Three ways contract management software pays for your ECM investment
During my time in government, I spent a lot of time working on contracts and processing payments based on the terms of contracts. I managed multi-year grants to communities for projects, reviewed contracts for housing projects, approved contracts from communities and wrote contracts for IT services and projects. This work was time-consuming but essential, because most of the money my department spent was channeled based on contracts and their terms.
Government money moves through contracts. A huge portion of staff time goes toward the negotiation, creation and management of these contracts. And some contracts, development deals, housing construction, or community development are multi-year, multi-million dollar deals that are complicated to keep on track. A good portion of the responsibilities requires the brain power of your staff.
If your department manages grant projects and works with multiple funding sources, enterprise content management (ECM) is essential. ECM can manage and preserve the project file and help you with your grant compliance responsibilities. But the special aspects of managing grant contracts, their complexity and their connection to your project management is valuable enough to justify an investment in ECM if only for the contract management capabilities.
I encountered three particularly complex areas of contract management that, in hindsight, could have been simplified, streamlined and vastly improved with enterprise content management.
Ensure routing and review, and get the terms right
Writing contracts that bind a governmental entity is a serious business. You must get value for the public dollars invested and you have to translate the value into contract terms that clearly show deliverables. And it doesn’t help when the most complicated contracts have a high dollar value and may be multi-year projects. Dealing with required boilerplate clauses dictated by your entity’s requirements and those of your state and funders means you have to be vigilant that nothing is left out. In this case, thorough review is essential.
With ECM, the same workflow automation that can ensure that everyone sees and signs off on a contract can also simplify the process of compiling a contract with all of the required clauses. How much time would that save your grants staff?
Renew (and end) contracts within required time periods
Project contracts need to be extended, non-renewals documented and any contracts with favorable terms need to be extended within the required windows. Much of my contract work involved extending contracts for community projects that needed extra time. The tricky part was making sure I did not miss a contract end, which would have required a much more complicated process to then revive the contract. If the contract wasn’t revived, no project funds could be spent, further slowing our spend rate, angering funders and the project community.
Have you ever found a contract had expired but the grantee was requesting funds? Have you lost track of a contract end when the project manager left? Has your staff been reduced, creating an impossible workload for managing the many details of community projects?
Enterprise content management can help by watching deadlines for your staff and notifying them, and their managers, when renewals are needed.
Preserve contracts and all other documents and communication
Occasionally, a project would be reassigned to me. To be ready to manage this contract, I could spend hours searching for documents. Sometimes, the documents – or even the actual contract – were lost, or, even worse, so was the trail of correspondence and emails between my department and the community. I might not have any information about what the contract meant beyond the terms. And any interpretations provided by the previous project manager could be lost as well. Taking over the project in this situation was an uncomfortable moment.
Enterprise content management can make sure that all correspondence is preserved. This is essential, since you are judged on file completeness and you may need to refer to post-contract documents to ensure that the project meets the terms of the contract. With ECM, you don’t file – you manage. And you do that with all the relevant information.
An ECM-driven contract management solution takes over the most burdensome aspects of managing contracts, freeing up time for your staff. With embedded workflow software guiding your staff and with all your documents and information preserved, ECM may just be the reason your auditors write you letters commending you on good grants management.