Enabling self-serve on supplier agreements could reduce friction between teams and help the business close faster – how do you do it?
This deep dive explores the supplier agreement process – who does it affect, why would businesses use a self-serve workflow and what are the benefits? Explore using the navigation below.
We look at supplier agreements as the contract used for the selling of goods rather than services. Not what you’re looking for? No problem – take a look at our articles on SaaS agreements and vendor agreements.
What’s a supplier agreement? | Who do they affect? | What’s the non-self-serve supplier agreement process? | Why use a self-serve workflow? | How to achieve self-serve for supplier agreements | Useful features | Learn more
What’s a supplier agreement?
Supplier agreements outline the terms of a commercial relationship between buyer and supplier. These types of contract, also referred to as buy-side agreements, commit both parties to do business with each other over a specified period.
Supplier agreements and vendor agreements are similar, with slight differences in language and the buyer/supplier relationship. Vendor agreements tend to define terms for the selling of services rather than of goods, whereas supplier agreements have a broader purpose.
In supplier agreements, the supplier would also typically have more communication with the buyer. The contract is an important touchpoint between the two parties – for the supplier, it confirms revenue and the potential of repeat business. For the buyer, it’s a record of spend and a chance to strengthen commercial relationships.
Who do supplier agreements affect?
The teams affected by the supplier agreement process depend on the business, supplies being purchased and the contract value. This can extend across the company – especially as the business stakeholders can come from any team, such as marketing or sales. Generally, the list of teams or people involved includes:
Legal. This function is responsible for negotiations with the counterparty’s legal team.
Procurement. This team owns the purchasing process and negotiates commercial terms between the buyer and supplier.
Finance. This team is usually led by the CFO and authorizes spend on the agreement.
Contract managers. This team or individual is responsible for managing the agreement post-signature and keeping track of renewals. Usually, the responsibility falls to legal or procurement.
Find out what end-to-end contract collaboration looks like for the modern business: download the ‘Modern contract handbook’.
What’s the non-self-serve supplier agreement process?
Most businesses agree and manage supplier agreements with a manual process, often based around a Word document, that creates friction between teams and doesn’t enable self-serve. Given that almost every company uses Microsoft Word for its documents, it’s hardly surprising that this tool makes its way into the contract process. But, as part of a non-self-serve workflow, it causes more problems than solutions.
The manual process looks something like this:
The supplier will generate an agreement and email it to the buying party. In the earlier stages of a business, the agreements created will likely be saved and reused later on as a template. But without a central source of truth, there’s a high chance that teams use outdated versions.
If the supplier owns the contract templates, there probably won’t be much wriggle room for negotiation, but this does also depend on the power dynamic between the two parties, as well as the contract value. If there is scope to negotiate, legal teams from both sides will discuss key terms. This usually sets off a lengthy email chain of amendments, which slows momentum and causes friction between teams. Once all parties have reached agreement, they will sign the contract and email copies to everyone involved.
Closing deals should be one of the happiest moments in a company’s life. But with a manual, non-self-serve workflow in place, that’s unfortunately not always the case
Why use a self-serve workflow?
Closing deals should be one of the happiest moments in a company’s life. But with a manual, non-self-serve workflow in place, that’s unfortunately not always the case. We regularly see the same problems with non-self-serve workflows: jumping between multiple systems, legal teams buried in admin work and lost contract data. How can a self-serve workflow help?
Manage contracts in one place
Jumping between multiple systems can cause problems and slow everyone down. The contract may start with an old template in Word, usually saved in a shared drive or buried on a personal desktop. The document is then edited in Word, converted into PDF and emailed over to the counterparty. When the counterparty, or buyer, inevitably has amendments and suggestions, the document is converted back into a Word file, edited, and re-saved as a PDF. Negotiations take place across email chains, phone calls and internal discussions in Slack – all of which make version control difficult. And at some point, everyone loses sight of the process and the changes being made. Having an automated workflow that enables self-serve can help teams establish a robust, scalable system for contracts that helps the business sign faster.
Give legal their time back
Processes that don’t enable self-serve can easily bury in-house legal teams in admin work – and lawyers weren’t hired to spend their valuable time manually inputting information and digging out old contract templates. By enabling teams to self-serve on supplier agreements, legal can spend more time adding value to the business, instead of hand-holding colleagues through a contract process they can pretty much take on themselves. An approval workflow in an automated self-serve process will make that legal still sign off all contracts before they reach the counterparty, just in case.
Gain valuable data insights
A manual process split across several systems can make it hard to gather data from across the supplier agreement workflow. Valuable information – such as negotiation history, edits and suggestions from both parties – is lost through the contract lifecycle as the document hops from one system to another. Without this data, it’s difficult to identify hold-ups, or explore ways to streamline. A self-serve workflow gives template owners the opportunity to visualize this data and use it to improve the contract process, reducing friction between teams and making the business more efficient.
How to achieve self-serve for supplier agreements
Making your process self-servable goes hand-in-hand with simplifying the end-to-end workflow. Check out our deep dive on simplifying supplier agreements for more on how to do this.
Here’s what creating a self-serve workflow that is frictionless, empowers other teams in the business and scales as you grow usually involves:
A user-friendly interface
Automating your contracts workflow will involve cross-team collaboration. And of course self-serve is all about empowering teams and cutting legal some slack, so there’s no point in using a platform that only legal can understand. Make sure that your contract collaboration platform is user-friendly, design-led and easy to adopt so that colleagues can jump in and start using it with minimal training.
A no-code editor is essential for template creation – the better designed your contract is, the quicker counterparties will sign
A no-code editor
A no-code editor is essential for template creation. Use images, graphs and charts to make your supplier agreement template visually engaging, easy to understand and more human. Look through previous supplier agreements and identify the versions that attracted the least negotiation; the better designed your contract and its content are, the quicker counterparties will sign.
A Q&A flow
This is a must-have for capturing key information that varies between agreements, such as dates, names, addresses and more. Instead of manually inputting this information into each document (which increases the risk of human error), find a contract collaboration platform that has a natural language Q&A feature. With this, teams don’t have to dig through templates to make simple changes. Instead, they can autopopulate the contract by answering simple questions like “What’s the buyer’s name?” and “What’s the effective date?”.
Counterparties may want to change certain terms, but if negotiations take place via emails or over the phone, it defeats the point of self-serve. The solution is to use a contract collaboration platform that allows you to negotiate and comment in-browser. This way, audit trails and version histories are saved in one place, giving teams the oversight they need.
An approval workflow
Colleagues will be empowered to serve their own contracts, but when it comes to agreeing, you’ll still want legal to have the final say. An approval workflow will allow legal to retain approval rights just before teams share contracts with the counterparty – just to be safe.
The following features are handy when it comes to enabling self-serve through automation:
A dynamic, no-code editor. Self-serve on supplier agreements people actually want to sign with a text editor that enables teams to create beautifully designed and engaging contracts.
Companies House integration. For UK companies, a contract collaboration platform that integrates this API will save teams time and reduce the risk of error by pulling the correct names of legal entities into contracts every time.
Visual timeline. Access a full audit trail in seconds and stay up to date with contract negotiations.
Locked templates. If legal want to define the terms of the supplier agreement at a template level, locked templates can reduce risk and uncertainty when other teams are leading negotiations.
Export to Word. On those rare occasions that partners insist negotiations happen offline, make sure your platform allows you to move back into Word – it’s particularly useful for high-value deals.
Enable self-serve with Juro
If you feel like your manual supplier agreement process can’t cope with the growth of the business, try Juro and empower your business to self-serve at scale, all in one place.