Category: Contract Automation
Here’s a strange comparison for you: contracts are like concrete. But what do legal agreements have to do with building materials?
Think about a concrete foundation. If a foundation isn’t rock solid, whatever is constructed on top of it could collapse without warning-the same is true about any company. A business is only as strong as the contracts it’s built upon and its ability to fully understand and comply with those contracts. Things like weak liability and intellectual property protections, missed contractual milestones, inadvertent breaches, and misunderstood termination for convenience clauses are all recipes for disaster.
What if your company could eliminate that unpredictability and achieve total certainty over what’s inside 100% of its contracts? At Exari, we see this as a simple three-step process.
Step 1: Gain visibility into your existing portfolio of contracts.
Whether your company has dozens of contracts or thousands of them, it can be nearly impossible to keep track of every single requirement, restriction, and deadline. When your company’s revenue and reputation are on the line, staying ahead of your obligations and out of breach is imperative. But how could you do this without having to read every clause in every contract?
The answer is simple: Turn your documents into data. When contracts are imported into the Exari system, the most important clauses and information are pulled from the document, allowing business users to visualize and analyze this data in seconds with the help of dozens of standard reports.
Step 2: Gain visibility into your contractual risk.
Every contract contains several important risk factors…termination clauses, IP protections, payment terms, liability limitations, etc. Could you assess precisely how much risk is contained in a particular contract? How about the risk contained in your entire contract portfolio? Unfortunately, for many companies the answer is “no.”
That’s why Exari created a revolutionary algorithm that analyzes more than 20 specific contractual data points, determines the contract’s risk to your organization, and assigns it a simple risk score. And since these scores are based on a uniform set of data, you can compare apples-to-apples and fully understand the risk (or lack thereof) across your entire enterprise.
Step 3: Gain visibility into your contracting practices.
The easiest way to make sure that your company is creating low-risk agreements is to develop a standard procedure that promotes good contracting practices and prevents so-called “rogue contracting”. The question then becomes, how do you both tightly control your contracts while still providing the flexibility necessary to prevent legal department bottlenecks?
Exari’s DocGen™ allows all business users to do just that with an innovative and streamlined document automation system. Using a simple question and answer “Wizard” interview, DocGen™ lets any user create pre-approved, ironclad contracts, while integrated workflows loop-in the correct people, as needed.
Achieving 100% Contract Certainty™ has never been easier for businesses large and small. Think of it as reinforcing your wobbly foundation. You’ll be glad you did.
And since a picture’s worth a thousand words, please take a couple minutes to enjoy our newest video “100% Contract Certainty.”
At Exari we’re always innovating. Coming up with new strategies for making our customers’ experience even better is an obsession! We get the chance to talk with hundreds of companies about the contract creation process and we are consistently asked for help in making it more streamlined. A primary benefit of a contract management solution is breaking up the many steps involved in contract drafting, negotiation and execution processes so they can be more easily automated- freeing up more time for you to get back to important tasks. In addition to helping you easily generate contracts and better manage them, we are also surveying the market to understand what tools will help provide our users to continue to ease the contracting process.
After integrating with DocuSign at many customers, we’ve decided to formalize our relationship and establish a formal technology partnership. We’ve digitized the contract creation process from the beginning to the very end, sealing the deal with DocuSign’s eSignature and Digital Transaction (DTM) Platform. Our users can now enjoy the ease of contracting with Exari while using DocuSign’s secure, cloud-based platform for signing agreements instantly.
We can already see the value that DocuSign is adding for our customers. Now, users can accelerate their sales cycle and revenue error free, by eliminating the manual efforts of signature by being able to sign anytime, anywhere and on any device. This will not only increase customer satisfaction, but also keep you worry-free about contracts getting lost in the mail or being buried under piles of other documents.
To hear more about all of the benefits both Exari and DocuSign’s eSignature can offer your business, contact us now to discuss further or see a preview!
We recently discussed the new uncleared margin regulations (UMR) and best practices for successfully re-papering your Credit Support Annexes (CSA’s.) Now that you’re up to speed on what it means for your organization and the steps for re-papering, there is a bit more you should consider when evaluating each agreement. To get you the best advice we teamed-up with experts in this subject in order to bring you all the information you will need to successfully comply.
