Enabling colleagues to self-serve on vendor agreements could save legal time and reduce friction between teams – so how do you do it?
This deep dive looks at what a vendor agreement is, who it affects and why businesses often use a self-serve workflow to manage them. Use the navigation below to find out more, or explore our deep dives on other contracts, like MSAs and SaaS agreements.
What’s a vendor agreement? | Who do vendor agreements affect? | What’s the non-self-serve vendor agreement process? | Why use a self-serve workflow? | How to achieve self-serve for vendor agreements | Useful features | Learn more
What’s a vendor agreement?
A vendor agreement sets out the terms and conditions of a transaction between a buyer and a seller. This agreement is an important touchpoint between both parties: for the buyer, the agreement helps the business keep track of spend; for the supplier, the contract is confirmation of payment.
‘Vendor agreement’ is a broad term that refers to most contracts sent by a supplier to a buyer. These contracts are also referred to as ‘supplier agreements’ or ‘supply of services agreements’.
Who do vendor agreements affect?
Vendor agreements affect various stakeholders in the business, including:
Legal. The legal team is responsible for negotiations with the counterparty.
Procurement. The procurement team takes ownership of buying the services and negotiates commercial points in the vendor agreement.
Finance. The finance team, often led by the CFO, authorizes and keeps a record of the payment. For companies that don’t have a procurement or finance team in place, this responsibility is owned at an executive level, or delegated to someone else in the business.
The business stakeholder. This is the person (or team) who will be using the purchased product or service.
What’s the non-self-serve vendor agreement process?
Most businesses still agree and manage vendor agreements with a manual process that doesn’t allow teams to self-serve. With almost every company using Microsoft Word for their documents, it’s hardly surprising that Word is the go-to system for contracts too.
However, as part of a non-self-serve workflow, this manual process creates a lot of friction. It looks something like this:
The vendor will generate an agreement and email it to the buying party. This agreement has likely been created and saved as a template early on in the life of a business, and without a central source of truth there’s a high risk of teams using outdated versions.
The power dynamic between the buyer and the seller and the contract value will determine the level of negotiation. If there’s room to negotiate, legal teams from both parties will discuss key terms, setting off an email chain of amendments and back-and-forth that slow down the deal’s progress. Once all parties have come to an agreement, they will sign the contract and email copies to each stakeholder.
Closing deals with new buyers should be one of the happiest moments in a business’s life. But the manual process is often a bureaucratic experience that leaves a poor first impression
Why use a self-serve workflow?
Closing deals with new buyers should be one of the happiest moments in a business’s life. But the manual process is often a bureaucratic experience that leaves a poor first impression. We regularly see the same issues with non-self-serve workflows: multiple systems, wasted legal time and lost data.
Jumping between multiple systems in a non-self-serve workflow can cause problems and slows everyone down. The contract lifecycle may start with an old template in Microsoft Word, usually saved in the depths of a shared drive or buried on someone’s personal desktop. This document is then edited in Word, emailed to the counterparty, negotiated over email and phone calls, re-edited, and eventually converted into a PDF or onto an eSignature platform like DocuSign. Version control is difficult to manage and, at some point, everyone loses sight of the changes being made to the agreement, which can cause friction between legal and the wider business. An automated workflow that enables self-serve keeps everything in one place, eliminating these problems and helping you get your time back.
Non-self-serve workflows can bury in-house legal teams in low-value work – from digging out the same templates to check the terms being used to negotiating with other teams in the business. This is a huge time drain, and an expensive use of your legal experts. By enabling teams to self-serve on vendor agreements, as part of an automated workflow, legal can spend more time adding value to the business through the strategic work you hired them to do. Plus, an approval workflow in your automated process will make sure legal still has the final say before agreements are sent to be signed.
In a manual workflow split over several systems, valuable data – such as the negotiation history, edits and input from both parties – is lost throughout the contract lifecycle. Without this information it’s difficult to spot hold-ups or gain insights into how things could be streamlined. A self-serve workflow gives template owners the ability to see this data and to use it to improve the contract process and individual and team performance.
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How to achieve self-serve for vendor agreements
Self-serve is a question of process. For more on how to improve your vendor agreement content, check out our deep dive on simplifying vendor agreements. To create a frictionless self-serve workflow that empowers other teams in the business, use a contract collaboration platform that allows you to do the following.
Work intuitively with a design-first interface
There’s no point using a platform that only legal can understand: an automation project requires cross-team collaboration. Find a solution with a friendly interface that any of your colleagues can use with minimal training.
Create the perfect template
Look back through previous vendor agreement data – which versions of the contract attracted the least negotiation? Can you reduce time-to-sign by easing up on certain terms? Based on this, use your contract collaboration platform’s dynamic editor to design the perfect template. If your template and terms are optimized for signature, it will streamline negotiations and reduce legal’s involvement in the process.
Capture key information easily with a Q&A flow
A Q&A flow captures key information that might vary between agreements. Contract creators can answer simple questions to populate the contract with all the right data, instead of having to manually track through the document and change information. This is most efficient when handled with a natural language Q&A, with questions like “What’s the buyer’s name?” and “What’s the effective date?”
Counterparties may want to change certain terms, but if negotiations happen in emails or over the phone, it defeats the purpose of self-serve. The solution? A contract collaboration platform that offers negotiation and commenting in-browser, so audit trails and version histories are saved in one place.
Agree with confidence (and an OK from legal)
Although colleagues will be empowered to serve their own contracts, you’ll still want legal to have oversight. An approval workflow will allow the legal team to retain approval rights before contracts are shared with the counterparty – just to be safe.
Support teams to self-serve
No matter how intuitive a process, getting colleagues to adopt a new workflow can be challenging. Mitigate these problems by making the simple tasks easy and providing plenty of training so teams can self-serve with confidence.
If teams are ready to enable self-serve through automation, then the following features would be handy:
A dynamic text editor. If you want to self-serve on vendor agreements that counterparties want to sign, make sure your contract collaboration platform has a no-code editor.
Companies House integration. For companies in the UK, a contract collaboration platform that integrates the Companies House API will pull the correct names of legal entities into contracts every time, saving teams time and reducing the risk of human error.
Visual timeline. Scroll through previous versions and access a full audit trail of changes in seconds. A visual timeline will always keep parties in the loop during contract negotiations.
Locked templates. This is a useful feature when the legal team wants to define the terms of a vendor agreement at a template level. Locked templates can minimize uncertainty and risk when other teams are leading negotiations.
Export to Word. In those rare occasions where partners insist on negotiation offline, either in person or on a call, make sure your contract collaboration platform allows you to move back into Word. It can be particularly useful for high-value deals.
Enable self-serve with Juro
Is your marketplace or SaaS company growing so fast that the contract process is out of control, with friction pre-signature and a lack of visibility post-signature? If so, try Juro and see how a contract collaboration platform can empower the business to agree and manage contracts in a unified workspace.