Establishing Selection Criteria for Contract Management Software

By: Judy Tucker, business consultant, Blueridge Software, Inc.

Once you’ve determined that doing a better job of managing contracts is a priority and that the best solution is off-the-shelf software, the next step is to establish selection criteria.

ASP Or Client/Server?
You’ll need to consider whether client/server architecture, in which users access the system directly, or ASP, in which they access it via a Web browser, better suits your needs. There are plusses and minuses to each.

Advantages of Web-based programs include portability and, sometimes, price (particularly for organizations with large numbers of read-only users). Disadvantages include security, speed and screen display.

If the vendor hosts your data, security is a prime consideration. Should you ever want to get your data back, be sure that the supplier will return not only your source documents but also the meta-data derived from those documents. Access speed can be an issue because of the vagaries of the Internet. The speed of screen refreshes can be problematic for data entry, sorting, searching, and reporting functions.

Web-based programs offer limited control over how information is displayed. Users may find the inability to customize drop-down menus or to remove extraneous fields frustrating or distracting – affecting efficiency.

Advantages of client/server programs include security, speed and report display.

Client/server software is not as widely accessible. But commonly used remote desktop technologies like Citrix, Virtual Server, and Terminal Services make distance computing practical. Access speed is more consistent and dependent only upon factors that are under your control (the traffic on your network, for example). This is important if most of your users will be manipulating data.

Your initial investment in client/server software may or may not be higher, depending upon the proportion of your users who are read/write. If you are comparing client/server models to hosted ASP solutions that charge monthly fees, remember that those fees are ongoing and are often based upon the number of records in your database. As your database grows, so do your costs.

With client/server systems, security is not an issue. Your data is never out of your hands. You are storing it and controlling who sees and works with it.

Client/server systems also offer much better control and customization of features. This can favorably affect ease of use.

Proprietary Data Storage Format – A Red Flag
Danger, Will Robinson! Whether you choose ASP or client/server architecture, be sure that the system will store your data in a standard, non-proprietary format. Any proprietary format should raise a red flag.

For one thing, you may want to work with your data from the backend, either for reporting purposes or to tie into other databases.

Infinitely more important, however, is the ability to move your data out if necessary. You may never need to get your information out of the system, but you must be sure that if you need to, you can!

Features & Flexibility
When you think about features, keep it as simple as possible. Ask whether a program meets your basic needs.

When you evaluate a product, be sure that it will store the specific information you need and that you’re comfortable with the way in which it allows you to view and retrieve the data. Consider whether there are layers of complexity that you don’t want.

Flexibility is particularly important with packaged software. Is the program too narrowly defined, or not targeted enough? If the software is intended for general business use, is it agile enough to accommodate your specific requirements?

Ease Of Use
How friendly is the user interface? How complete and accessible is the documentation? Is training needed for all users? Or optional for those wanting a jump-start?

What costs are involved in implementing the software? Does the vendor charge for help with installation? Is user training required, and, if so, what are the costs?

Upgrade Path
Is the system scalable? Can you start small and upgrade to a larger version later? An easy upgrade path allows you to leverage your investment in time, money, and knowledge of the software.

Technical Support
Look for responsive technical support. Make sure the supplier will provide personal responses to technical questions. Check references. Has the software been relatively trouble-free? How effectively does the vendor work with customers to solve any problems that do arise?

Although there may not be a simple formula for pinpointing when contract management software pays for itself, keep in mind ROI benefits may occur soon after implementation. That may become clear to you the first time an alert prevents you from an overpayment, or maybe even the first time you easily retrieve a contract record rather than asking a separate department for its files.

Core Requirements: A Sample List
Summarize your core requirements in a brief list. Here’s a sample of criteria you might use. Just add sub-points to the list where necessary.

  1. Easy to use
  2. Priced within budget
  3. All charges (software, installation, implementation, training) knowable up front
  4. Stores the data you need to store in a way that makes sense for your organization
  5. Provides visibility into key contract provisions
  6. Supports automatic alerts (visual and/or via email)
  7. Includes a way to store or link actual contracts, notes, and related documents
  8. Simple to administer in your environment
  9. Offers robust security that doesn’t interfere with ease of use
  10. Responsive, responsible technical support

An Excellent Beginning
Outlining the criteria for your contract management system is, of course, just the beginning (although it’s a good one). Implementation is still ahead of you, and designing and building your database is not a trivial project. But knowing what you’re looking for in contract management software will go a long way toward making sure you choose the product that’s right for you.

Contract Management for Corporate Counsel

Corporate Counsel

Sura Nualpradid /

Many departments within a company can benefit from contract management software, but corporate legal is a natural.

Every company needs a corporate counsel to vet contracts at some point. All too often, however, during a contracts lifecycle, key information about a contract tends to get dispersed – and lost to legal’s view.

For instance, what if a client’s contract calls for X number of products to be delivered within a certain time period. However, during the agreed upon period, your company cannot take delivery of that contracted number of products due to warehouse problems. So, numbers are altered and an agreement reached. But this “agreement” happened between a product administrator, warehouse, and the contracted vendor, leaving legal out of the loop. At the end of the contract period, the billing department may be looking for a “make good” and ask the legal department to write a letter regarding a possible breach of contract.