While adapting to these new regulations, complexity is going to be your greatest obstacle. You will have an increase in the amount of documents and data you need to manage, which means it will also be much more complex than previously creating or editing agreements. You will have to find a better way to manage the additional work required to support this intricate and time-bound project.
Depending upon which strategy you decide to adopt (or are forced to adopt by your counterparties) you may have to amend existing CSAs, create a duplicate to comply with the new regulations, or create a new CSA for the Counterparties (CPs) that want to renegotiate terms. Whichever strategy you end up with, managing the increasing number of agreements, and managing the legal and collateral terms is going to be a much greater burden for legal and operational departments.
In our upcoming webinar alongside Derivatives Risk Solutions (DRS), we will help you better understand the pros and cons of the strategies available to you, and how technology can help to ease the inevitable burden.
When: Tuesday, September 13th 10:00AM EDT / 3:00PM BST
*Can’t make it? That’s okay! Register now and receive a link to a recording once it’s completed.
The concept of contract management can get quite complex. There are many different contract-related challenges facing the modern enterprise, and they don’t affect all people the same way. The best way to get started is simple, yet highly effective – we call it the three O’s of contract management: Organize, Operationalize, and Optimize. You can move on to bigger challenges later, for example automation of contract drafting, approval workflows, and negotiation processes. But starting with the three O’s will give you a strong foundation on which to build:
1. Organize. Store all of your contracts in one place. Whether you keep them in a folder on your shared drive or somewhere in the cloud, the key is to identify major gaps and surprises (e.g. missing or expired contracts) and any major contractual risks that could expose you to unexpected losses or brand damage (e.g. uncapped liability, regulatory failures or rogue vendors).
2. Operationalize. Next, make sure the right people know about your contractual commitments and the commitments your suppliers have made to you. By extracting data about obligations and similar operational issues, you can share it, track it, and avoid the pain of poor compliance. This will mean fewer missed milestones, fewer pricing and payment errors, fewer disputes and fewer cost overruns.
3. Optimize. Finally, armed with better information about contractual risks, terms and process, you can make better decisions and streamline the way you do business. You’ll be able to find and eliminate bottlenecks in the contracting process, leverage past deals to drive better negotiation outcomes, and respond with confidence and speed during a crisis. Put simply, better contract insight will help you build a stronger, more valuable business.
Daunted by making changes in a large organization? Consider thinking globally, but acting locally. Your department or division is a great place to start your journey towards contract certainty and contracting excellence. It starts with better knowledge and insight. But as you grow and evolve, greater benefits emerge from automation and process improvement. It pays to think ahead and make a plan for where you want to go.
For more information about contract management, how it can benefit your organization, and additional resources please visit our contract management page to learn everything you need to know.
It was a beautiful afternoon in Boston as Chief Compliance Officers from the area convened to discuss the changing role of compliance at their financial services firms. The venue, Top of the Hub, is situated at the highest point in Boston – amazingly appropriate given the conversation quickly gravitated towards visibility and the difficulty of transforming ISDA Masters & CSA’s into data that can be more easily analyzed and operationalized.
Conversation was lively with several topics resonating with all participants. A significant theme of the conversation was around the changing role of compliance within the business. Compliance leaders are now asked to sit at the negotiation table with clients and have become a key member of the team. With the regulators playing a more resident role in corporations, compliance has become a more visible component of daily activities. There was a general theme that the integration of compliance into the business functions has also integrated the role of Chief Compliance Officer.
When speaking about ISDA Master Agreements, many felt that this was an area for ongoing automation and restructuring. Specifically, the harmonization of the ISDA-related data would reduce cost and risk for many firms. The advent of tools in this area is an opportunity for the teams to improve their process. The process of collecting the ISDA detail is very manual today. Once automated, however, this data would better enable companies to address questions regarding most favored nation clauses and other contract call outs.
