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Finding the balance between automatic and manual

As technology increasingly takes over our lives, we seem to be doing less things ourselves – a piece of technology or an automated system does it for us. But that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

Automation in the world of contract management systems is never-ending and – almost – all-encompassing. Contract creation, clause creation, reporting, renewals and so much more are done automatically, triggered by the system somewhere in the background to ensure these tasks get done without the user having to do much at all.

But as we hand the reigns over to these automatic technologies, what are we losing in the process? Is there perhaps a perfect balance between automatic and manual processes that proves to be the best of both worlds?

Automatic systems

Let’s take a look at automated processes. Having a contract management system in place means contracts can be created and completed in less time, with less effort and with fewer errors, when set up correctly.

Templates and clause libraries make the creation of contracts so much faster, and automatic renewals save time and ensure contracts don’t get missed or lost.

Electronic delivery of contracts, e-signature procedures and approval workflows are excellent tools you can use to aid the timely completion of contracts and to ensure people are aware when something needs to be done. Resources are freed up and the contract process can glide along quietly in the background.

However, technology can only interpret and understand human nuances to a limited extent; people still need to review what has been automatically created to ensure that there are no unique circumstances that apply to the situation.

For example, you may want a party of your contract to upload supporting documentation like a title deed or proof of identity. You can make these requirements, but you still need to confirm they uploaded the correct documents as the system may only be checking that something has been uploaded and not checking the actual content. In these instances, it can be dangerous to rely too heavily on technology when things like power outages, system updates, bugs, user error and hackers can compromise a normally perfect process.

Manual processes

Manual processes are risky in that they rely on humans to do the job and people get busy, forget things or change their priorities. Humans can also make mistakes that a machine would not. A lot of manual processes are slow and time-consuming because of their step-by-step nature, meaning that time, effort and resource demand are much higher. When errors come in, so too do gaps in security, lack of compliance and risk.

Users need to be educated in how to use the system which takes time as well, and different systems can be confusing and incoherent. Having to rely on manual updates means that old templates and clauses may be in circulation, renewals can easily be forgotten, information can be miscommunicated and paper-trails can get lost.

But while human errors can occur, manual processes can also be much more accurate than automatic processes in some instances. People can think on the fly, use their judgement and work with varying scenarios as opposed to an automated system’s application of a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

With manual systems there is also less chance of data being corrupted and there are no complicated audit trails, which are not always needed.

Perhaps the best approach, is a combination of both automated and manual systems, carefully outlined in a well-thought out process. Such a process can utilise the strengths and minimise the weaknesses of both approaches, ensuring you the speed of automation, while also benefitting from the accuracy and flexibility of a more manual approach.

The Agiloft workflow provides a great example, with the ability to automatically create contracts from the template and clause libraries which then automatically get sent to the required contract approver. But here, the approver must manually check and sign the contract, ensuring the technologically created data is indeed correct.

The great thing about having a balance of the two is that they can learn from each other: technology such as artificial intelligence learns from human behaviour making automatic systems even more powerful and, in turn, humans can learn to fill in the gaps where technology may be lacking.

A perfect balance between automatic and manual processes can mean lower costs, faster contract completion, better compliance, more subjectivity (when needed) and less errors, which really is the best outcome for any legal or procurement team.