How Excel and Outlook Kill Contract Transparency for Legal

When corporate legal departments shut down at night, I bet Excel and Outlook catch up. They poke their iconized heads out of computer screens, look both ways, step out slowly and start gossiping. The conversation probably goes something like this:

Excel: Did you see my latest spreadsheet? One thousand lines tracking the contract for the new client. I’m working on blinding the attorney cell by cell.

Outlook: Totally saw that in her in-box. Five hundred emails about it and counting!

[Cue the maniacal laugh from them both.]

So maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but if you’re a lawyer in a corporate legal department this conversation may strike a chord. You may spend all day drafting, negotiating and executing licensing and contract agreements. Hey, it’s your job to minimize risk and exposure. You turn to the tools to help you accomplish this and coordinate with the necessary departments to finalize the contracts be it sales, IT, HR, sourcing etc. But while it is natural to turn to everyday tools such as Excel, Outlook or even a collaborative tool, your old friends may fail you when it comes to handling this process.

For one, they’re not efficient. Chances are you’ve seen an uptick in the amount of contracts coming in the door. And chances are your company has had staff reductions. Doing more with fewer resources demands that the correct tools are introduced for efficiency’s sake. What tools are you currently using for contract review? Do they help eliminate confusions such as which version is the most current or if it reflects the customer’s requirements? Can you easily pinpoint where you are in the process?

Also consider that manual processes can’t provide contract transparency. Less transparency equals greater risk. The review process is often too complex in today’s corporations to be accurately recorded with manual processes. This means important questions such as “Where is that contract?, “How long has it been there?” and “Is the correct party reviewing it?” – are difficult to answer. Manual processes, such as tracking with email or spreadsheets, break down the contract automation and management process. This means your company is vulnerable to more risks for errors and control gaps that slow down or sideline contract review.

So what tool do you need? Is it time to go to enterprise systems?

Not so fast. That’s a natural progression of thought, but remember that enterprise solutions are often hard to alter or update, normally don’t scale well and require extensive dependence on IT. With the best of intentions that enterprise solutions offer, often its characteristics impede the process more than aid it.

So what’s the right-sized solution for this challenge? Let’s see what Susan has done.

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