There is a well-known adage that businesses run on people’s trust. However, in the real practical world, contract agreements remain the ultimate element of trust. Contract documents provide the necessary assurance to companies that certain obligations are legally binding, and thereby business can be undertaken with complete confidence. In that sense, looking at the larger context, contract documents are the driving force that enable businesses to run smoothly and efficiently.
In the case of medium-to-large-sized companies, it is next to impossible to track all active contracts manually. Gone are the days when contract managers manually indexed all contracts within filing cabinets, updated Excel sheets and tracked soft copies within random emails. Imagine yourself as a contract manager answering all types of queries coming from different stakeholders (such as legal clauses, liability damages, non-adherence penalties, payment schedules, renewals notifications, service quality, rebate clarifications, penalty clauses, escalation matrices, etc.) for 1000s of contracts. Considering contract managers are the custodians of all contract requests, imagine being responsible for these kinds of queries day-in and day-out. How exhausting it could turn out to be!
Today, contract managers’ time and skills are more precious for adding value to the business, rather than hustling for some of these clerical routines. While digitization seems to be the most obvious answer, it is easier said than done. Even if one can digitize and bring all the contract data into a searchable database, the contracting complexity does not end there. In fact, it all begins when the contract is created.
Drafting a contract is often a tedious and complex activity involving multiple stakeholders. Few organizations have found a way of templatizing certain types of contracts as a step to reduce the complexities involved. Nonetheless, when a typical medium-to-large organization handles a large variety of contracts, the drafting process indeed becomes a lengthy and complex web of interrelated tasks. Often, there are no smooth workflows when it comes to drafting a contract, collaborating, capturing metadata and the other nitty-gritties that come along with it.
Take a moment to ponder a new world – where you, as a contract manager, can initiate a contract drafting process through a few clicks. In this world, you can pick a contract template based on the contract type, tailor it and invite other stakeholders to collaborate online. Imagine that from start to finish, you are guided, step-by-step, by a system that keeps track of all necessary elements, while the contract document is under construction. The system in question has all the necessary in-built features like redlining, change tracking, comment threads, references to other documents, notes comparison, etc. The system can, additionally, review similar contracts or clauses drafted in the past, and has an all-powerful search capability that digs out information from the repository. How liberating it could be! As a contract manager, you would then be able to contribute to higher-value tasks once you get ‘hands-off’ from the currently tedious process of drafting.
Telecom Operators and AI Contracting
In large complex organizations like telecom operators, the volume and variety of contracts that are handled on daily basis are usually high. Operators need to manage contract agreements and liaise with various parties like suppliers, customers, landowners, property lessors, agencies, etc. Not every type of contract can be templatized according to the operator’s liking. At the same time, contract managers need to handle hundreds of variants spanning across different regions of operations. Life is not at all simple!
In such cases, it is important to equip contract managers with automation tools that can handle new contracts or renewal documents more effectively. The idea is to automate contract ingestions, index certain important clauses, raise alerts against the contract lines that are deviating, contextualize every type of contract and finally push the data into a large datastore.
With advancements in computing power and cost-effective storage, AI-based applications are becoming a reality in many domains, and the contract domain is no exception. Purpose-built AI/ML models can extract specific data from contract documents to reasonable levels of accuracy. Over time, as AI/ML models train on new contract variants, accuracy levels improve considerably. In terms of Opex cost-saving, AI-contracting can free a good amount of manpower which can be applied to other value-centric activities in the business. Moreover, by reducing manual inputs and automating the entire process, AI-contracting can improve contract data accuracy and thereby mitigate risks. Through the added ability to integrate with other systems, potential liabilities and loses can be averted. Additionally, contract managers can have clear visibility on vendor performance which is tremendously useful during renegotiations.
Many telecom operators are now looking to onboard various levels of automation by leveraging technologies such as AI/ML and move forward in their digital transformation journey. AI Contracting is one such important step into the digital future.
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Sai Thilak has 11+ years of experience in engineering management, product development, solution architecting and customer deliveries in Telecom OSS/BSS space. Sai currently leads product management for Network Asset Assurance & Data Integrity Management products. He’s passionate about new age products, a voracious reader, biography & history buff, financial market student, cricketer & active blogger.