Software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies move quickly. How can you digitize your contract process to be as innovative as the software you provide?
This deep dive looks at what SaaS agreements are, who they affect, how and why companies choose to digitize the process, and the advantages of a digitized end-to-end contract workflow. Use the navigation below to find out more, or explore our deep dives on more specific contracts, like NDAs and MSAs.
What’s a SaaS agreement? | Who do SaaS agreements affect? | What’s the manual process? | How to digitize your SaaS agreements | Why digitize SaaS agreements? | Useful features | Handy integrations | Learn more
What’s a SaaS agreement?
SaaS – software-as-a-service – is the business model behind B2B tech titans like Salesforce, HubSpot and Zoom. Software companies provide their platforms in-browser through a subscription model that guarantees recurring revenue, as opposed to on-premise solutions that are paid for once and installed.
A SaaS agreement is the commercial contract that sets out the formal relationship between the SaaS company and its customer. It might be a contract covering a pilot, a trial, or an auto-renewing annual subscription supported by an MSA (a subset of SaaS agreements). These contracts facilitate the exchange of services to the customer, in exchange for recurring revenue to the business.
Who do SaaS agreements affect?
SaaS agreements involve various stakeholders across a company, including:
Legal counsel will own the template and act as risk guardians for the business, controlling versions and making sure terms are favourable to the company.
Salespeople – including account executives and sales managers – are usually responsible for getting signatures on SaaS agreements, and will want to do it as quickly as possible. In negotiations, they’ll be focused on commercial terms like price, billing manner and frequency, and number of users.
Sales operations managers typically own the process through which SaaS agreements flow, especially if the workflow is integrated with a CRM like Salesforce.
Approvers might include different people, depending on the company’s stage and size. They might be customer success leads, product teams (if there were feature commitments, for example) or finance leadership (if there are bespoke billing/invoicing arrangements that might affect forecasting).
Authorized signatories will vary from company to company.
Customers, as the end-user buying the software, are obviously key stakeholders in a contract.
Despite being outwardly innovative, SaaS companies typically still manage their agreements using a manual process, spread over multiple tools and systems
What’s the manual process for SaaS agreements?
Despite being outwardly innovative organizations, SaaS companies typically still manage their agreements with a manual process, spread over multiple tools and systems.
Usually, a salesperson will need to find a Word template on a shared drive, in an email inbox, or perhaps in Salesforce (and may or may not be the most current version). They will then change certain key details, like subscription price and agreement term, and might also amend more sensitive commercial terms, like data use provisions or product commitments, to make a quick signature more likely.
They email this to the customer, who negotiates partly via email, partly on the phone and partly in tracked changes on the document. Some of this data is tracked, some isn’t. The document goes back to the in-house legal team for approval; more negotiation likely happens. Once everyone’s happy, the agreement becomes a PDF and is signed in DocuSign or using another eSignature provider. Copies are emailed to some of the stakeholders and saved on a shared drive.
This kind of process is common, but companies with a richer tech stack may have made some small steps forward. The template might be a shareable Google Doc; versions might be shared internally using Slack; and once eSigned, the contract details might be manually entered into a CRM system like Salesforce.
Why it’s painful to manage SaaS agreements manually
Duplication of work: “I’m doing the same work twice – first in Word, then in Salesforce.”
Data integrity: “The data in our contracts doesn’t match what’s in our CRM. Which is right? How am I supposed to forecast properly?”
Version control risk: “People are using old versions of the template – these terms have been updated.”
Wasted time: “I keep losing track of what we’ve negotiated and agreed so far. Legal is wasting so much time chasing down emails.”
Lack of visibility: “I’ve got no way of knowing if they’ve even read this contract, nor seen the latest amendments.”
Lost attachments: “The data agreement was supposed to be attached to this. Where is it? Is it signed?”
Lost metadata: “I lose visibility of contracts post-signature. This feels risky and I can’t report properly to my managers.”
SaaS companies are usually venture-backed in the growth phase, with aggressive revenue targets. This kind of friction in the contract process can make closing new deals painfully slow, presenting a real barrier to growth.
How to digitize your SaaS agreements
By using a contract collaboration platform, it’s possible to digitize SaaS agreements, making every stage of the contract lifecycle a seamless, collaborative experience.
Create: templates and self-serve
In a digitized SaaS agreement workflow, contract admins create templates from which users can self-serve watertight documents. Juro uses a Q&A flow to achieve this, letting users answer a series of natural language questions to autopopulate a contract with the relevant details. Check it out.
