A faster and more efficient contract workflow should mean more deals closed and more people hired. How can you accelerate the contract workflow process?
What is the contract workflow?
The contract workflow is the end-to-end process of getting a legal document from inception, through each necessary stage, through to signature and execution.
Contracts don’t exist on an island - while legal teams should have oversight, they affect numerous teams in the business. The process of gaining their input and approval needs to be frictionless in order for contracts to be an enabler - not a blocker.
Typically, contract workflow refers to everything that leads up to execution - specifically:
- Contract creation
- Internal collaboration
- External negotiation and redlines
- Electronic signature
The processes that take place post-signature usually fall under the loose label of ‘contract management’ - things like storage, analytics, renewals, and data extraction if contracts are saved as PDFs or similar.
For our purposes, we’re sticking with pre-signature contract workflow on this page. If contract management is your concern, read more here:
- What is contract management software?
- How to create a contract repository
- The key contract metrics to track
So how can you design a contract workflow that keeps contracts moving quickly? Here are our seven steps to success.
1. Map stakeholders to roles in the contract workflow
Before getting started, you need to know who’ll be doing what. Whether you’re using dedicated contract automation software, or free tools like Google forms to manage contract requests, you need to assign roles to everyone involved in the workflow.
Here are the questions you need to answer (with the typical answer for a high-growth tech company, as an example):
- Who owns contract templates? The legal team
- Who creates contracts from those templates? The sales team
- Who approves contracts before they’re sent out? Sales operations or legal
- Who negotiates contracts? Usually sales under a certain value, legal and sales leadership if high-value
- Who signs contracts? C-suite are often authorised signatories
Clarity on all these roles is important, to make sure contracts don’t end up sitting in the wrong inbox, losing momentum on the deal or adding unnecessary delay to a new partnership.
Once these roles are assigned, you’re ready for the next step.
2. Set up templates
A contract workflow optimised for speed usually involves generating contracts from defined templates. This allows sales reps or HR teams to get the documents they need quickly, but it also ensures legal stays in control - contracts are always based on the language and terms that the legal team defines.
Read more about automated templates.
Here is a contract template in Juro (click the image to see it in the platform):
The template looks similar to a document in a Word processing platform (albeit with much less clutter) but with a few key differences. The green areas denote smartfields - these are the fields containing metadata that would change from contract to contract. Things like counterparty name, dollar amounts, effective dates, and so on.
As part of template setup, the template owner would define these fields, and set up a question and answer flow. Users who use the template to create a contract would answer these natural-language questions, and their answers would populate the smartfields on the subsequent contract.
This is how commercial teams can use an automated template to quickly create compliant contracts, as part of an efficient contract workflow. Empowering colleagues to self-serve on routine contracts, all within the browser, is an effective way for legal teams to free up time that would otherwise be spent on low-value work.
As part of template setup, you can also include ‘fallback positions’ - alternate versions of certain clauses that you’re happy to use if the other party pushes back. Modern contract automation platforms like Juro have conditional logic capabilities, that swap out one set of text for another, if certain conditions are met (like the dollar value of the contract).
This feature is designed to empower commercial colleagues to handle negotiation themselves, and thus minimise redlining for the legal team.
3. Set up an approval workflow
Regardless of how far you’re willing to let colleagues self-serve on contract creation, and on negotiation, in-house lawyers still want to stay in control. A quick way to achieve this in your contract workflow process is to set up an approval workflow that means a named individual has to approve a contract before it can be taken forward.
Adding an approver means they’ll be notified by email when the contract is ready. The contract can’t progress to signature until they’ve hit ‘Approve’.
4. Use Kanban view to manage the contract workflow
Kanban boards are a common feature amongst the intuitive cloud solutions that modern businesses use to manage their processes and projects. Salesforce, Trello, Asana, Notion - dragging cards from left to right is common to all of them.
If you’re struggling to keep track of contracts’ status as they move through the workflow, a Kanban view, like this one in Juro, can help teams to understand which work is sitting with which team or individual. It’s also easier to review as a team in a meeting than a long table that’s difficult to understand. Keep contracts flowing with a clean, structured Kanban view.
5. Make eSignature frictionless too
Nobody’s seriously using wet signature anymore - but that doesn’t mean that electronic signature is as good as it can be. There are two key ways in which eSignature can be optimised for speed and efficiency:
💡 Mass actions
Some Juro customers are growing so quickly, they sign more than 1,000 contracts a month. If the company’s authorised signatory is still its CEO, that’s a lot of signatures to collect manually, one at a time.
‘Mass actions’ is a feature that enables you to highlight as many contracts as you’d like, and then sign them with one click:
This is a huge time-saver in the contract workflow, especially at crunch times like month-end, or quarter-end. Life’s too short to sign 1,000 contracts one by one.
💡 Mobile-responsive eSigning
Life’s also too short to wait to get to a desktop before you can sign a contract. If you know a prospect left the meeting ready to sign, get the contract out so they can sign on mobile on the way back to the office.
Juro offers secure, mobile-responsive eSignature on any device - hit the button in the top right to find out more.
6. Automate renewal reminders
Although renewal is obviously a post-signature activity, and therefore more of a contract management than a contract workflow concern, it’s still an issue you can address pre-signature.
We’ve heard plenty of horror stories about legal teams who didn’t realise there was an auto-renewal clause buried in a PDF somewhere, and found themselves on the hook for a seven-figure sum for another year.
As part of the contract workflow, you can set up custom automated renewal reminders to track key dates. This means that well into the future, long after the contract is signed, at a time of your choosing, the relevant stakeholders will get an automated reminder email to let them know the contract is renewing soon.
This could be set 90 days out from the renewal, or 30, or whatever time period makes sense for you - but if you build it into the contract workflow, you can avoid any nasty surprises when the renewal deadline comes around.
7. Monitor your analytics to find and remove bottlenecks
Regardless of how diligently you set up your contract workflow process, you’ll still encounter bottlenecks. It might be that one team sits on contracts for days without looking at them, or one template is always negotiated, slowing everything down.
You need to monitor the analytics around your workflow regularly to find these pain points and mitigate them. Use data visualizations, like these in Juro, to work out where the problems are:
Keep that contract engine humming, and you’ll make sure deals keep closing.
Contract workflow: ready to get started?
By following these steps, in our experience, even small legal teams can create a contract workflow that speeds documents through quickly and efficiently - whilst staying in control.
If this sounds like something you need, hit the button below to find out more.