Once you cross the chasm between your first client and your tenth (or your first employee and your tenth), something becomes quickly apparent:
You need a better solution for managing contracts.
Microsoft Word documents and shoddily scanned PDFs stored in a Google Drive folder are a recipe for lost contracts, time, and money.
In turn, working without a contract repository is a lose-lose-lose situation.
But beyond acting as a fancy digital filing solution for all of your important agreements, what exactly does a contract repository do? What features and benefits can a solid contract management platform offer someone like you?
Let’s find out.
What is a contract repository?
In the simplest sense, a contract repository is a place where business contracts are stored. This includes employment agreements, client contracts, and paperwork you might have in place with your investors and founding partners.
Traditionally, contract repositories were physical locations, often a room at your headquarters stacked with filing cabinets (though some larger organizations keep an off-site contract repository).
Today, however, contracts are becoming increasingly digitized. The term contract repository has changed to more commonly represent a digital environment in which contracts are stored and managed.
At its base, a contract repository is an online storage solution for signed and sealed digital contracts.
But good contract repository platforms go beyond simply acting as a centralized hub.
They offer advanced features for drafting and collaborating on contract design as well as powerful security and access controls. Some take things up a notch by providing automated workflow design and AI assistance.
To give you a better idea of how modern contract repositories are moving contract management beyond simple document storage, let's dive into the most commonly encountered features in such platforms.
What are some common features of effective contract repositories?
#1 Database search and document retrieval
One of the biggest challenges with manually managed contract repository solutions (a folder on your desktop, say) is search and retrieval.
That is, when it comes time to find a given contract, searching through a database of hundreds of agreements can be a nightmare in and of itself. A good contract repository offers helpful functionality for finding the documents you need.
First, you’ve got the search bar, which allows you to plug in some text that you think will be found in, say, the document title (such as the employee name). If that doesn’t quite get you where you need to go, you can use filters to narrow down your search.
#2 Advanced security features
Here’s an important one: Your contract repository helps protect important contract data (like how much you’re charging customers) by encrypting the information stored within it.
This helps protect you against data breaches and lets you confidently share documents with signees.
#3 Role-based access
Along the same lines is the ability to control who gets access to what information. Most contract management software solutions will allow you to create custom permission sets by role, and sometimes for the individual user.
For example, you might want your legal team to have access to everything, but only allow your sales reps to see contracts they’ve created for the clients they’re managing.
Access rules like this speed up the contract lifecycle management process, as employees don’t have to request access to a document every time they need to see it.
This is virtually impossible with manual repository options where it's typically more of an “all or nothing” affair.
#4 Workflow automation
Speaking of speeding up contract management processes, workflow automation is a big-hitter in the pursuit of more streamlined and optimized workdays.
For example, you can use the automation functionality within your contract repository software to build a smart approval workflow.
Based on the parameters that you set, contracts are routed to the relevant stakeholders for sign-off, and then you’re automatically notified when they’re set to send out.
Even more simple (but just as powerful) is the ability to receive automated notifications when existing contracts are up for renewal, helping you stay on top of contract management and reduce risk.
The best document repository tools even provide native integrations with other commonly-used software tools, allowing you to create fully-connected automated workflows.
#5 Quick access to important data
A great central contract repository allows you to quickly pull out high-level contract information at a glance, without having to click into and read the contract in its entirety.
For example, when browsing SpotDraft’s document repository, you can see details such as contract values and renewal dates at a glance—no need to open up each document individually.
#6 Customizable views
Don’t see the contract data you’d like to see at a glance?
A quality cloud-based contract repository allows you to customize what you see, choosing from a variety of tags and other contract identities to pull into the summary view.
#7 AI assistance
Some contract repository systems—that is, the most advanced—take CLM to the next level with assistance from artificial intelligence.
For example, take SpotDraft, our AI-powered contract management solution
SpotDraft’s artificial intelligence engine helps teams:
- Instantly turn Word documents into contract templates
- Conduct comprehensive due diligence on multiple contracts at once
- Extract critical insights from lengthy contract documents
AI can also help during the contract drafting stage, through the use of dynamic clauses.
You draft and store pre-defined clauses (pre-approved by legal, of course!) in your document management solution. Then, when it comes time to draft, the AI engine picks up on key details related to the contract type and inserts the relevant clause.
For instance, you might have an auto-renewal policy for SME customers but require a pre-renewal conversation with the Customer Success Manager as enterprise contracts approach expiry.
#8 Sharing and collaboration capabilities
More than acting as an accessible contract database, great contract repository systems support all parties collaborating on contract drafting, approval, and signing.
For example, consider contract redlining: a core part of any contract approval process where the counterparty gets an opportunity to review a contract and redline any clauses they’d like to clarify, remove, or amend.
A good contract management solution provides support for this to take place in the software itself.
