Contract Turnarounds Now Faster, Easier to Process

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Average turnaround on many contracts reduced from 44 days to two days

Thanks to recent changes in the way SMU handles contracts, projects are moving forward more quickly than ever before.

Prior to the new process, nearly all contracts – whether for $100 or $10 million – had to be examined by Legal Affairs. Given their workload for not only contracts but also other legal matters, turnaround time for an average contract often took more than a month.

Now, a team of 28 contract leads led by Senior Contracts Administrator Melanie Bailey processes nearly all contracts, reducing the turnaround time for an average contract from 44 days to two days.

The contract leads are appointed by deans or vice presidents from each SMU school and major department.

Bailey helped manage contracts in Legal Affairs for seven years before taking her new position in SMU’s Business and Finance department in March 2015. The switchover took place one year ago at the suggestion of the Contract Administration initiative. On April 15, 2015, contracts stopped going to the Office of Legal Affairs and started going to their designated contract leads, who would then feed them to Bailey.

At first, she manually handled everything. But in September 2015, SMU added Selectica contract management software, which helps filter the contracts, thereby raising the efficiency of the process.

When the contract lead members need help with the new software, they call Bailey. “We provide training to the contract leads, but Selectica is almost like a software that, if you don’t use it all the time, you can forget the steps,” says Bailey. “All they have to do is call me, and since we can screen-share the Selectica contracts, we can get things rolling pretty quickly.” Bailey emphasizes that she and George Finney, SMU’s chief security officer who also has administrator status for Selectica, can only see Selectica, nothing else on the caller’s computer.

Bailey continues to review every contract, and can route them to various departments – typically Legal Affairs, Risk Management, Research Administration or OIT — when needed. “Some are long or complex contracts that still do take a good while, with a lot of legal language in there,” she says. “We have to make sure that the contract provides reasonable legal protection for SMU.”

Selectica’s DocuSign feature (electronic signature) also helps move projects along faster. “We’re not passing pieces of paper around or having to deliver documents across campus anymore,” Bailey says. “Everyone with signature authority now uses DocuSign on our contracts. For example, President Turner can provide his signature using DocuSign in an email, all done through Selectica.”

Other departments are taking notice of how using electronic signatures can speed things along, and Bailey is working with them on adopting DocuSign. “We have two schools that are going to start using it for their students, and Purchasing is looking into it as well,” she says.

“All of these steps create a more direct flow. People are getting normal business done more quickly.”

Read more about the SMU Contracts Policy, which was recently updated in December 2015.