Finishing up this year’s iteration of the MarketScope for Contract Management (which is soon to go into final editing – hurrah!) has really made me think long and hard about what makes a contract a contract – and hence, what makes a contract management system a contract management system. I can certainly say this year that I have expanded my view, and its about time. I’ve been too easily swayed by the “contract lifecycle management” rhetoric that has defined the industry that I cover.
Please indulge me with a personal example. Yesterday morning, I reviewed and signed a contract with a ski area, authorizing them to rent my ski condo when I am not using it. I’ve had this arrangement for many years and it provides a wonderful means to offset some of the costs of owning this property, and it keeps the condo spotlessly clean. I’ve had a long history negotiating contracts – I was employed in my teens in my family business as a rental manager for an apartment complex – so naturally, I changed some of the terms that I didn’t care for. The ski area home owner manager immediately called me to question the changes. I think it’s fairly safe to say that they rarely if ever have condo owners attempt to negotiate their rental agreements!
Many contracts are handled without any expectation of negotiation. Mobile phone agreements. Non-disclosure agreements. Leases. When I worked in purchasing, I had my terms and conditions printed on the back of the hard-copy purchase order forms. And here at Gartner – I bet that the only thing that gets negotiated on our subscription contracts is the price and type of subscription. The point is – why should we tell everyone they need a “lifecycle management” solution when the lifecycle of many contracts consists of send, sign and file? Its time we recognize in the contract management applications industry that there is a variety of contract types, and one that is signed “as is” is no less a contract than one that is heavily negotiated. The logical conclusion of this assertion is that “simple” contract management functionality is necessarily really simple, but perhaps right-sized to a contract type that we all know and love.
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