How to self-serve a software licence agreement

A high-growth business will likely see contract volumes increase drastically. Can self-serve help drive growth?

This deep dive looks at who software licence agreements affect, why they might need to create a self-serve system and the benefits of doing so. Use the navigation below to learn more, or explore our deep dives on other contracts, like MSAs.

What’s a software licence agreement? | Who do they affect? | What’s the non-self-serve software licence agreement process? | Why use a self-serve workflow? | How to achieve self-serve for software licence agreements | Useful features | Learn more

What’s a software licence agreement?

Software licence agreements are contracts that offer a person or a business the right to use software that legally belongs to someone else. These agreements help businesses control the use of their software, protect legal ownership and build commercial relationships between both parties.

The terms ‘software licence agreements’ and ‘software-as-a-service (SaaS) agreements’ are often used interchangeably to describe this type of contract – but there’s a slight difference. Traditionally, software was offered under a licence, which allowed users to install copies of it. Now, with the rise of SaaS, the software lives in a central location that users can access from their own devices. SaaS agreements give users the right to access this software. 

Who do software licence agreements affect?

The people and teams affected by software licence agreements vary from business to business, but typically include: 

  • Legal, who are responsible for reviewing commercial terms and approving edits. 

  • Sales, who act as the bridge of communication between the counterparty and the legal team. The sales team sends the contract to the counterparty and is responsible for closing the deal.

  • Approvers, who differ from business to business - approvers can be anyone from any team, such as sales, finance, and sometimes even C-suite.

  • Customers, who can be a business or an individual. They are the ones signing up to use the software.

  • Authorized signatories, who vary across different businesses.
It’s not surprising that Word is the go-to for contracts. But in a manual contract workflow that doesn’t empower users to self-serve, it often creates more problems than solutions

What’s the non-self-serve software licence agreement process? 

Most businesses still manage contracts through a manual, time-consuming process that relies heavily on Microsoft Word. This is no surprise, given it is the go-to for most documents. But in a manual contract workflow that doesn’t empower users to self-serve, Word often creates more problems than solutions. The process usually goes as follows: 

Legal creates the template for software licence agreements in Word, saving it on a shared drive for the sales team to access. Someone in sales then downloads the template (hoping it’s the most up-to-date version) and updates the terms with the potential customer’s details. They email the software licence agreement to legal for review, which can lead to back-and-forth email chains, with no clear audit trail of the changes being made. 

Eventually, the salesperson converts the contract into a PDF and sends it for signing – which usually involves a lengthy print-sign-scan process or an eSignature tool like DocuSign. But instead of signing, the customer comes back with negotiations and suggestions that need to be sent back to legal for approval. 

At this point, the legal team realizes that this version of the software licence agreement is out of date, with incorrect terms in place. Revisions, email chain and back-and-forth discussions ensue before the contract is finally signed. Sales then send the signed document to all stakeholders, who save it on a shared drive, personal desktop or (worse) as a hard copy in a filing cabinet.

Experts break down every stage of the contract lifecycle. Find out what they have to say in the ‘Modern contract handbook’.

Why use a self-serve workflow?

A non-self-serve software licence agreement process has many problems, the main three issues being multiple systems, wasted time and friction between teams.  

First, multiple tools in a non-self-serve workflow make version control challenging – and increase the risk of lost data along the way, as information doesn’t survive transitions between systems. This slows down negotiations. With a self-serve process handled by one system, legal can review contract activity or and previous versions of the agreement to see what’s been negotiated or changed and why, making approvals and audit trails easy.

Secondly, without self-serve, commercial colleagues will need significant input from legal  often on low-value work like hunting for documents they’ve provided many times before. With a self-serve workflow, sales teams and others in the business can create watertight contracts without wasting legal’s time. Instead, your legal experts can get back to high-value work that really adds value to the business.

Finally, manual, non-self-serve workflows for software licence agreements create friction between teams. The sales team can’t close deals as quickly as they would like because they are waiting for legal to review and approve the contract. Meanwhile, the legal team would like nothing better than to reduce their involvement. A self-serve workflow can do just that, streamlining the process so that sales can close faster

A successful self-serve setup empowers anyone in the wider business to create a software licence agreement whenever they need one, without having to run it past the legal team first. They won’t have to worry about the version and accurate terms; with a single source of truth, legal can be confident that everything is how it should be. 

How to achieve self-serve for software licence agreements 

A self-serve workflow for software licence agreements will vary depending on the needs of your business, but it’s likely to include the following:

A user-friendly interface

If self-serve is going to work, then content creators need an intuitive platform that’s easy to navigate – otherwise they’ll be asking legal for help, defeating the point of self-serve in the first place and reintroducing friction between teams.

Using their contract collaboration platform’s template editor, legal can create a software licence agreement template that’s easy to sign and beautifully designed

The perfect template

Using their contract collaboration platform’s template editor, legal can create a software licence agreement template that codifies the most up-to-date thinking around terms, clause language, commercial positions and more – as well as being easy to sign and beautifully designed. 

A Q&A flow

A Q&A flow captures key data that might vary between software licence agreements. This is best handled with a natural language Q&A, which asks questions like: “What’s the counterparty name?” and “What’s the effective date?” Contract creators can autopopulate the agreement with all the relevant information just by answering these questions, minimizing the risk of discrepancies and human error. 

In-browser negotiation

If counterparties want to make changes to the software licence agreement, it defeats the point of self-serve if these negotiations take place over email, telephone, and in Word. Make sure you find a solution that allows negotiation and discussion to take place in-browser, without ever having to leave the contract. That way, audit trails are in one place. 

Approval workflows

Commercial colleagues will be empowered to serve their own contracts, but you’ll still want legal to have the final say before the agreement is sent for signing. An approval workflow allows you to give the legal team approval rights before contracts are shared with counterparties – just in case.

A contract playbook

Make sure you create your playbook so the sales team has clarity in the negotiation process. What points are you willing to concede? Do customers signing high-value contracts have more flexibility with negotiation? Does it depend on the size of the business? Make sure these are clear and codified so that commercial colleagues can negotiate confidently without legal involvement and conversations with the customer run smoothly. 

Useful features

If you’re looking to self-serve your software licence agreement workflow, you’ll find these features useful:

  • CRM integration. It’s important that your documents and data are live-synced between your contract collaboration system and the system of choice for sales teams (usually Salesforce). This minimizes risk and helps with forecasting.

  • Export to Word. There will always be rare occasions when counterparties insist on offline negotiations. In these cases, you’ll be thankful for an export to Word option.

  • Companies House Integration. Specifically for UK users, a contract collaboration platform that integrates with the Companies House API can pull correct names of legal entities into your software licence agreements every time

Empower commercial to close faster

Is the back-and-forth over contracts a pain point for your company? Is your business growing so fast that the contract process is manual, time consuming and out of control, with friction pre-signature and a lack of visibility post-signature?

If so, try Juro and discover a contract collaboration platform that empowers commercial teams to self-serve, helping them agree and manage contracts in a unified workspace.

 

Topics: Software licence agreement

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