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In today's age of ChatGPT and AI-assisted tools, business leaders expect answers to questions faster than ever. And in-house legal teams are not exempt from this - if you were asked to take stock of all third-party contracts received over the past six weeks, how long would that take you?

If your answer was more than a few minutes, then you have a problem on your hands.

Difficulty in accessing contract data and locating contracts, especially when you need them the most, indicates that your contract data is siloed, disorganized, and inaccessible. That might have been okay 5 years ago but not anymore. Read on to find out how you can upgrade your contract repository management strategy to keep up with the needs of today's fast-paced business world.

The need for a contract repository

Picture this: You’re working in the legal team of a fast-growing business with over thousands of contracts, many of which date back to years before you joined. You’re now asked to look into a deal that happened 8 years ago. There are usually a few ways this can go:

  1. You spend hours going through the hard drives accumulated over the years with randomly organized contract information according to the preferences of previous counsels.
  2. You manually sift through paperwork because nothing was stored electronically all those years ago.
  3. You fire up the Google Drive folder and hope that the file name is both recognizable and searchable, and that there aren’t a hundred or so versions floating around.
  4. You wade the murky waters of old email threads — if you have access to that email address at all.
  5. You ask the internal team that actually deals with the other party regularly and hope they’re the type to actually keep track of, or even care about, contracts.
  6. You give in and send an email to the other party, politely asking if they could forward you the signed contract.
  7. You’re one of the lucky ones whose company actually invested both time and resources in building a contract repository, and you find what you need in seconds.

Before you call us biased — what with one of SpotDraft’s key features being our contract repository solution — hear us out because we’re not pulling these scenarios out of thin air. The first 6 are legitimate problems legal teams face even in the digital age, and the 7th on the list is a tried, tested, and true solution that legal teams are adopting to make their lives easier.

Also Read: Is CLM a Good Investment to Overcome Legal Challenges?

But before we explain how this solution works, let us lay the foundation and tell you what a contract repository actually is. (And if you already know, just click here to skip to the good part.)

What does a modern contract repository look like?

A contract repository is a centralized database of all the present and historical contracts in your organization, collected in one place in an organized, searchable manner. It extracts key data from each contract so you can find what you're looking for within minutes.

Elements of a contract repository: Historical contracts, contract data, and supporting documents

A lot of times, the meaning of a contract repository isn't just a contract database — it also refers to all the contract data connected to those contracts, supporting documents, contextual information, etc. In simple words, a contract repository is what makes contract data easily accessible and facilitates quick reporting.

A contract repository comes in many forms, some of which we will be discussing in this article to help you create a contract repository that works for you.

Rethinking contract repository management

Your task doesn’t end at simply having a contract repository, which is just a collection of your contracts in its most basic form. You must set up processes that actually help make the information stored in it accessible. A folder with all your historical contracts thrown in it isn’t what we’d call an ideal solution; likely that would just cause confusion.

Contract repository management actually refers to the best practices for organizations to collect and store contracts and related information in a searchable, on-demand format, unlocking cross-department and organization-wide referencing and retrieval.

This can vary from a simple excel sheet monitoring fundamental contract details to a complex dashboard analyzing contract metadata with all kinds of filters and perspectives.

Is it as complicated as it sounds? Sometimes. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be.

Three ways to set up a contract repository

You don’t need significant investment to create a contract repository. If you don’t have an immediate budget for contract repository software, you can create one from scratch using an assortment of free platforms. Below, we’ll go over both the free solutions available to you as well as the option of investing in contract repository management software.

#1 Google Drive + Spreadsheets

To begin with, you can use a combination of two tools offered by Google to create your contract repository: Google Drive (or an alternative like Dropbox) and Spreadsheets.

Contract repository management with Google Sheets

Google Drive will be utilized primarily to store copies of contracts. For convenience's sake, you can create separate folders for each department. Make sure to create an intuitive file naming convention. This way, it is easy to identify contracts and group documents that contain similar information.

Examples of file naming conventions include:

  • 20210503_Acme Industries_MSA_Sales_v1.docx
  • Sales_Acme Industries_Compliance_20210503.docx
  • Invoice_Sales_Acme Industries_20210503.docx

Then, on Google Spreadsheets, start jotting down the details of the contracts in columns to track key details such as:

  • Counterparty names
  • Values
  • Expiry/renewal dates
  • Jurisdiction
  • Contract type, etc.

Also, create another column to mention the viewable document links of all the contracts stored on Google Drive earlier.

You can now DIY filters using the “Data” option to help you sort through your contracts on the basis of various key parameters. Sounds complicated to set up? Don’t worry, we created a contract repository and tracking template based on Google Sheets (or Excel) and Google Drive for you that will do all this and more. Download SpotDraft’s contract repository template for free here.

#2 Project management software

Another effective way to create a working contract repository is using project management tools like Asana, Notion, or Trello. These workspaces allow you to create custom pages and display information in a range of formats, such as text, tables, mood boards, and more.

Contract repository management with Trello board

All you need to do is create a table or board to track the different contract details. Platforms like Trello offer several more filter options to sort and visualize data than Google Spreadsheets.

You can decide between creating separate pages for contracts on your chosen Kanban board and linking them to the table or opting for embedded Google Drive links of the contracts.

One problem you might face with these tools is that their free versions only allow for so much — to take full advantage of the platform, you will need to pay for it. Still, the free versions are more than enough for bringing some organization to your contracts.

#3 Contract repository software

Though these might include significant investment today, contract repository and management systems are proven to reduce risk and provide ROI when implemented properly. These tools allow legal teams to create a single source of truth for all their contract data, facilitating storage, organization, and searchability whether you have ten contracts or tens of hundreds and reducing scope of human error.