You send out the contract (securely, with important data encrypted) via email, the recipient highlights the sections they want to change, and once you’ve made the appropriate edits, you send it out again for e-signature.
Side note: E-signatures are pretty important too. A good contract repository should provide support for e-signatures, ideally natively within the platform itself, preventing the need to purchase and integrate third-party tools.
#9 Support for multiple document formats
Lastly, we should consider the fact that if you’re switching from a manual approach to managing contract documents to a cloud-based repository, you’ll need a method for uploading and managing legacy contracts and any related documents.
These powerful platforms typically provide support for a variety of document types, allowing you to upload a Google Doc, Microsoft Word document, Excel spreadsheet, or PDF, and store them all in the repository.
Some of the best tools even have the capability to scan and analyze such documents and convert them into the file type used natively.
Why should you implement a contract repository?
If you’ve made it this far, it should be pretty clear that modern contract repository software platforms offer a ton of powerful features.
But how do these impressive features translate to improvements in contract lifecycle management?
#1 Improved visibility into contract management efficacy
With all of your agreements stored in a central hub, you create a single source of truth for contract management.
Not only are you able to easily locate a given document as required, but you gain helpful insights into contract performance.
Custom reporting dashboards display your most important KPIs (and your performance against them) in real-time, so you can instantly see how your team is performing on metrics:
- Average negotiation rounds by contract type
- The most heavily negotiated clauses
- Average time spent on each stage of a contract for different contract types
- Contract review requests received each month
- Number of contracts closed every month
With these insights on hand, you can easily spot areas for improvement to drive down costs, increase efficiency, and close more deals.
#2 More productive workflows
Digital contract repositories that include automation and workflow management provide an opportunity to work more efficiently and effectively.
For example, the simple ability to create and store contract templates makes the creation process that much faster.
A salesperson working on a lucrative deal that's about to close can simply pull up the relevant template, automatically import customer details (if you’ve integrated the tool with your CRM), and drag and drop clauses from your clause library.
Then, approval workflows assist in speeding up the next step.
If the contract needs to be sent to an internal stakeholder for approval—a member of the legal team, for instance—this happens automatically, with scheduled reminder notifications to prevent timelines from getting off track.
#3 Smart work with AI guidance
The increasing presence of AI in contract management software solutions is another tool in the belt of anyone looking to create efficiencies.
Examples of how AI can assist in the contract management process include:
- Automatic redlining of important clauses
- Suggestions and assistance with contract renewals
- Intelligent contract workflow creation and rule-based routing
- Contract risk analysis
#4 Reduced contract management costs
Switching to a digitized contract repository opens up a bunch of opportunities for cost-cutting.
First, you no longer have to pay for physical contract storage, meaning you can do away with expensive off-site storage fees—and maybe get a bit of cash back by selling off those cumbersome filing cabinets.
Then, you’ve got some cost savings moving forward in the form of paper and ink (no more printing and signing half a tree’s worth of paper) and, finally, all the time saved searching for the most current version of a contract.
#5 Enhanced version control
Speaking of finding the most current version of an agreement, a good contract management system allows you to dive into a history of contract amendments and updates by providing an audit trail.
An audit trail is like a list of previous changes to a given document, allowing you to see who made what changes and when. This also makes it easy to revert to a previous version of a contract should the need arise.
Store, organize, and search contracts in a single secure hub
The contract repository is a powerful way to improve document storage and retrieval protocols, making it easier to locate a given contract if and when you need it.
But for teams working to improve the entire contract lifecycle management process, a document repository on its own isn’t quite enough.
You need a full-scale contract management platform equipped with powerful automation functionality, in-depth reporting and analysis, and AI assistance to drive continuous optimization.
SpotDraft is the contract lifecycle management platform that helps teams of all sizes (and with all kinds of budgets) simplify and automate time-consuming tasks, cut down on costs, and ultimately close more deals.
Here are just a few of the ways in which SpotDraft will help you level up your contract management game:
- Providing a single source of truth through a searchable contract repository
- 'Legal-Sanctioned' safeguards for template agreements to make closing contracts faster and easier
- Built-in risk and compliance standards
- Pre-defined workflows with approvals routed to stakeholders based on the rules you set in advance
- Powerful reporting suite that helps you pinpoint bottlenecks and drive work improvement initiatives
- Highly responsive and accommodating customer support team to help you get the most out of SpotDraft
- Native, legally binding e-signatures, saving you the need to integrate a third-party tool
- Integrations with the platforms you’re already using (e.g., Salesforce, Google Drive, and Slack)
- The ability to bulk-send personalized contracts with campaigns and auto-signing of standard term contracts
- Fully compliant with data security protocols like GDPR with a high degree of hardware and infrastructure security
Ready to jump in? Schedule a demo with one of the SpotDraft team today.