Excel is rivalled only by Word in its ubiquity - if you're not ready for contract automation software, can Excel help you manage legal documents?
Excel is synonymous with business. With more than one billion Microsoft Office users worldwide, it’s the professional standard for accountants, financial analysts, bankers, and anyone else tasked with managing large amounts of data. Since Excel is one of the most accessible and widely-used software platforms globally, many businesses use it to record and collect the data contained in contracts - but the adoption of Excel by lawyers still isn’t universal.
In this article we explore how you can use Microsoft Excel's basic features to create a contract database that'll get you from nowhere to somewhere. Use the menu below to navigate this resource.
Why is contract management important?
Contracts are a fundamental way that businesses generate revenue. Without a dedicated contract management process, valuable agreements can get lost, resulting in potentially severe and expensive consequences. As contract volume increases, effective contract management becomes even more vital because it saves the parties time, money, and provides numerous advantages in terms of business strategies and procedures.
Many organizations spend a considerable amount of time and resources creating and negotiating contracts. Despite these efforts, once a contract is finalized, stakeholders sometimes fail to properly monitor and oversee the agreement’s implementation. When this happens, contractual obligations may be left unmet, resulting in:
- Breach of contract
- Unforeseen costs
- Hefty fines
- Costly litigation
- Damaged business relationships
- Damaged personal relationships
… and many more. Effective contract management fosters better relationships between the contractual parties, helps enforce compliance, and mitigate risk. It’s crucial to get right for any business.
Why might Excel contract management be the solution?
A dedicated software solution for contract automation might not be the answer for every company. It depends on the company’s size and stage, as well as the types of contracts it usually handles. If you’re looking for a simple way to move from nowhere to somewhere in terms of contracts, then Excel can play a useful role during the contract management lifecycle.
Here are some common reasons many organizations use Excel to manage contracts:
- Working with the tools you have is cost-effective and efficient.
- Microsoft Excel is already used by more than 750 million people worldwide.
- Excel can be extremely powerful – if used correctly.
- Spreadsheets have enough basic functionality to be significantly better than nothing.
It’s not too hard to share, and it’s not too difficult to edit - Excel can be an easy starting point for individuals across an organization to capture data from contracts. Just be aware that the simplicity of managing contracts with Excel can lead to hidden risks, depending on where the spreadsheet is stored, who has access to it, and whether unexpected edits or duplicates can be made.
How to set up your Excel contract management template
Effective contract management in Excel requires rigour and an awareness of critical dates related to specific milestones within the agreement. If Excel is going to be your solution to manage contracts securely, then you’ll also need to limit what data can be entered into specific fields of the spreadsheet, track changes so that updates requiring acceptance are highlighted, and lock down the datasheet to ensure that changes aren’t made without permission.
A robust system for storing contracts to ensure that the current versions are linked, and previous ones are retained for comparison, is essential.
Contract management template Excel
If you plan to manage contracts in Excel, without dedicated software to create a contract database and repository to keep your documents under control, you can use this free contract repository template to manage your contracts.
Key fields for your contract tracking spreadsheet
Whether you store your completed contracts in a filing cabinet, a shared drive, or using contract management software, there are key fields in each document that you’ll need to monitor to maintain robust contract tracking. They typically include:
- Business owner: the individual who commercially owns the contract
- Legal owner: the legal team member who owns the contract
- Reference number: the number stated on the title page of the contract that is quoted in all communications under the contract
- Counterparty: a party to a contract or the other party to a financial transaction
- Contract type: the different contract structures or forms
- Approval 1, 2, 3 (etc.): Each key stakeholder's sign-off
- Status: draft, approved, fully signed, etc.
- Buy-side or sell-side: the role of your organization as it relates to the contract
- Total value: how much the contract is worth after it has been executed, including recurring revenue and fees
- Annualized value: the rate of return for a period less than one year, but computed as if the rate were for an entire year
- Duration (in years): the period of time that the contract will be in force
- Termination date: the day the contract will end
- Give notice date: the date by which legally binding notice must be given
- Liability cap: monetary limit placed on a party’s responsibility for contractual damages
- Personal data: applicable only if the contract contains personal data
- Jurisdiction: indicates what state controls the contract and where a dispute will be resolved
- Notes: additional information, such as whether termination is planned at the end of the term, etc.
Find out more in this deep dive on contract terminology.
The entire universe of fields you might include depends upon the nature of your business, and there might be additional markers that you’ll find helpful to track. But, finally getting to square one is a huge step up from a workflow that doesn't include a contract repository.
Pros and cons of Excel contract management
Many companies use Excel for contract management for one simple reason (and it’s a great reason): they already have it installed on their computer. Excel has various capabilities that can be leveraged for contract management - if used correctly, it can keep tabs on the number of contracts, calculate the costs of each contract, and even track workflow. An Excel contract management template can be used to create a basic system that accomplishes critical tasks while remaining relatively easy for staff to use.
But although spreadsheets changed the world and revolutionized how business is conducted, studies have shown that nearly 88 per cent of them contain errors. Half of the spreadsheet models being used by large organizations have material defects. Contracts are some of the most important documents your business handles - and any margin of error can be hard to justify.
Excel often falls short when it comes to contract management for the following reasons:
- Product limitations: Excel does not provide an overview of the entire contract lifecycle and has no actual functionality for managing contracts.
- Cumbersome. Excel spreadsheets must be created and maintained manually through a copy and paste process of manual data entry from one spreadsheet to another, making search, collaboration, and sharing extremely difficult.
- No pre-signature functionality: quite obviously, Excel can’t handle document drafting or creation (try Word for that!) so it can only help you to manage documents once they’ve already been created.
- No signature functionality: similarly, you’ll need to use an electronic signature platform to actually agree documents prior to managing them in Excel.
- Lack of metadata. An Excel sheet is a static file, meaning that the data it contains doesn’t transfer easily between systems in an integrated workflow.
While a free template can get you started, it is not usually a long-term solution for the creation, agreement, and management of the contracts generated by a growing business.
Contract management in Juro
Take your business from a basic contract repository to an end-to-end contract automation platform quickly and easily with a free Juro account. Here’s how:
- Build a contracts repository. Sound complicated? It’s not. Simply drag and drop your old PDF contracts in Juro’s contract reader. Our platform will use AI to read the documents, tag essential metadata, and convert them into digital documents, ready to be managed digitally.
- Create contract templates. Automate routine contracts from templates you create. Once they’re set up, you can create contracts self-serve - then collaborate, negotiate, and agree contracts without ever leaving the browser.
- Set reminders. Track your company’s risks and obligations through a contract repository with the built-in capability to tag individual documents with contract renewal reminders that allow you to take action when needed.
- Improve your process with analytics. Use Juro’s analytics functionality to gain valuable insight into your contract workflow – which contracts move slowly, who sits on documents the longest, where are your bottlenecks – and take your post-signature contract management process to the next level.
With Juro’s scalable, browser-based platform, you can use one system to replace Word, Excel, eSignature (usually DocuSign) and shared drives - delivering all-in-one contract automation to help your business scale.
Ready to move beyond Excel?
Looking to gain greater control over your contracting process? Do you need a more robust contract management solution that will automate the entire process from contract creation to signature, storage, and beyond? To find out more about how Juro can help you supercharge your company’s contract management process, sign up for a free Juro account or hit the button below to talk to our team.