SharePoint has proven itself a platform for many things – websites, intranets and a variety of business-critical applications. While it has out-of-the-box contract management functionality, can it – or should it – be considered as a platform for a robust contract management solution?
Putting aside our bias, our response is emphatically YES! …but, with a few caveats…read on!
When assessing SharePoint’s applicability as a platform for a robust contract management system, there are areas which need to be examined.
- SharePoint as an Information Management Platform
- SharePoint’s Scalability
- SharePoint’s Native Contract Management Capabilities
Information Management | When considering SharePoint as an Information Management Platform for contracts, its document management functionality with centralized and distributed repositories, full version control, security, check-in and check-out, rich metadata and basic search provide a solid foundation. Workflow functionality is present allowing documents to be routed for basic approvals based on metadata, and collaboration is facilitated with SharePoint’s information sharing capabilities, knowledge management and expertise finder functionality.
Scalability | The approach employed for SharePoint scalability is similar and dissimilar to non- SharePoint environments. Yes, a play on words; however, a true statement. In terms of similarities, the notion of scaling SharePoint correctly requires careful design and planning, testing and accommodations for third party product dependencies and complex Line of Business integration. If this careful design and planning does not take place, be ready for a mediocre implementation. In terms of where it is dissimilar, SharePoint is by design, a stratified repository. Content can be stored in stratified locations which are geographically, physically or logically segmented. This allows for the load of the content to be distributed which requires different factors to be considered when designing a SharePoint-based system. With this stratified framework, coupled with a solid “standards" or “governance" plan, SharePoint has the ability to scale well beyond its silo-oriented counterparts. It is one of the reasons why SharePoint has become so incredibly popular.
What’s missing? | Depending on your needs, maybe not much. At a high level, while SharePoint does provide document management, workflow and collaboration capabilities, it does not provide document assembly, eSignature support, clause access, automated reporting or scanning. Metadata search tends not be great, workflow is too generic, and the ability to exchange information externally in an efficient manner is limited.
So, while it provides basic out-of-the-box contract management functionality, a robust contract management lifecycle application it is not. It does, however, provide an outstanding platform which can be leveraged.
And, given that SharePoint exists in many if not most companies, further leveraging the additional functionality becomes an easy business decision. Users are already familiar with the platform, the existing infrastructure can be leveraged, and IT need not support another silo of information. And, when coupled with a product like Corridor’s Contract Management[.app]™ for SharePoint or CM[.app], SharePoint provides an extremely powerful platform for contract management. Contract creation can be readily automated; negotiation is easily accommodated through automatic redlining capabilities, email collaboration and check-in check-out functionality directly to the repository; and workflow and approvals can be routed based on a wide range of criteria. Approved contract language can be inserted throughout the negotiation process and high-risk language or obligations can be readily extracted – for purposes of both approval and tracking. Contracts can be signed via electronic signature with storage taking place in one centralized, searchable repository. Post contract management can be easily achieved with a wide range of customizable reporting and searching capabilities. And the application can be integrated into most Line of Business Systems as well as Salesforce.com!