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From Scattered to Structured: 3 Tips for Contract Management Organization

, , , | September 9, 2021 | By | 3 min read

One of the most important — and arguably, most confusing — aspects of implementing a new CLM platform is figuring out how you want to organize your contracts and user permissions within the tool.

And considering that 71 percent of companies misplace 10 percent of their contracts, it’s critical to organize contracts in a way that keeps them accessible without sacrificing security. But how do you find the contract management organizational system that best suits your business?

Here’s our best advice for organizing your contracts:

When in Doubt, Start with User Permissions

If you’re unsure how to start organizing your contracts and assigning user permissions, a good place to start is asking yourself, “Who should be able to access what?”

Then, analyze your answer: Are the divisions falling along office branches? Regions? Departments? Making this initial connection will set the groundwork for how you want to organize your contracts and ensure that only the appropriate people are able to access, create, request, sign, and approve contracts.

Some other questions we recommend asking:

  • Are there multiple legal entities that should be included? Does your company have multiple legal entities under which you’ll be creating or storing contracts?
  • Do certain organizations only need access to a limited set of your legal entities? For IntelAgree, the concept of “organizations” ties directly to its permission matrix, and it simply means that you can organize however you’d like — by department, region, or any other way that suits your business — and assign permissions down to individual users. A legal entity can be tied to multiple organizations, and an organization can have multiple legal entities associated.
  • Do contract types need to be segmented by any internal divisions (finance, sales, human resources) or branches (New York, Denver, etc.)? Are there specific departments that require different permissions — e.g., sales creates contracts, legal edits, finance approves, etc. — and access? Think of organizations like a filing room: certain groups may only have access to specific cabinets, and within that, individuals may only have access to specific drawers. For example: if a company wants to organize by department and they have an international presence, their organizations might look something like Sales-North-America, Sales-South-America, Sales-European Union, etc. Depending on how you assign permissions, a North American sales manager might only have access to Sales-North-America, while a sales executive may have access to all sales organizations.

The most important thing to remember is that just because someone has permission in one organization doesn’t mean they have to be granted permission into another organization. Intelligent CLM platforms offer granular permission settings so you can keep contracts in the right hands and protect sensitive data.

Take Advantage of Your CLM Platform’s Flexibility

The flexibility to organize contracts in a way that works for your business is one of the many features that make intelligent CLM platforms so powerful.

While it’s common to align organizations to departments, it’s not the only option for contract management organization within CLM platforms. There’s no limit to how many organizations you create or how you choose to segment them. Larger companies may have more than 120 organizations in their CLM tool, while smaller companies may only have one — the goal is to try to determine what works best for you in the beginning of implementation to avoid rework down the road. But if adjustments are needed, an intelligent CLM platform will be adaptable to your changing needs.

Once you’ve determined how you want to segment your organizations, we recommend a naming convention that uses the common element first, followed by the descriptor. Referring back to our sales department example from earlier, this naming convention might look like Sales-North-America, Sales-European Union, etc. While you are free to choose whatever naming convention you’d like, leading with the common element — “Sales” — instead of the descriptor — geographic location — makes it easier to find what you’re looking for because they’re all grouped together.

Finally, will using organizations and user permissions in lieu of a folder system make contracts less accessible? No — in fact, it will be even easier to find exactly what you need. Intelligent CLM platforms offer numerous ways to keep the information you care about within reach, like automatic renewal reminder emails, call-to-action email alerts, and customizable dashboards. With the customizable dashboard, for example, you can easily drag and drop the contract details you want to keep at a glance, like upcoming expiries, contract execution performance, and more.

Use the Pilot Stage to Perfect Your Contract Management Organization Strategy

While it’s good to have a general idea of how you want to segment organizations, don’t let progress be halted in the pursuit of perfection. Figure out your initial plan in the beginning of implementation, then use the pilot phase to make tweaks before you roll it out to the rest of your company.

If you launch your system before it’s been tested, adoption may suffer and changing your processes may be even harder. So, during the pilot phase, gather a small group of users — people you trust to do the work and provide honest feedback — to test the system and determine if tweaks are necessary. To elicit holistic feedback, ask team members with various specialties and backgrounds: executives, managers, administrators, paralegals, support team members, etc. The pilot stage is the equivalent of having editors review your writing — sometimes, it takes another set of eyes to catch something you missed.

With intelligent CLM platforms, the sky’s the limit in terms of how you want to organize your contracts. But if you map out your user permissions first, take advantage of your tool’s flexibility, and perfect your strategy during the pilot stage, you’ll position your platform — and your company — for contract management success. For more contract management organization and CLM tips, visit our blog.