Contract management is a critical business process and poses plenty of challenges. The goal of this blog article is to explain the advantages of digital contract management in the scope of enterprise content management and show how “eIDAS remote signature” is now finally ensuring that the entire contract procedure, including the signing process (!), can be completely free of media discontinuities. What does that mean? You can sign your contracts digitally in the future.
eIDAS remote signature makes contract management easy!
Even before the actual term of a contract begins, many departments need to be involved in the contract process. Information is compiled, contracts and other applicable documents need to be drawn up, and they need to be adjusted to the concrete contractual objects. Internal coordination and negotiations with the external contractual partner must also take place. Different departments that have different tasks throughout the entire contract lifecycle need to be organized. Approval and signature processes initiate the transition to the active contract term.
That’s quite an enormous task!
When companies do not use digital contract management, Excel lists are often their method of choice for keeping track of the tasks and deadlines for a contract. Often, these lists and contract storage are organized in a department-related manner, and in some cases even redundantly. This leads to extensive searches, outdated information statuses, and a database that is unsuitable for company-wide analyses of the contract portfolio. Individual departments therefore often act based on different states of knowledge. Conflicts and problems are pre-programmed, the risk of missing deadlines is great, and the chances of saving time and money are small.
Transparency is therefore the decisive success factor for simple and efficient contract management. Core information such as the subject matter, terms, and costs must be available to all responsible parties in a reliable form. This can already be realized by using digital contract management.
Advantages of digital contract management with ECM software at a glance
The core of digital contract management with a DMS or ECM solution is the process of archiving contract documents and associated documents in the digital archive. That includes automatically filing them in a digital contract file, which provides several important advantages for contract management:
An overview at all times
As a central hub of contract-related activities, every authorized department now has quick and transparent access to existing contracts in the digital file from anywhere at all times. Extensive overviews with convenient evaluation functions highlight the relevant information from the contract portfolio and enable secure deadline management.
Integrated process management allows processes, from initial negotiations to cancellation and archiving, to be standardized in a binding way across the entire company using phase models. In the best-case scenario, this allows links to upstream and downstream sub-processes such as tendering procedures or project dossiers to be implemented. Within predefined contract periods, specific digital task templates help users effectively organize their activities. Whether you use pre-structured processes or more flexibly designed checklists and ad hoc tasks, you should decide on the level of flexibility required yourself, if applicable, depending on the status or contract type.
Collaborative and comprehensive
Internal conversations (chats) and external conversations (e-mails) are depicted directly within the contract process and thus make it possible to comprehend the reasons behind certain decisions even years later. Not least, each activity in the contract process is documented in detail in a log of progress.
What’s missing? The most important thing of all: the signature. It is what makes a contract effective. Until now, it has been the case that contracts that must fulfill written form had to be signed by hand, which pre-programs a media disruption. But this is where eIDAS remote signature comes into play and makes contract management completely digital for the first time.
Digital signatures complete digital contract management (with an ECM system)
A handwritten signature is a qualified signature pursuant to eIDAS Article 25 (2), and new legislation now allows qualified signatures to be performed via remote signature services. In most cases, contracts are signed by at least two contract partners. That means every contract partner requires a signature certificate, which can be provided by a wide range of signature creation units. When remote signatures are used, certificates are provided by a trust service provider (TSP). When certificates are provided in this manner, signatures can be triggered on any device (desktop, iPad, iPhone, etc.). This process also has the advantage that authentication and certificate provision can take place within a matter of minutes if the participants do not have certificates yet.
ECM systems offer a great advantage in this scenario: an integration of the entire signature process, including registration in the existing contract management solutions or workflow systems, can be integrated. The process is secure, user-friendly, and has absolutely no media disruptions.
What the signature process could look like in the future in your digital contract management
duThe following text describes a possible process flow involving an ECM system, a signature middleware, and a trust service provider:
Example process flow:
- The user selects the required contract and an option for signing the document.
- A check takes place to see whether the user already has a certificate or whether they still need to register.
- If a user has a certificate, the document is displayed so it can be signed.
- The user can now select a signature field in the document concerned (unless the signature field has been predefined and cannot be changed).
- After that, the user must enter their password for the signature. The user name is automatically transferred.
- The signature middleware calculates the hash value of the document and transfers it to the relevant trust service provider.
- The trust service provider sends an mTAN to the user’s smart phone.
- The user enters the mTAN into the browser window of the provider.
- The hash value is signed and transferred to the middleware.
- The middleware integrates the signature (aand a signature graphic, if applicable) into the PDF if the user has not generated one in advance using a pen or their finger.
- The document, including the signature information, is then displayed to the user and subsequently archived.
Are you wondering what this looks like in d.velop AG’s software? Then register for a free webinar and find out about the possibilities offered by digital signatures in contract management.