Three things your parents told you about contract management skills

Image of child and parentsIt’s important to remember that contract management isn’t a single skill – it’s using knowledge combined with a few good habits. If you are good at managing a database  and know what stakeholders want/should have from contract information, you are already most of the way to succeeding at contract administration and management.

And by “database” we don’t mean a collection of files, PDFs, Word docs, snippets of saved email messages sitting under the office fern.

Contracts need to be managed in a database, with each contract becoming a record with related notes, documents or summaries available within one click – precisely what Contract Assistant manages to do (and do well—according to our customers).

However, no matter how useful a solution like Contract Assistant may be, good habits and good contract management skills go hand-in-hand. And you know who first taught you these good habits?

Your parents. That’s right, the old tried-and-true aphorisms that your mom or dad would trot out periodically actually may have helped you manage contracts better. Not that you were listening well (or at all) between the ages of, say, 12-21.

To help prod you (again) of what a good habit looks like, here are a few parental sayings that should help you in your current contract work.

“Every thing in its place and a place for every thing”

This old chestnut may have helped you put your toys away or at least get your dirty socks in the hamper. The point was – putting things in order is simple if you know where things go.

In Contract Assistant, for example, that means you need to make sure you are using all the contract record fields. An incomplete contract record really isn’t that helpful, that’s why its important to:

  • — Ensure “Contracted Party Information” is more than just the email and phone number of a single contact: note contract signers, any legal contacts or anyone at the contracted company who has been helpful. Note who in your company is responsible for the contract – as well as the correct department the contract serves.
  • — Fill out the “Key Date” section thoroughly, not just start and end dates. Track revisions and review dates as well. Especially important, note the time when an auto renewal period starts (read more about auto renewals here).
  • — Key element clauses: This section doesn’t need to be a repeat of the contract itself, but be sure you are at least recording each main contract section of importance.

“Have you finished your homework?”

Ugh – who liked to hear that? Of course the correct answer was always “yes” … but we both know sometimes that wasn’t quite accurate.

Your parents weren’t trying to torture you – they just wanted to be sure you got important stuff out of the way first. And homework would usually be an easy “A” – who didn’t call up their friend and ask what they put down for question 2 in chapter 12?

In a way, the “Overview, Notes & Comments, and File Links” section is your homework. It should be an easy “A” – and neglecting it can leave you behind the curve. To improve your contract management skills, do the following “homework.”

  • — Filling out an Overview can be a great opportunity to strip the contract down to its basics in language everyone can understand. This will be particularly helpful to others when they use search features to find information. For instance, a contract record with “Acme Heating Supply” doesn’t tell you much from by the name of the contractor. In the Overview you can state the purpose of the contract in plain English: Supplier of cooling fans for data center.
  • — The “Notes & Comments” tab shouldn’t be ignored either. This is a great place to copy-and-paste client call notes or other interactions. And of course, “File Links” ensure that every stray scrap related to a contract gets recorded.

“I don’t know is not an answer”

Ah yes – who hasn’t had to deal with the teenage “I dunno” malady? It can be really frustrating – especially when there is every reason someone should know.

“Whose idea was it to sneak into the movies without paying?”

… “I dunno.”

“Well, that’s interesting because there was only two of you.”

Just as frustrating is when someone in your business needs to know how a contract is performing – and no one has an answer. Which is interesting because you know someone signed the contract and a certain department contracted that service.

That’s exactly why, if you are administering a contract management system, that you ensure contracts get reviewed by stakeholders and managers. Making sure that responsible parties periodically review contracts and their performance is a way of managing risk.

All too often an apparently smoothly running contract may be running up unexpected costs, fail to deliver fully on commitments, or simply create unexpected problems. Ensuring contracts get reviewed is a way to ensure no one has an “I don’t know” moment when things go very wrong and your company is exposed to real risk from a vendor.

Contract assistant will not only let you set a review-by date, but it will attach “alarms” to them as well. Alarms can be set to recur as well. The Enterprise edition even creates email alerts.

In the end, good habits make for a good database – and that should make everyone happy. Except of course if you employ any teenagers.

[Photo Credit: brykmantra 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 ]