from the taxman!

Human Resources

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.

Executives smiling

The Benefits of Contract Management Software

  • Saving Time: Review Time Cut by Up To 80%

    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.


  • Lower Overall Costs

    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.


  • Assigning Responsibilities to Contracts and Tracking/Auditing

    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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still wondering about your contract management needs? We’ve tried to include some of the most common questions we get here.

What is the best contract management software?
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 Gatekeeper or Agiloft. Smaller businesses who are simply looking for contract storage and reminders should consider software such as Contract Hound.
How much does contract management software cost?
We’ve tried to include software pricing in our reviews above. However, we’ve seen costs that range from: $50,000+ annually for enterprise contract management solutions rolled out to the entire workforce, $10,000 – $20,000 annually for advanced software suitable for small and medium sized-businesses, $5,000 and below annually for more simple contract management software targeted at smaller businesses.
How do you build a contract management system?
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.
What is CLM software?
“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.
What can contract management software ensure?
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).
What does contract management software do?
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.
Why should I choose easy-to-use contact management software?
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.
What industries are most in need of contract management software?
Although law, construction and real estate tend to be the most heavy users of contract management software, all businesses can benefit from it.
How can AI help in managing your contracts?
Artificial intelligence creates benefits for both the customer and the vendor. The customer is able to use AI to review contracts and to manage contracts in a much more efficient way. The vendor is able to use AI to generate contracts and to manage their contracts with less manual work required.
How can blockchain help in managing your contracts?
Blockchains are able to offer a secure and transparent way of managing contracts. All entries are publicly logged. However, blockchain is not yet in widespread use for contract management.
Why is contract management software better than an Excel spreadsheet?
Contract management software is much better than using an Excel spreadsheet because it is easier to use, easy to customize, and much more robust and secure. You are also able to control who has access to the software, which is not possible with an Excel spreadsheet.
What myths about contract management software exist?
The myth that contract management software is only for large businesses is untrue. Contract management software can be used by any business, no matter the size. It's also untrue to think that contract management software must be complicated or expensive. Simple contract management solutions do exist!
What are the stages of contract management?
The contract management process has five main stages. These stages are: 1. Contract identification, 2. Contract preparation, 3. Contract management and review, 4. Contract execution and management, 5. Contract closure.

Final Thoughts

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 – the world's easiest contract management software – might hold the key to your business’s needs.