How to Self-Service a Contract

Knowing how to self-service a contract can save countless hours and substantially increase your revenue. With sophisticated contract management technology, you can create contracts that largely take care of themselves. Your team can make and edit agreements without cumbersome manual edits and lengthy delays consulting Legal.

Contracts like NDA’s, vendor agreements, and master service agreements benefit highly from automated workflows. Instead, you can focus on higher-value activities, such as acquiring new clients, making new sales, and more. Use modern self-service contract management technology to improve your business’s bottom line.

What is a self-service contract?

A self-service contract utilizes workflows to enable departments to negotiate, and send out contracts for acceptance without significant time requirements from Legal. These are primarily used for low-value, high volume, standardized contracts. Automated workflows inside of electronic contracts let a business create legally enforceable contracts without requiring intensive efforts by a company’s in-house legal team (or costly outside counsel). It lets the counterparty/signer initiate acceptance of the contract on their own—without depending on others to start off the contracting process.

These form contracts utilize templates with flagged fields that may be easily modified when necessary. In self-service contracts, the permitted modifications are kept very limited to avoid the risk of ineffective or unenforceable contracts. For example, a Terms and Conditions agreement will not change the terms of the agreement itself for every customer but must include details like:

  • Who agreed to the contract
  • What version of the agreement the customer signed
  • The steps the customer took when signing
  • The date the customer signed.

A self-service contract can handle these changes on its own, without the need for significant employee involvement. While some automated contracts will still require final approval from Legal—depending on the nature of the contract—this still saves your company significant time and effort. 

Advantages of self-service contracts

With self-service contracts at your disposal, your business will become more competitive. The advantages of self-service capabilities are numerous and will allow your departments to work faster and more efficiently. They include, but are not limited to:

Less friction

Delays in contract approval often cause friction between Legal and other departments. When contracts are not standardized, lawyers have to go over every line to ensure enforceability and legality. 

With templatized documents, certain portions can be locked to avoid editing without permission. This can save time for Legal and significantly reduce turnaround times. In many cases, a form contract may never need to be reviewed, reducing Legal’s workload and enhancing efficiency. This will significantly reduce friction between departments.

Quicker time to sign

Self-service contracts don’t require significant editing or legal review when done properly, and this means they are signed faster. Most automatic contracts also feature easy-to-use signing features, like clickwrap. This enables the consumer to affirmatively assent to the contract without a lengthy delay.

Keep up with the competition

More and more companies are utilizing self-service contracts. If you aren’t, your competition will leave you behind. These automated contract workflows reduce expenses and allow your company to spend its time thinking strategically rather than doing a bunch of repetitive paperwork. In order to maintain competitive advantage, modern businesses must use the best tools to stay ahead.

More cost-efficient for lower-value agreements

Some agreements do not bring in revenue like others. While a complicated sales contract may require intensive review, contracts like NDAs, Terms and Conditions, or Influencer Agreements do not. These easy-to-template agreements benefit from self-service workflows that automate them. Reducing the time spent editing low-value agreements allows you to focus on revenue-generating efforts that make your company real money.

Reliability and uniformity

Legal creates most templatized agreements originally. Once the form contract meets their approval, it can be locked for editing to ensure consistency across the board. When you can rely on the uniformity of your contracts and identify specific versions, you can quickly know what a particular user agreed to. Your company can then rely on enforceable contracts with minimal risk of errors.

Common self-serve contracts

Nearly any contract can benefit from self-service technology. Certain types of contracts fit this technology especially well. They are typically high-volume agreements that require minimal editing between parties. These common contracts demonstrate the benefits of self-service:

