Take the Pain Out of Document Assembly

by Valentina Albarrán Luttinger 4 min read

Pain-document-assemblyFriends don't let friends do manual document assembly. And yet, sadly, old-fashioned document assembly practices still persist. According to a survey by Nitro and the PDF Association, more than one-third of professionals are still handling document assembly and collaboration like they did two decades ago. When it comes to document assembly, those outdated practices include sending contract creation requests by email, patching new contract documents together from old ones in a word processor, and exchanging pieces and versions by email.

What is the harm? An IDC survey estimates a 21.3 percent loss in productivity. However, the consequences go far beyond inefficient workflows. Eighty-one percent of those surveyed by Nitro said they have spent time working with the wrong version of a file, sharing an outdated document, or searching for items they lost in their inbox. These surveys were across a range of document types. For contract document assembly, the stakes are higher and the negative consequences much worse. An outdated document assembly process can result in mistakes, poor customer service, lost productivity, and will ultimately impact the company's bottom line. How can you change this trend for your organization? By taking the pain out of document assembly with a Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) system.

Automated vs. Manual Document Assembly

Consider a few more eye-openers from the Nitro survey. Workers spend five hours per week looking for documents, another 3.5 hours filing and organizing them, and 6.9 hours a week gathering, deciphering and consolidating feedback. That means almost two days of the work week is spent chasing down documents and related information. Keep in mind that these survey results are for knowledge workers dealing with all types of documents. Contracts are large, complex, high-stakes documents. So the time-suck for contract document assembly specifically is even worse.

To understand why, let's contrast the flow of a contract through either manual or automated document assembly. In the manual world, a contract request is sent to the legal or operations team via email. A person must then review this request, determine whether the requestor is authorized to request this contract type, and then in the best case scenario (assuming there is no inaccurate or incomplete information) begin the process of document assembly. Most contract administrators are already practicing some type of standardized document assembly process. This manual document assembly is normally done by piecing together the relevant clauses in a word processor. Cutting and pasting from various contract templates allows them to speed up their process and prevent duplicate work. Any checks to ensure that the clauses used are correct and up-to-date must again be done manually by a human being.

This manual process opens up the chance of human error. For example, a simple misplaced word can create a legal exception that could have very negative effects for at least one member of the contract party. Do not trust "cutting and pasting" with the naked eye. Even for relatively simple contracts where human error is less likely, such as NDAs, this is a slow and cumbersome process -- especially when the hours required for manual document assembly are multiplied by thousands of similar contracts. In fact, at ContractRoom we have often seen enterprises dedicate entire teams of people to just receiving contract requests and doing initial document assembly.

In sharp contrast, a Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) system slashes both the work of document assembly and the risks inherent in such an error-prone manual process. A CLM system breaks contracts down into sections or "modules." Using those modules along with interactive data gathering, the CLM software can intelligently guide the contract assembly process. The data gathering part of the software can be customized to include industry specific design, legal requirements and specific concerns for certain industries or companies.

Gain control by assembling documents through an intelligently designed system. Contract administrators can start their document assembly with self-service request management. Next, automatic document drafting can be launched from approved contract templates and content. Your organization's whole legal playbook of allowed terms and conditions can be included in the CLM to create customized auto-generated contracts. A dynamic clause library ensures generated contracts are accurate and up-to-date. The resulting draft can go right into the automated workflow for feedback and editing from all parties, and ultimately approval.  

Trade Document Assembly Pain for Speed and Efficiency

A manual document assembly process creates lost productivity for the contract administrator, as well as the parties involved. Here are the primary benefits you will reap from automating your document assembly.

  • Save time for your legal department. Staff can simply fill in a questionnaire with the details of a particular situation for the contract, including the correct terms, and a contract will be automatically produced.

  • Ensure standardization. When all contracts are generated through an automated process, human variances (and errors) are reduced. Automated document assembly produces contracts from pre-approved templates. Since a true CLM system also includes online negotiation and approvals, this standardized content can only be changed with the proper approvals.

  • Speed up approvals. Because contracts drafted by automated document assembly use only correct and current content, they require less manual review. Coupled with the automated approval workflows built into CLM solutions, this greatly speeds up the approval process.

  • Integrate with other systems. Through integration, not only data gathering would be available but even more, automated document assembly can be triggered by users who never even log in to the CLM system. For example, the CLM system can be integrated with a CRM solution, such as Salesforce, so that closing a new deal automatically triggers creation of a sales contract.

If you are still manually assembling documents, break the habit. Switching to automated document assembly through a CLM system will speed up your contract process, as well as increase productivity and reduce risk. In fact, CMS Wire calls old-fashioned methods the "Document Productivity Drain" and warns that businesses who do not update their processes will "suffer costly inefficiencies." Do not be part of those statistics. Bump productivity and streamline workflows by moving your document assembly process into the digital age. Take the pain out of your document assembly by implementing a CLM system.

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