The general consensus is that there are many regulations for the buy side firms to cover. It is easy for things to fall through the cracks as many companies cannot cover all regulations with a SME. The attendees discussed that the maturing of the processes was key to success, with several recommendations offered. Three of these suggestions included:
- lobby ISDA collectively to request more structure,
- designate key staff members to be SMEs in areas of greatest concern and,
- agree on a standard CSA
The attendees discussed how to best direct their limited resources, thus being a main concern. One recommendation was to provide incentives to the organization for meeting guidelines. A detailed conversation was held recommending teams to review the operations logs on a regular basis to spot check for any opportunities open for improvement.
Firms at the table had many different types of risk: fiduciary vs. deposit risk, while some companies were faced with both risks and answered to multiple regulatory bodies, that often had conflicting recommendation or reporting. Additionally, the impact of international regulation was discussed as an area of rapid change that is also causing workload on these teams.
Overall, there seemed to be consensus about ways to improve:
- Implement a central repository for all important agreements
- Capture key contract terms related to risk and compliance
- Provide proactive visibility for business users that quantify the indicators they find most valuable
The event ended strong with many of the participants exchanging cards and committing to continued sharing of best practices. Many thanks to the participants for such a lively discussion and to Exari for hosting an amazing event!
According to The National Contract Management Association, 81% of members reported that finding their contracts was a major concern. Think about your own experience – have you ever needed to look into the details of a contract and couldn’t find the right agreement? For a small number of contracts this could be considered sloppy, but for more it’s dangerous and frankly puts your firm at risk of being blindsided at the worst possible moment.
Contracts are one of the most effective tools for managing risk, because they have legal teeth. Chances are your company is pretty good at drafting and negotiating contracts to protect your interests while still moving business forward, but what happens once the ink has dried? Do you have an effective system for capturing and storing the information within the contract? If you’re like most companies there’s a good chance you fall short. The most progressive firms we see simply store contracts on a central file share and add a spreadsheet with basic metadata.
If your firm is serious about risk management then finding effective ways to manage and deeply understand your contracts is essential. It means taking a fresh approach to contracts and transforming them from documents into data. If you’re not managing your contracts properly you’re bound to face some unwanted surprises. Surprises that might cost your firm millions of dollars, or worse, your job! This is why you need a plan in place for when a crisis emerges.
If you think your firm can do a better job at risk and contract management, you’re right! The first step is to implement a universal data model for all your contracts and then consistently populate that database for every new contract. This uniform and data-centric approach will provide your firm with real-time information about the risks, obligations and exposures your company has to a counterparty. This is just the first step to managing your contract data successfully in order to reduce the risk in your firm.
Here’s an action checklist you can follow to get you started:
- Review the ways in which contracts are tracked on a company wide basis, and the policies and procedures in place to use that data to hedge against and mitigate risks.
- Review the status of contracts, including any risk concentrations and interrelationships, as well as the likelihood of occurrence and potential risk.
- Design contract risk management policies and procedures that are coordinated and function as directed.
- Implement these strategies in a timely manner.
- Send a message to management that comprehensive contract management is an integral component of the firm’s strategy and business operations.
To learn new approaches that will provide you with real-time visibility, such as assessing your current situation to track interrelated risks and identifying the steps you need to take for implementing an internal risk management campaign, check out the New Contract Risk Playbook. Its an advanced guide for Corporate Boards and Senior Executives on how they can take an enterprise view on managing their contractual risk, which will improve operational excellence while reducing risk.
I spent this week with our talented team in London and talking with leaders in both financial services and insurance. We’ve recently delivered a new Contract Model that enables companies to more effectively manage risk. Most of the leaders I spoke with expressed deep concerns about the risk embedded in their contracts- one top ten bank said “we have all the data, we just don’t know if it’s the right data”.
It’s a huge problem with contracts because so much of the data is interpreted. A limitations of liability clause might be 3 paragraphs in one contract and 1 in another and say the same thing. In order for the data to be used properly, it has to be interpreted and stored as data so it can be analyzed, correlated and used for decision making?
Why is this so hard? One customer outlined their contract management nightmare when they tried to use a document management, workflow, master data management and data warehouse to extract and report on contract data. Just keeping the systems in sync was a nightmare. After 3 years and $25m USD, they abandoned the project. What they have now is a very expensive electronic filing cabinet.