Some contract repository systems are built to serve only the purpose of storing and organizing your contracts; there are others, however, that also allow you to create, edit, organize, and sign contracts right on the platform. SpotDraft falls into the latter category, providing users an all-in-one contract lifecycle management solution.

We started using SpotDraft for its searchable repository and the platform works seamlessly. It caters to all your contracting needs from creation to signing. We find the product highly convenient and their team has provided us with great after-sales support. We have started end-to-end contract initiation on SpotDraft, which has reduced the number of back and forths among different teams to keep a check on the progress of the contract.
G2 Reviewer

5 essential features of a modern contract repository software

SpotDraft offers two ways to help you create your contract repository and track data: through a self-serve migration tool or through assisted migration with our CLM implementation team.

Here are some challenges a contract repository management system like SpotDraft can solve for you:

#1 Easily searchable

Your old contracts serve as a reference point for future contracts. But digging through archives and searching from scratch every time you need data makes the task redundant and tedious.

Instead, SpotDraft makes search incredibly easy by helping you categorize and organize contracts according to department, type, counterparty, status, date, value, etc. Any contract on SpotDraft can be retrieved quickly from the repository using our universal search, which allows you to search by a wide range of filters and contract-related metadata.

Your team can find what they’re looking for in seconds, and all also view all related contracts and contracts without having to search again.

#2 In-depth reporting and insights

Create custom reports of contracts based on contract type, status, users, dates, tags, etc.

Contracts are treasure-troves of information. Each document arrives with a diversity of details, such as contract types, departments, counterparties, values, obligations, etc. The absence of standardized storage conventions results in different business teams recording this information in siloed formats. Thus, it hinders collaboration and causes miscommunication. SpotDraft’s report-generation abilities help you make informed decisions based on your contract data. 

Imagine a scenario where you want to compare the value brought in by contracts produced by different departments. Without a tabulated contract database in place, this task becomes manual and highly time-consuming.

A good contract repository tool like SpotDraft can help you organize and visualize your contracts at a granular level. This way, you can use sort and filter options to gain more significant insights into your contracts.

#3 Role-based access controls

Control access to users based on roles.

Relying on paperwork and email threads to relay confidential contract-related information is highly risky. Contracts contain a lot of critical information pertaining to the company and counterparties. In the wrong hands, they can spell disaster for the business, leading to security breaches and litigation.

For instance, imagine a former employee joins your competitor and still has access to your contracts. They can leverage this information to take away your hard-earned business and clientele.

However, SpotDraft provides you complete visibility over your contracts, allowing you to encrypt contracts, maintain audit trails, and establish access control over all contracts. This way, you can make sure that individuals only have access to data and contracts that they need to do their jobs.

#4 Ability to link related contracts and supporting documents for better context

Link related contracts to define relationships and add relevant data.

On SpotDraft, you can define relationships between contracts and add any relevant data (both in the form of key pointers and notes) to enable a faster review of executed agreements. This helps in keeping track of all related documents in one thread, so you don’t have to go looking for contextual information related to the contract in your email conversations or meeting notes.

You can relate contracts to each other as parent or child agreements, add tags to organize them effectively, and more. The platform also provides a complete audit trail, giving you visibility over edits and enabling version control.

Enlist our team’s help in creating your contract repository

When you onboard SpotDraft, you can either import all your contract data yourself or take advantage of the assisted migration services our team offers through our best-in-class implementation program.

“SpotDraft's customer service was excellent throughout the implementation process of the software. They were very responsive to any issues or questions we had. Once all settings, questions, and fields were set, it was easy to use and streamlined our contracting process. Overall, it was a very good experience for my team.”
G2 Reviewer

#5 Ability to track contract events and set renewal or expiry reminders

‍Your contract renewals help you capitalize on returning customers to expand business. But failure to keep up with contract dates prevents you from renegotiating new terms and values, resulting in lost opportunities, revenue leakages, and unwanted auto-renewals.

With a proper contract repository solution like SpotDraft, you can stay on top of your contracts by enabling reminders and notifications to track important contract events automatically and efficiently.

Also Read: CLM Assessment Guide: How to Choose a Solution That Actually Works for You

Addressing common concerns: Quick FAQs

Where are contracts stored on SpotDraft hosted?

All contracts uploaded or created on SpotDraft are stored on a secure cloud server hosted on the Google Cloud Platform. We host our servers in 3 different regions (US, EU, and India) to ensure we comply with any data residency requirements of our clients.

How do I know if my contract repository is secure?

SpotDraft is an ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certified company, and we take data security and privacy very seriously. We recently also completed SOC2 Type 1 compliance audit, which is considered the highest standard for data security compliance for SaaS companies.

All contracts stored on SpotDraft are secured with PCI-level encryption with the key material backed by KMS and stored in a separate service (HashiCorp Vault), which the application can only access. Consequently, only the approved users can access and view the document's contents.

How is a contract repository tool different from a CLM software?

Category Contract Repository Contract Management
  • Centralized repository
  • Categorize contract metadata
  • Search and filter contracts
  • Reminders and notifications for contract events
  • Track contract workflows
  • Support for multiple file formats (.docx, .PDF, .xls, etc.)
  • Edit contracts directly on the platform
  • Extensive audit trails
  • Use scoped comments for better review and communication
  • Support for eSignatures
  • Integration with third-party apps (CRM, ERP, etc.)
  • Examples of software providers
  • Trackado
  • Legito
  • Symfact
  • SpotDraft
  • Juro
  • Ironcladapp

Start building your contract repository

If you’re still wondering how a centralized repository for contract management purposes could provide value to your team, we urge you to try your hand at creating your own free contract repository with SpotDraft’s Contract Tracking and Management Spreadsheet Template.

And if you’re ready to discover the world of smart and automated contract repository software, reach out to us for a demo here.