This can be a touchy situation, leading to confusion and maybe even a bruised business relationship – maybe even lost business with a key partner.

With a centralized repository of contract records, information on deliverables, met obligations and key deadlines can be entered in notes or linked to relevant documents or document excerpts. Consider the time and trouble that saves when internal departments ask for legal to either weigh in or take action on a contract. Without all that information in one accessible place, tracking down something as simple as a mid-contract amendment can be tiresome and labor-intensive.

With a single contract database corporate counsel departments can ensure:

  • a holistic view and approach to managing a corporation’s legal obligations through the contract lifecycle
  • consistency of contract execution
  • reduction of duplicated services and efforts
  • limited errors and unapproved changes to contracts

Mitigating organizational risk and maintaining compliance with federal, state and local law can also be more effectively managed with contract management software. Read some of our previous posts on how proper contract administration and use of document retention policies can reduce the business risk of your organization while helping you meet the demands of laws such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

Reputable legal associations suggest contract management software as a reliable resource for in-house legal departments as well. Check out what the American Bar Association (ABA) and Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) say about contract management software.

Introducing Contract Assistant PRO Edition 3.7

contract management software - small image

Screenshot of Contract Assistant PRO 3.7

Blueridge Software, Inc., is rolling out its new edition of Contract Assistant PRO – changes the company says were driven largely from user feedback. PRO 3.7 is a significant upgrade with the following important features:

  • Fresh, Crisp User Interface
    A new color palette, easy-to-understand icons, a navigation ribbon, and illustrated documentation that is on-screen accessible.
  • One-Click Copying
    Copy a contract record—and all its details—with just one click. You can then view the new record and modify it as needed.
  • 45+ More Customizable Fields
    A massive increase from 7 to 55 customizable field names and captions. Plus, all can be changed for every user in one easy-to-use Administrator screen.
  • 21 New User-Defined Fields
    Organize your contracts like never before with: 6 new financial summary fields, 5 new direct entry user-defined text fields, 5 new user-defined pull-downs, and 5 new user-defined date fields.
  • Monetary Key Elements
    This new type of key element provides an additional field designed to hold monetary values. Then, summarize these values into one or more of the new, searchable Financial Summary fields.
  • Contract Modification Fields
    New, searchable fields allow you to automatically track the date and time a contract record was added to the database, which user added it, the last date and time a contract record was modified, and who did the modification.
  • Enhanced and Expanded Search Capability
    Name and save your search criteria for future use, extra search filters, and wild-card searching of more fields including those newly added.
  • All New Custom Reporting
    Powered by the Report Designer—our new, robust custom report writer—you can quickly gather and review results based on any one field, a subset, or your entire database. Jump right in with a set of starter reports or configure your own with the built-in User’s Guide and step-by-step tutorial.

The new PRO includes a built-in conversion utility that allows users of earlier versions to migrate easily to Version 3.7. And if you are using the single-user Contract Assistant Standard Edition, consider taking advantage of our exclusive upgrade path including a quick, automated import of your existing Contract Assistant database. Contact Blueridge Software for more details.

Welcome to Contract Assistant Connection

Welcome to the new Contract Assistant Connection – a blog focused on straightforward conversation about contract management software and one of the leading products in the market, Contract Assistant.

For this inaugural post, let’s start with an introduction into what contract management software does, and then what Contract Assistant is all about.

Contract management software is the perfect solution for business of any size, in any industry, to protect themselves from the costs and risks of managing their stacks of unorganized contracts. Just about every business’s operations are governed by contracts in one way or another.

As organizations grow, so do the number and complexity of different contracts. Even a relatively small company may have many contracts for vendor services, including: office and building leases, software licenses, maintenance agreements, warranties, site hosting agreements, sales contracts, contractor agreements – just to name a few.

What once may have seemed manageable with simple file folders, a stapler, and a cabinet can quickly evolve into an unmanageable mountain of paper. Whether you run a small organization or a large enterprise, Contract Assistant is the right software to make it easy to manage contracts, which saves you – and your business – time and money.

Many business cases exist for why an organization needs to employ a product like Contract Assistant. This blog will explore those cases in future posts and demonstrate the link between the features of  Contract Assistant and tangible real-world benefits, too.

Blueridge Software developed Contract Assistant in 2002 to create a solution that would help businesses of any size manage many contracts and negotiated agreements; quickly access important data; receive automatic reminders of critical dates; and generate rich reporting to build business intelligence.

To meet the varying needs of the different business sizes it caters to, Contract Assistant is available in three editions:

  • Standard: An affordable, single-user edition, that provides easy-to-use tools to organize contract information in one place and manage contract details with confidence – ideal for smaller organizations.
  • PRO: Designed for small-to-medium businesses, this edition allows multiple users to access your Contract Assistant databases and provides greater power and flexibility.
  • Enterprise: The most comprehensive, powerful contract management software developed especially for larger work groups or organizations, with top features and scalability to accommodate databases of any size

It’s easy to see that Contract Assistant is really on to something – and we can’t wait to keep sharing information with you through the Contract Assistant Connection.

To learn even more about contract management software between posts, follow us on Twitter and find us on Facebook. For more information about Contract Assistant, visit our homepage at