Contract “data” doesn’t really exist until it is interpreted and normalized; our Universal Contract Model (UCM) does that for companies and shows them a 360 degree view of their contracts. It’s real and it works. Now contract data can be valuable in managing risk across the enterprise.
Are you still drafting thousands of contracts manually? In Word? Or storing multiple versions of paper contracts in a filing cabinet? Well, you’re not alone.
Exari recently surveyed 92 Corporate Counsel and compliance professionals about their habits and challenges for contract creation, storage and legal technology. More than 75% reported that they were still creating contracts in Microsoft Word, using some form of “copy and paste” template, while only 1 out of 10 currently use a document generation software to streamline the process. Half of the participants (47%) said they were still using paper filing systems to house corporate contracts. Their top pain points included:
- Slow contract approval processes (59%)
- Little or non-existent insight into risk (39%)
- Missing key milestones (27%)
- Difficulty with internal collaboration (25%)
- Risk of error (23%)
With outdated practices for generating and storing contracts, you’ll lack complete visibility into all of your agreements, increasing your risks such as liability, being underpaid or overcharged and missing key milestones. By implementing an efficient contracting process, you won’t miss a step. Not to mention you’ll be able to pull information during a crisis in minutes, rather than taking hours to dig up and sift through multiple paper copies. Avoid missing renewal rates, reduce the length of sales cycles, streamline negotiations and increase internal collaboration.
Doesn’t that sound better than the ol’ “copy and paste”?
“You’re wanted upstairs. Now. As in, immediately.”
There’s nothing quite like these words to kick off a relaxing day at the office. You head up to the executive suite wondering what fire-drill, or firing offense, awaits.
As you walk in, the Wall Street Journal flies across the room and lands at your feet.
“Our biggest back office vendor has been hacked. It’s a disaster. Apparently it happened a week ago. So why am I finding out about this in the Journal? What’s our legal position?”
You pause. You think. Where is the contract? Did I negotiate that one? Was there an obligation on them to report incidents like this as soon as they occurred? What’s our obligation to notify affected customers? How much time have we got? What if the vendor goes under? Can we terminate and switch vendors? Or was this exclusive? Can they hide behind capped liability?
So many questions. So little time. So many angry executives.
What happens next depends in large part on how well you stress-tested your contracts before an event like this. If you planned ahead and created a trusted source of operational contract data, you can probably answer many of these questions quickly and with confidence. If you did nothing to prepare, you will likely spend the day (or the week) running around like a headless chicken, looking for contracts, scrambling through paperwork, and wondering how to say “I don’t know” without sounding like an idiot.
And this is just one stressful event.
There can and will be many others: corruption scandal, currency crisis, regulatory investigation, product recall, patent litigation, credit crunch, and more.
But don’t stress out. Stress test. Get ahead of the problem. If you stress test ahead of time, you can fix the weak links. If you wait for a crisis, it’s too late.
Join us for a free webinar on Thursday, October 29th at 11am EDT to find out how to best prepare for a crisis and protect your company and your job. Click here to register or to learn more.
Jamie Wodetzki is Exari’s Co- Founder & Chief Product Officer. Reach out in the comments or @wodetzki
Today we announced DocGen 7.0, a major release in the history of this market-leading product. For those of you who are new to Exari, we were the first XML-based document assembly product on the market nearly 15 years ago. Today, our DocGen engine powers thousands of documents and contracts for hundreds of thousands of users worldwide.
What makes this release so great? It’s simple. It’s easy to use, and it is designed to be responsive, which means that no matter what device you use it on, be it phone, tablet, laptop or desktop, the application automatically resizes itself so it is as usable on a phone as it is on a 27” monitor. That’s cool.
We’ve also dramatically improved its authoring capabilities and greatly increased the ease with which you can integrate DocGen with other enterprise applications. That’s important because more and more, contracts are becoming living, breathing things. If you have consistency in your contracts, you protect yourself from risks like uncapped liabilities, bad termination language and potentially costly exposures.
For some customers, the risks are real. One prospect told us that a Word template had been modified and the limitations of liability clause removed and that template was then used hundreds of times. The risk is real.
Come check out DocGen 7.0. It’s the next great thing in contract management.
Bill Hewitt is Exari’s CEO. Reach out in the comments or @billhewittCEO.