Let’s be clear, taking a contract that is not fit for purpose and digitising it will not magically create a smooth, effective contracting process. It is not about the technology.
Digital contracts are legal.
But they also need to be simple – contracts should be read, understood and used.
- Online content is harder to read, impossible to flick through and creates accessibility issues for certain contract users. This can be improved with simple contract.
- Online content may be reviewed by a global audience so it should be written in plain language to avoid creating additional and unnecessary extra barriers to understanding.
- Online contracts need to be accessible through an internet-enabled device aka smartphone. The simpler they are, the easier it is to find relevant sections.
Digital contracts need to be fair and trust-enhancing – because they are rarely negotiated in detail, the content should seek to create a fair balance of interests between the relevant parties. Simplicity also enables a reader to challenge anything which is not an accurate record of their agreement. Trust is also relevant as digital signatures are said to increase trust, as the contract cannot be changed once the signature is added.
There is no point digitising complex one-sided content. That’s just garbage in and digital garbage out!
Digital contracts are electronically generated based on a series of questions, like answering a survey. Questions may also look at more strategic issues eg not just what is the programme, but is it realistic for the scope and in the circumstances? Not just, what is the contract price, but do you know the client has the funding for the price and any contingencies?
The platform then adds context, flair and legality to create your contract. It’s not the same as opening a new document or filling in boxes in a form; it is more like giving a search engine your parameters for a tasty meal and getting a personalised recipe back.
Digital contracts are not pdf copies of paper-based contracts and you will need to invest in new software or a subscription platform to create them. If you are still not sure what the difference is, read what are digital contracts?
How do you send digital contracts?
The output of a digital contract process can be in any form you like: hard or soft copy, digital or even semi-smart. So you can send it using any existing communication channel.
If you want it signed digitally, then you will need to include a widget or app to allow digital signing. Once signed it is binding on the parties, because electronic and e-signatures are considered legally valid (at least in the UK).
What should you do?
If you want to start the process of creating contracts digitally, you should check whether you are ready, define your needs and then invest in a platform that meets your needs. Currently digital adoption is taking days, rather than years, due to increase remote working so existing methods of slow burn implementation are not always fit for purpose!
Eventually you will have a digital contract library – this will enable you to negotiate, record, sign, update, archive, find and interrogate your contracts easily and remotely. This is essential in the world we now find ourselves working.