Katricia Sabbath, Director, Contract and Procurement, Cetera Financial Group
We all know that Technology plays an integral role in contract management. It creates a cradle to grave process that can be replicated by stakeholder’s day in and day out. It also serves as a system of record for auditing, financial reviews and record keeping. However, when contracts are managed manually there are many snags and snarls. For example, it creates a culture of silos. Because there is so much data, processes and systems, it can be difficult to understand. Therefore having a complete strategy around requirements needed to store data becomes all the more necessary. Furthermore, there may be no internal processes or there may be many systems that don’t work together and therefore don’t communicate which creates “business clutter”. Contracts by nature are a support function, meaning we typically utilize professional resources per requests. The issue becomes “efficiency and effectiveness.”Now the contract professional has to manage the contract creation, management and administrative functions. They may become indirectly the gatekeeper who has to coordinate with multiple stakeholders in order to obtain buy-in that may run the full gamut, taking inordinate amount of time to achieve contract business requirements that can impact the terms and conditions within a contract or overall productivity. It’s almost as if the contract professional has multiple hats that have to be worn in order to achieve the bottom line which is a contract that achieves company objectives while minimizing risk.
Cloud technology allows for the computer to act as a library. All contractual terms, financials and other pertinent material and non- material documentation can be maintained, allowing companies and individuals the ability to be able to negotiate and move a contract through the full contractual cycle much more easily. Long gone are the days in which a person mails documents and awaits a response. Literally, within hours a response can be given and decisions made. These decisions have to take into account regulatory impacts, industry best practices and standards. However, working with much more flexibility has its constraints. A company has to have employees that are capable of working on the work at hand but also knowledgeable enough with technology to perform the job in real time.
If I were to make a wish list, I would definitely want simplicity in processes which will result in a better end user experience
What are some of the biggest opportunities in contract management for the various ECM vendors in the market? How can trends such as analytics, AI, and cloud file sharing be leveraged to produce and enhanced experience?
It is imperative that a company manages how contracts systems are used and how this information is stored. For some time, there has been a gap in the “how.” Sometimes there needs to be a system overhaul. This may be because systems are not communicating enterprise wide or technology has made the system obsolete. New processes can streamline current ways of doing business when an upgrade is due. However, in other instances the electronic management system needs more flexibility which results in better enterprise quality. Over the past few years there has been innovation with ECM vendors. These vendors have been thoughtful in understanding where the industry is headed and allowing for faster more efficient support. Better security, smarter document templates and server compatibility are some of the quality improvements.
I would expect the user interface to seamlessly meet the customer or end user’s needs. If the UX-end user is unable to use the information easily and in real time then the UI is pointless, not matter how technologically advanced it may appear. We need to look at how the learning curve looks for the company’s users. The handoff process has to be integrated and beneficial in a noninvasive manner. The experience has to be detailed enough within the design but straightforward enough that the end user will actually use the product.
Understanding what a company utilizes day to day and how the business processes and technology integrate is foundational with any ECM. IT, the business itself and end users play central roles in developing ECM platforms. If the solution can be developed internally, tested and deployed then that is great for the company. But often times that isn’t the case and outside support is needed. Platforms allow a company to provide its vision or end result and the vendor can create the mechanisms to achieve that goal through many solutions that can range from development, implementation, performance monitoring, storing and maintenance. This allows the company to focus on the business vs. the potential costly disaster lying in wait.
I am excited about the transformative nature of ECM. From the tools, to processes, it’s a great time for our industry. If I were to make a wish list, I would definitely want simplicity in processes which will result in a better end user experience. Less is truly more. The life-cycle of documents, including archiving and how we determine when information/documents should be eliminated is paramount. There is also innovation around the cloud and new capabilities around oversight and new ways to reduce risk but not compromising efficiency and quality.
I am a firm believer that the most valuable asset to any company is the people. New technologies will challenge each of us to think of ways to seamlessly perform in an impactful way for our clients or customers. The end users wants to be assured that they are protected from breaches and the information is accessible in real time all while being simplistic. This is no easy feat, but I believe as we continue to improve technology and look at ECM as a global destiny, and as we become more robust in our results, we also become more influential to the bottom line.