SharePoint is no ordinary software system. It is a sophisticated collaboration solution used for process management, teamwork and company portals and a master of web content management. The use of SharePoint within an organization is also just as multifaceted: for example contract management.
Many companies use SharePoint and Microsoft 365 as a support platform for implementing various digitization strategies.
Why you should implement digital contract management with SharePoint
If your organization already uses SharePoint or Microsoft 365, it makes sense to use it as a basis for mapping your contract management as well, resulting in benefits for both users and IT.
Microsoft 365 and SharePoint contract management represent a potential step up in development. With a professional solution, you can store and link your contracts in SharePoint in a smart way.
You may, for example, have a contract file folder and a project file folder. Whereas you previously had to store a document in multiple locations on the network drive, you can now link the contract within the project file folder for easy access. As another example, users can also now jump straight from the supplier contract to the supplier file folder.
Contracts often require elaborate collaboration. They may need approvals from a variety of different people within the company, or may need people to work on the documents involved together. SharePoint integrates very well with applications such as MS Word, allowing users to collaborate on contract documents in a familiar working environment.
There are also benefits for IT: if one central platform can be used instead of a number of individual products, your IT department can focus on developing its expertise in the strategic SharePoint platform, resulting in much lower training and maintenance costs.
SharePoint contract management overview list vs. comprehensive contract management solution
SharePoint already provides some essential functions as standard, including web-based lists and document libraries. These functions are used to maintain contract properties in a similar way to a central Excel list. Documents can also be stored in the document libraries.
However, working in this way can lead to some familiar problems in contract management.
Some of these problems include:
- A lack of effective cancellation date calculations for ongoing contracts, leading to inconsistent data over time
- No automatic reminder function for effective cancellation dates
- The central contract list is not accessible to everyone due to the authorizations involved
- There is no central overview of costs, notes, tasks and deadlines for a contract; instead, you have to slowly trawl through individual documents to find the information
- All the documents must be linked manually, which in practice results in enormous workloads and ultimately in inconsistent data
- Graphical reporting is very hard to display
The step toward a comprehensive contract management solution
Deadline monitoring is often an essential component of any solution. Furthermore, the contracts are generally displayed for end-users on a graphically optimized user interface, where users have access to a variety of different functions.
Examples of functions that a user accesses on the contract management user interface:
- Central maintenance feature for descriptive metadata (for instance, vehicle registrations in a leasing contract)
- Central maintenance feature for notes, tasks and deadlines
- Extensions or cancellations of contracts
- Navigation between framework contracts and individual contracts
- Storage or creation of new documents
In addition, a comprehensive contract management solution should also provide more features:
- Full 360° oversight over all the documents and information relating to a contract
- A simple user interface for finding contracts and information quickly and easily
- Where necessary, the automatic provision of contract draft documents to suppliers
- Working with contract templates
- Integration into MS Outlook to store contract-related mails using drag and drop
- An option for scanning paper-based contracts to add them to a contract file
- An option for creating detailed reporting
In general, these SharePoint-based contract management solutions are not reinventing the wheel. Rather, these solutions supplement the functions that SharePoint already handles particularly well (for instance, version management or simultaneous document editing) with missing functions and features that are important for simple and secure contract management within an organization.
What you should keep in mind when choosing a provider
Always be aware of this distinction: are you being offered a project solution or a product?
One potential disadvantage of project solutions is that they are not update-compatible with SharePoint server or Microsoft 365 updates. As a result, you have to rely on the provision of extra services to make sure the software is compatible with the latest version.
That is not the case with one product. Along with a manual and training, maintenance is included – that is, the assurance that the producer will always update the product to the latest version of SharePoint. When purchasing products, it is also important to be aware of their scope of application. Some products are better considered as specialist solutions. They organize all the contracts in a SharePoint list as described above but provide additional functions, storing work, supplier and maintenance contracts in one location. Note that separate websites are used for each contract type in SharePoint.
Finally, you should decide whether you only wish to store existing contracts or if (sooner or later) the entire contract service life is to be mapped. Based on your (strategic) objectives, you will require a wider or smaller range of functions.