A template-based workflow means that legal counsel can always ‘own’ the key terms in the contract; salespeople (for example) can’t deviate from the terms set out without legal’s approval. Templates also solve the problem of version control: if there’s only one template, then contracts can’t be created with out-of-date terms or based on past commercial positions, and you mitigate the risk of salespeople freelancing to get deals over the line.
If you fully digitize your SaaS agreement process, you should be able to negotiate with counterparties (and keep a record of these negotiations) in-browser
Collaborate: in-browser negotiation and approval
If you fully digitize your SaaS agreement process, you should be able to negotiate with counterparties (and keep a record of these negotiations) in-browser. Look for a contract collaboration platform that lets you distinguish between internal and external comments, so your internal reasoning can’t be seen by the counterparty.
Approval workflows are also useful. These ensure that legal teams still sign off the contracts that salespeople create. This strikes the right balance between control and frictionless self-serve.
Check out the ‘Modern contract handbook’, in which experts explore every stage of the contract lifecycle.
Agree: mobile-responsive eSignature
One of the obvious advantages of a digital workflow is that you don’t need to be in the same room to sign. If you’ve worked hard to create a dynamic digital document in a contract collaboration platform, then your counterparty can securely eSign anywhere, on any device. eSignature can also trigger the automatic sending of the contract as a PDF to each party, saving you the effort.
Manage: analytics and renewals
SaaS agreements are usually subject to renewal, so the management of renewal reminders is a key part of the digitized process. Reminders should be emailed to contract owners at the relevant time ahead of the renewal deadline, so account management teams can prepare for commercial discussions.
From a contract management perspective, a digital workflow should include analytics, through which you can surface pain points and bottlenecks in the SaaS agreement workflow. If contracts often get ‘stuck’ with the same internal stakeholder, or are taking too long to agree, post-signature visibility into contracts will help you to fix these problems.
Useful features for digitizing SaaS agreements
If you’re hoping to move your SaaS agreements to a digital workflow, look for a contract collaboration with the following features:
Smartfields. These contain contract metadata, making sure key fields – like dates, values, names and addresses – are tracked and searchable. They should also live sync with CRM in both directions to make sure data is always accurate.
Defined playbooks. With conditional logic, you can bake in to your SaaS agreement template alternative clauses and fallback positions.
Visual timeline. Approvers and signatories often want to scroll back through negotiated versions to keep track of changes and variations.
Attachments and bundling. If your SaaS agreement includes several documents (for example, an order form, an MSA and a data agreement) then some platforms allow you to attach these documents to each other, as they progress through the lifecycle.
Mass actions. If your SaaS company is growing quickly, your authorized signature might end up signing dozens or even hundreds of contracts a month. Don’t make them do it manually: with mass actions, you can sign multiple contracts at once without having to go into each document.
Salesforce. This enables sales users to create contracts without leaving Salesforce, safe in the knowledge that legal have oversight. The integration should be two-way in case data changes during the negotiation.
Companies House. The best contract collaboration platforms allow UK users to use the Companies House API to make sure important information like a company’s legal name or registered address is accurate.
Google Drive. An integration with the team’s shared drive means agreed terms are auto-downloaded when fully signed and are then securely stored.
Why digitize your SaaS agreements?
With a digital workflow in place, you can deliver significant benefits to the business, including:
There’s a system of record. With all contracts generated, negotiated, approved, signed and stored in one system, visibility pre- and post-signature is no longer an issue.
Empower sales teams. A self-serve process, with a transparent approval workflow, means sales don’t feel like they have to wait on legal for paperwork to be approved.
Less friction for legal. Legal don’t have to crawl through email chains to unearth risk or harangue salespeople to check they’ve used the right template. Lawyers can enable the business instead of blocking it, all without losing control.
You’ve got a single audit trail. When the contract is up for renegotiation, it’s clear how and why any changes were made last time.
No more double-work. Digitization cuts out duplicative data entry into contract and CRM systems, with live-synced paperwork across both.
Is digitizing SaaS agreements a pain point for your business? Is your SaaS company or marketplace growing so fast that the contract process is out of control, with friction pre-signature and a lack of visibility post-signature?
If so, digitize your contracts with Juro and see if you could benefit from a contract collaboration platform that enables businesses to agree and manage contracts all in one unified workspace.