  • Non-Disclosure Agreements: A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is a legally enforceable contract that creates a “confidential relationship” between two parties. It is usually designed to protect sensitive information a person gains from a separate contractual relationship. These are common at the beginning of a business relationship or significant financial exchange. These documents typically change little from customer to customer and greatly benefit from automated workflows.
  • Master Service Agreements: A master service agreement (MSA) is a contract between two or more parties that outlines the terms and conditions that will govern future activities between the parties. It creates a “master plan” for the parties’ relationship covering the current contractual relationship and future endeavors. It avoids the need to renegotiate basic terms the parties agree to every time they contract. Because an MSA typically stays the same, it is a prime candidate for self-service automation. If a specific deal may require some changes, those areas of the contract may stay modifiable to reduce risk but maintain flexibility.
  • Statement of Work: A statement of work outlines deliverables and any project goals. It functions as both a contractual agreement and a project management tool. Similar to a scope of work agreement, it often lists detailed expectations of the contractual relationship between the parties. This is especially useful when assigning work to non-employees or independent contractors. An SOW may be uniform for all workers without modifying anything besides identifying information. Self-service technology means you won’t have to edit and review every single statement of work.
  • Influencer Agreements: An influencer agreement is a contract between the influencer and the brand that protects both parties and ensures any obligations are met. It outlines the work, compensation, and timelines associated with the business relationship. Most influencer agreements have similarities that make templating a viable option. With less work required to individualize each influencer agreement, your business can focus on marketing rather than waiting on contract approval.
  • Vendor Agreements: A vendor agreement—or vendor contract—is a business agreement between two parties to exchange goods or services in return for compensation. These contracts govern the conditions and details of the business relationship and outline each party’s obligations. Self-service for vendor agreements is especially useful for fixed-price contracts and other contracts where the details stay the same between different customers. Instead of waiting to get a business deal closed, you can move quickly to the acceptance stage and start bringing in new revenue.

While these types of contracts commonly utilize self-service technology, nearly any contract can. Even complicated contracts that ultimately require Legal’s involvement benefit from automating large parts of the contract. 

How can each team use it?

Innovative companies use CLM technology to create automated workflows throughout their company, but they are especially helpful in departments such as:

Legal

The in-house legal team and General Counsel usually handle the bulk of the contract approval duties in an organization. When they can create legal templates and develop their own self-service contracts, they can save themselves and every other department significant amounts of time. Legal teams can standardize contract language to enhance uniformity and reduce unnecessary revisions. This enhances every stage of the contract lifecycle, from drafting to renewal.

Human Resources

The human resources department processes a lot of contracts through their employment processes. Standardized agreements like offer letters, NDAs, and SOWs do not require intensive editing each time when they are made into self-service contracts. HR can create specific workflows that route contracts to the appropriate approver and drive efficient contracting processes throughout their department.

Finance

Finance teams can utilize contract management data derived from self-service contracts to forecast your company’s budget, revenue, and much more. The metrics a contract management software automatically generates are essential to making informed decisions about the future of your business.

Sales

With self-service contracts, the sales team can close deals more quickly. With less time wasted waiting for contract approval, they can instead focus on fulfilling the deal and move on to procuring the next customer.

Procurement

Procurement teams obtain goods and services for the company from third parties, which requires entering into contractual relationships. Many of these agreements can be standardized with self-service contract technology to allow them to handle their own contracts.

Ways to self-serve a contract

There are many ways to self-serve a contract, and each can benefit your company.

1. Give other teams the power to launch

Legal controls which terms and conditions are a part of every contract. This ensures enforceability and protects the company from legal risks. However, when a contract can be standardized and made self-service, Legal maintains control of the agreements without touching every one. Self-service technology allows other departments to launch and even finalize contractual agreements without time-consuming review by Legal.

2. Public workflows

Public workflows allow you to maintain control of the contract terms and create a better contract process. It uses pre-approved terms that free you up for more strategic work. Your team can deliver contracts in the form of a URL, and the counterparty then clicks on the link, fills out a form, and you get one-click acceptance.

3. Clickwrap contracts

Clickwraps agreements are one of the easiest ways to self-serve contracts. You can create automated audit trails that connect the affirmative assent of the user to the specific version of the agreement they accepted.

4. Automation and counterparty-triggered workflows

Counterparties can trigger agreements to reduce the effort your team has to expend to get a contract approved. Self-service contracts let the customer come to you while agreeing to the automated terms you have put in place ahead of time.

Use self-service contracts to enhance your business

A self-service contract can save you valuable time and employee effort by automating your contract management. You can gain valuable insights into improving your processes and increasing contract efficiencies when you work with Ironclad.

Sign-up for a demo of our contract lifecycle management software and get an edge over your competition.

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