Digital Transaction Management: The link back to contract management
Paul Maddison, Realyst MD
The world is going digital. Organisations are looking at appointing digital executives, a scramble to understand how the new digital world is going to impact their businesses, what the next disruptive technology will be or how the next start-up around the corner will affect them.
But perhaps the first step is to start looking at where the paper exists in the organisations, and the contracting processes around generating agreements and interactions with both suppliers and customers. New technology and software is allowing the organisation to take paper out of the process to a large extent, online contracting, e-forms and electronic documents are enabling this. The benefits of having this information in a digital format from the start is significant, no more error-strewn data capture from handwritten forms, electronic signatures that are more secure than the hand written or ink-based signature, coupled with document management.
But there is also benefit in then managing the contract beyond the signature, ensuring the parties and all those stakeholders within the organisation (procurement, finance, legal, executives), have access to the information, analytics as well as the base documents. Alerts, tasks and obligations can be automated, and data can be shared between the organisations’ systems for billing, CRM, and other applications.
If the organisation considers that it is actually all their contracts that make up what the company does and how it operates, then it should make sense to get a grip on these relationships. Paper-based operations have significant drawbacks, they are notoriously inefficient, utilising clerks at every step to capture data (I suggest the CEO should simply go around the office and see how much paper is stacked up on desks, and imagine what it would be like if all that information was electronically based, captured once, and what that data would be worth).
Organisations that are going the route of digitising their contracting environment will be more efficient, will see the benefits of quicker turnaround times, will see revenue booked sooner, and better data and analytics coming through. It’s those organisations which make use of the latest technology, that will find customer and supplier relationships improving. A Realyst client, on implementing contract management in the customer space recently commented that the contract management project was the most successful project initiative undertaken by the organisation in the last 5 years, a testimony to the benefit of automating previous paper based processes.
Realyst has seen in its consulting work, some serious deficiencies in the management of paper-based systems, lost documents or agreements (a lot more commonplace than you would think), forgotten end dates and renewal terms, lost opportunities for bulk discounts, collecting additional revenue, and simply not knowing what customers they have apart from what’s in the billing system. Then coupled with this are the risks of fire and water damage. Imagine a fire in a warehouse where tons of agreements are stored, the subject of a recent court case where the plaintiff was unable to produce the documents in the event of non-payment, the court found they had insufficient evidence to proceed against the defendant.
So the challenge of going digital might simply be to start at looking at existing processes and paper, and see how technology and contract management can make the organisation more productive, before the competition finds a way to entice new customers or suppliers by offering more efficient and easier ways of doing business together.