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How to master contract management with a contract playbook

Whether you hire a new employee, finalize a sale with a client, or onboard a new supplier, contracts are likely part of your standard business processes. Writing a contract, though, is much more than simply pulling the relevant information together and getting all the involved parties to sign.

To ensure that you manage your contracts in the most streamlined, compliant, and effective way possible, you might need the help of a contract playbook. Not sure what this is? Keep reading our essential guide and learn how to use a contract playbook to master your contract management processes.

What is a contract playbook?

Put simply, a contract playbook is a list of all the different information and knowledge you need about a range of crucial aspects in contract management, including:

  • Collaboration between parties
  • Negotiation practices
  • Review, amendments, and final approvals of contracts.

As we are about to find out, a contract playbook can take many forms and be stored on an array of platforms – from a simple Excel spreadsheet to a much more advanced contract management software tool.

The latter, in particular, can offer enhanced peace of mind as it automates some critical parts of contract management, delivering unmatched compliance and freeing up your legal teams from burdensome busy work.

Read also: 10 best contract management software in 2024

Top benefits of a contract playbook

Now that we have clarified what a contract playbook is, let’s explore some of its most impressive benefits.

Give legal teams control

One of the main reasons why you should consider a contract playbook before you even write a contract is its ability to keep your legal teams in control of the process through an accurately outlined approval workflow. What does this mean, in practice?

It’s about knowing exactly which senior member of your team needs to approve the content of the contract, as well as when. Essentially, your playbook helps you build a hierarchy of approvals across your legal team – but there’s more, as we are about to find out.

… While freeing up valuable time for them

Equipping your employees with tools such as a virtual attendant is one great way to ensure they remain productive while delegating lower-value work to automated technologies. In the area of content management, a tool that can help you achieve this is – you guessed it – a contract playbook.

Because your contract playbook lays out exactly who is responsible for what and at which stage of the contract management process, it also enables you to free up your legal team from lower-value tasks.

As a result, your legal experts will have the capacity to focus their know-how and resources on activities that truly deserve their expertise – and that bring much more value to the company as a whole.

Reduces risks and delays

Lastly, contract playbooks help you minimize common contract-related issues, such as risks and delays. By including detailed guidance and recommendations, a contract playbook allows people to make better-informed decisions that are always legally compliant. 

This not only streamlines your contract management processes but also ensures consistency in all contractual interactions, reflecting positively on your company’s reputation and employment branding efforts.

And because contract playbooks are readily available whenever needed, the risk of incurring a delay is also greatly diminished. Instead of having to liaise with the legal team and wait for one of the team members to take action, individual employees within the company can access the contract playbook and work things out quickly and independently.

Ultimately, this can help departments get to negotiations faster and close deals more efficiently, with virtually no downtime.

Read also: Top 8 benefits of contract management

Create your contract playbook in 5 steps

It’s now time to get to business – find out how to build a great contract playbook in just five, easy steps.

1. Select the format

Before you start gathering the information you need for your playbook, you need to decide on the format to use. This depends on many things, including the digital tools you already have available and the IT literacy of your teams.

If this is your very first contract playbook, you may want to go easy and opt for something like Excel or Google Drive – two pieces of software that the majority of people are familiar with. Does your team already have some experience with digital solutions such as document management software? Then, you could consider more advanced tools with a range of automated features.

2. Include the right content

Once you’ve decided what format your playbook is going to be in, it’s time to collect all the relevant information to build it. Don’t worry about including every tiny detail at this stage – right now, you’ll want to put together the backbone of your playbook. You’ll have time to add any further information or expand on specific topics later on.

For the time being, collect contract-related information from sources such as your contract templates, your senior legal officers and lawyers, your company’s training guidelines, past contracts you’ve successfully used, and other similar items. You should also consider any particular details relevant to your business. For example, if you’re selling digital products or it’s a SaaS agreement, you’ll also want to consider extras such as including use guidelines and licensing terms.

Read also: All you need to know about contract management

3. Opt for a neat design and layout

All the information you’ve gathered will be of little use if it’s not presented in a way that’s easily digestible to anyone who has access to the playbook. So, think about designing your contract playbook in a neat, streamlined, and user-friendly way.

After all, the point of a playbook is to simplify contract management by empowering non-legal people to handle contracts proficiently. If your playbook prevents them from doing so because the information is laid out in a confusing and off-putting way, then its purpose fails.

Consider including visual elements such as infographics, graphs, and other types of figures, as well as a clearly presented summary of the contents, enabling readers to skip to the part they’re interested in at the touch of a button.

4. Train your teams on how to use the playbook

So, now you have your clear and comprehensive playbook ready to be used – but do your employees actually know how to use it? Don’t just assume they will learn, and don’t force them to go around asking other colleagues for clarification.

Again, the whole idea behind a playbook is to make people independent and confident when managing contracts. The best way to achieve this is through training. Organize a series of training sessions to help your legal team and the rest of your employees understand and harness the playbook in the most efficient way possible.Try to cover all the important aspects, including, for example, electronic signatures and approval workflows. And remember: if anything within the playbook changes or gets updated, you should organize further training sessions to ensure everyone is kept abreast of any amendments.

Read also: The best contract management software for sales

5. Organize regular contract audits

Just as you want to ensure that the call center solutions that you have implemented are delivering their intended results, you’ll want to make sure that your contract playbook is achieving its purpose. How do you do this? By measuring, tracking, and assessing its effectiveness over time. The best way to do this is through frequent contract audits.

These will allow you to determine whether your playbook has made contract management better, easier, and more streamlined, or whether there are still some areas that you may need to work on.

Ideally, you’ll want to run at least one audit per year, but the frequency also depends on whether (and how often) you are making any updates to your current playbooks. In this case, ensure that audits get scheduled a month or so after the updates have been implemented, to keep a close eye on your playbook’s performance.

The takeaway

Mastering contract management processes is no easy feat for any company. But if your organization deals with contracts regularly – whether for sales, HR or client-related purposes – it’s essential that you find a way to enhance, simplify, and speed up your contract management.

In this article, we discussed how creating a contract playbook can help you achieve just that. By following our five steps, you’ll be able to create a clear, compliant, and comprehensive contract playbook that empowers all the relevant stakeholders to manage their contracts in the best possible way.

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