10 things your boss wishes you knew about contract management

image of womanNo one who is in charge of running anything likes to look at a new hire and think: “This will be great – lot’s of complications and more work for me!” If there is one thing your manager or boss likes more than anything else, it’s making her or his life easier.

So if there is one sure-fire way to impress your boss, it’s making sure there are no nasty surprises lurking with vendors or in current B2B contracts.

Unfortunately, when it comes to vendor contracts, a lot can go wrong when a contract is signed and filed away and forgotten. While the contract may be in cold storage at the bottom of a file drawer of filed way on someone’ hard drive, real-life continues.  And business relationships, even fairly simple ones, are rarely static.

Here’s a short list of things your manager or boss probably wants you to know about current in-house contracts – especially vendor contracts (rather than sales contracts).

  1. 1. How is this vendor performing against contracted service or supply milestones?
  2. 2. Are invoices and billings being paid on a regular basis?
  3. 3. Are there any invoice or billing problems and/or discrepancies?
  4. 4. Are contract costs rising or changing – and why?
  5. 5. Have any key prices or service commitments been altered since the contract was signed?
  6. 6. Are internal key stakeholders monitoring or aware of vendor performance?
  7. 7. Have internal contract reviews taken place at contract mid-point?
  8. 8. Are there any competing vendors or providers who should be queried before the current contract expires?
  9. 9. How prepared is the company to make a decision to renew or renegotiate the current contract at the end date?
  10. 10. What’s the internal consensus: do people like dealing with this vendor?

Good to know

Each of the above questions can affect a B2B relationship – either financially or otherwise. Unfortunately, some of these questions are only asked at the end of contracts – when it is too late to do anything about them. (Hence, the “nasty” part of “nasty surprise”).

For instance, No. 1 is fairly self-explanatory, but No. 2 can be equally important because it flags two potential issues.

First, if a vendor’s invoices aren’t getting paid on time, that could signal a problem with the invoices themselves, and the accounts payable department should provide an answer. Alternately, if the invoices are not getting paid at expected (or contracted) intervals, the business relationship can be damaged.

No vendor likes to wait too long for their money – so late or inconsistent payments may be damaging your company’s relationship with a key vendor.

No. 5 (“Have any key prices or service commitments been altered since the contract was signed?”) is where real “surprises” can lurk.

Imagine a scenario where a vendor contacts your internal key stakeholder and says (after a contract is signed), that they can cut the agreed cost of an item by simply switching to another material. “Fine!” someone says.

Then, several months into the contract, someone notices that the vendor is no longer supplying products that are for the contracted quality. Which is important, because your customers, in turn, won’t accept inferior quality. What appeared to be good deal on cost then turns into a quality issue – and a bad one for your company.

This is why No. 6 (“Are internal key stakeholders monitoring or aware of vendor performance?) is so important as well. It’s not enough to just pay bills when they come in. No. 7 (“Have internal reviews taken place at contract mid-point?”) is a key backstop to No. 6. By ensuring that mid-contract reviews take place, any future problems can at least be addressed before a contract end.

Finally, No. 10 (What’s the internal consensus: do people like dealing with this vendor?”) is more important to your boss than you may think. In the end, even the most micromanaging of bosses can’t know everything. And most managers and bosses hate to be out of the loop.

It can mean a lot when the internal sentiment is positive or negative about a vendor. Having a positive working relationship can go a long way to smoothing over any difficulties with contracts. It’s also just more pleasant to deal with people your company likes.

The tools for contract management

All of these things that your boss wants you to know can be known – as long as someone (you?) is actively managing their contracts rather than filing-and-forgetting.

Answering all of the above questions without contract management software can be daunting. Using an Excel spreadsheet to answer the above questions won’t make your life or your boss’s any easier; it’s simply too inefficient, too time-consuming, and too difficult.

A database that’s made for consumer-level users, Contract Assistant ensures that each contract is stored as its own record. Predefined fields ensure that key contract information is recorded about contact information, key clauses, and financial info. Financial summary fields can be used to track info, and Overview and Notes fields ensure that no contract information gets lost.

Users don’t need to do endless data entry either. Contract-related documents can be stored in the contracts database for quick retrieval (in the PRO and Enterprise editions) or linked to (in the Standard edition).

Users can set alarms on key dates as well (milestones, mid-contract dates) to ensure that key stakeholders get notified. At the very least, users should be setting alarms for mid-contract reviews and 90 days before contracts end (or auto-renewal dates) to ensure your company is prepared to make a decision on renewals, renegotiation – or cancellation.

But if your manager or boss wants to know something about a contract, having a contract management solution such as Contract Assistant ensures that you don’t need to have the answer in your head. Multiple search filters ensure you can search for key words and phrases.

In the end, it’s not just about making your manager or boss’s life easier. Having a contract management system eases the workload of anyone dealing with vendor contracts.

Photo Credit: Evil Erin via Compfight cc

[About the author: Todd Hyten is a former business journalist who now writes about B2B topics and consults on content marketing. You can find him on Twitter and ]

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