We can probably all agree that partnering with third-party vendors can provide enormous benefits to our organizations. Whether they are delivering additional products and services to our customers or providing specific expertise, vendors are often a necessary asset to business operations.
However, this partnership is only as good as the written agreement between both parties, which is where vendor contract management comes into play. This critical process includes negotiating the terms of the contract, ensuring compliance and the eventual execution of the contract. It also involves change management, contract analysis and the ongoing maintenance of the relationship between your organization and the vendor. Overall, contract management is performed with the goal of financial benefit, service delivery and risk management for your organization.
5 Steps to Managing Vendor Contracts
Here are five steps you will want to keep in mind as you navigate through the process of vendor contract management:
- Assign responsibilities. You will need to decide who should be involved in contract reviews and who is authorized to change the agreement. Also, consider which department will lead the negotiations and overall review of the contract.
- Negotiate. Many vendors will introduce standard contracts, but these should be revised throughout the negotiation process. It is critical to ensure that the needs of both parties are being considered and addressed.
Pro tip: The legal department often performs the contract negotiation function, but it may also be a shared responsibility with the line of business.
Here are a few areas you might consider negotiating:
- Approve and execute. Decide who is authorized to approve and execute the agreement within your organization. Ensure that they understand the terms as well as the associated risk.
- Consider storage. Vendor contracts should be housed in a centralized location that’s easily accessible to multiple departments in your organization. This helps to prevent important dates from lapsing, such as the contract non-renewal notice period.
Use this storage checklist to make sure you have accounted for all the essential details:
- Are the contracts housed in a centralized location that’s easily accessible by multiple areas within our organization, as needed?
- What are the key dates and timeframes we need to remember?
- Have we tracked these key dates and timeframes? Some of the most important items include:
- Effective date of the contract
- Termination date of the contract
- Renewal date of the contract
- Timeframe for a set renewal notice
- Nondisclosure agreement date
- Dates of documents that are incorporated into the contract by reference or that are signed after the agreement (e.g., exhibits, statements of work, work orders, purchase agreements, amendments, etc.)
- Timeframes associated with non-renewal, breach or remedies and notification periods
- Perform ongoing management. Review the vendor’s product and service delivery and assess the relationship on an ongoing basis. Remember to document any changes or issues related to risk and performance levels that many evolve over time.
3 Objectives of Contract Management
Successfully managing a vendor contract can serve many objectives for your organization. Here are just a few:
- Negotiate financial and legal terms – This is perhaps one of the primary goals of a contract as it will clearly state the terms of your vendor relationship.
- Provides a holistic view of vendor relationships – Proper management and storage of your vendor contracts allows you to have a more complete view of your engagements.
- Mitigates vendor risk – Service level agreements and other contract provisions are essential in mitigating the risk that comes from partnering with vendors.
As you can see, the contract management function is a key component in a healthy vendor relationship. An effective strategy will help ensure that your partnership is beneficial to both parties.