Inflexible workflows can slow down deals and threaten growth. How can you make your master services agreement (MSA) workflow robust enough to scale?
This deep dive looks at who is affected by MSAs, why they might need to scale their workflow, how they do it and what the benefits are. Use the navigation below to find out more, or explore our deep dives on other contracts, like NDAs.
What’s an MSA?
In a master services agreement (MSA), a business and its customer agree the majority of the terms that will govern their future relationship. This type of contract is extremely common in high-velocity sales organizations, especially SaaS businesses, like the high-growth tech companies we often work with.
Who do MSAs affect?
MSAs can involve various teams and individuals, depending on the business in question.
Salespeople typically send MSAs out, alongside order forms.
In the earliest stages of a company, the CFO or COO might be responsible for contract templates, before an in-house lawyer joins.
Once in place, legal counsel usually ‘own’ the commercial terms, defining and controlling any changes to them.
Various people might have approval oversight of MSAs, including sales managers, finance leaders and even the C-suite, depending who can sign contracts on the company’s behalf.
Other internal colleagues might also influence MSAs. For example, engineering leaders would be consulted on contractual commitments made regarding uptime.
Authorized signatories will need to sign the MSA on behalf of the business.
Why scale your MSA workflow?
If you have some way of getting a signature on a dotted line (most of the time) and there's revenue in the bank, what does it matter if your process isn’t scalable? Well, a non-scalable MSA workflow will quickly run into difficulty for three reasons:
MSAs are key to growth. MSAs are a key part of the sales process you need to close new accounts. To deliver the kind of aggressive, double-digit growth that venture-backed scaleups in particular demand, every part of your sales process will need to be optimized. A process full of friction that means you have to jump between systems and hunt for templates just isn’t going to cut it when you go from one contract a month, to five, then ten, then fifty, then hundreds.
The legal team doesn’t scale proportionally. At a high-growth company, the legal team will grow, of course: a sole counsel usually adds a paralegal and a generalist at some point, and as time goes on the team might grow to a dozen. But if the business is successful, its total commercial headcount will rapidly grow by hundreds and the ratio of lawyers to salespeople will change dramatically. MSAs are important contracts and they need to be watertight; the two teams can only bridge the gap with a scalable process that involves self-serve.
Things change. MSAs are periodically reviewed and updated to reflect any number of changes. These might include changes to data use terms, uptime commitments, or legal entities following acquisitions. The company’s commercial red lines are likely to change, too, as time goes on. But if your process involves hunting around shared drives trying to find the latest version of a document, then the risk of agreeing contracts with the wrong terms is huge – and this could have serious consequences. If things change, you need to be able to reflect those changes at scale.
Find out more about scaling MSA workflow in our free eBook, 'Contract automation: start small, win big'.
How to scale your MSA workflow
Follow these steps to create a process for your crucial sales contracts that is collaborative, flexible, friction-free and scalable.
Design the perfect MSA
The template from which you’ll derive all your self-serve MSAs needs to be perfect, so take the time to get it right. Make it simple and readable; foreground your key terms; keep legal design principles in mind to optimize for user experience. Check out our other guides on how to simplify an MSA, and how to standardize an MSA.
Codify your playbook
Make sure that you’ve agreed on the points that you’re prepared to concede. For example, can customers signing for higher-value accounts get preferential treatment when it comes to data use? Is auto-renewal non-negotiable for smaller customers? Once all this is decided, codify it in a playbook so that contract creators in commercial teams are empowered to negotiate.
Build your template
Automate your MSA with a no-code template editor. Check out this guide on how to digitize an MSA.
Make it self-serve
Using a natural language Q&A flow to populate the key terms in the contract is a great way to get your sales team up and running with contract creation. If your colleagues can self-serve contracts from a template then the legal team’s time on low-value contract admin can be reduced to zero.
Create an approval workflow
While salespeople are empowered to self-serve, you’ll probably still want the legal team to retain approval rights, to check no negotiation on either side has led to a position you can’t accept. If your contract collaboration has internal and external collaboration in-browser, like Juro, it should be easy to see a full audit trail of what’s happened and why, before you approve a contract.
Get started ...
Now it’s time to get the process going and get your life back! We find that it works well to begin with a pilot phase, just to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Check out this eBook that takes a deep dive into automating MSAs: ‘Contract automation: start small, win big’.
… and review regularly
Use the dashboards and analytics in your contract collaboration platform to see how the workflow is performing. Are there bottlenecks? Are certain clauses always queried? Are certain people slowing things down? To make sure your process stays scalable, you’ll need to review it regularly and optimize.
If you’d like to know more about scaling sales contract workflows, check out these case studies with Wolt, Appear Here and Unbabel, who all saved huge amounts of time by building a scalable contract workflow with Juro.
Is the back-and-forth between legal and sales teams when it comes to MSAs 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, get in touch and see if you could benefit from a contract collaboration platform that enables businesses to agree and manage contracts all in one unified workspace.