Contract management processes from start to signature.

Make partnerships more efficient with a streamlined contract management process. Learn how to stay on top of your contracts every step of the way.

Graphic of signing a contract on a laptop, mobile phone, and tablet device using Adobe Sign

What is contract management?

Contract management is the process of guiding a business contract from its inception to its signing. A contract is a legally binding agreement between business partners that outlines the rights and duties of each party.


But a contract isn’t something you can simply file and forget about after the dotted line has been signed; that’s where contract management comes into play. Contract management, also called contract lifecycle management (CLM) or contract administration, involves organization, auditing, legal review, and negotiation with stakeholders.


Because the management of contracts can be a time-consuming and complex business process, companies often hire a contract manager and automate the process with contract management software to lighten the load and keep partnerships running smoothly.



The value of a robust contract management system.


Whether you are an independent wedding photographer or a rapidly growing tech startup, the challenge of managing contracts grows as your business grows. If you’re juggling many contracts in the air at once, it’s wise to keep them all safe and centralized. A digital control center or document management platform is your best bet to minimize risk and potential for human error, and maximize the value of your contracts.

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The seven stages of the contract management process.





Initiation. The first step of contract management is to know the reasons you need to enter into a contract. Outline your goals, risks, and expectations from the start. This will make every stage of the process flow as smoothly as possible.





Negotiation. During contract negotiation, both parties meet to work out the contract terms, so that the partnership is as mutually beneficial as possible. At this stage, to acknowledge their intentions to formalize these talks into an agreement, the parties might draw up and sign a memorandum of understanding.





Generation. Once both parties have settled on the details of the procurement, the actual contract creation and authoring begins. Companies may create multiple drafts, and it’s important to keep these iterations handy for recording and proofing purposes.


Many contracts are a collaborative effort between the stakeholders and their respective legal teams, which adds time to this stage, but it’s best practice to be as thorough as possible.





Approval. At this stage, management must approve the contract and officially set the partnership in motion. Bottlenecks often happen during the contract approval process; prompt management is often needed to keep things moving. Before you sign off on a contract, be sure to consult a legal professional or your team’s legal department.





Execution. Once the contract is approved, it’s time to turn words into action. Store your contract, but keep it on hand to resolve any disputes or questions as they arise.





Auditing. The job isn’t over after the contract is in motion. You should establish an audit trail and regularly review the partnership to make sure contractual obligations are being upheld on both ends. You can save time hunting for stray documents by using a digital contract repository to organize and store key contracts, and make all contract data and metrics easily searchable.





Renewal or termination. If the contract renewal dates aren’t specified, you’ll need to evaluate whether to terminate the agreement or draw up a new contract. Businesses miss out on a bigger bottom line by letting contracts expire. This is one area where a contract management tool can make all the difference, by helping you renew contracts and collect signatures using automation.



Ditch the filing cabinet and go digital with Adobe Acrobat Pro.

From electronic signatures to reviewing PDFs on the go, a digital contract management solution is the best way to keep your contracts on track.

Graphic of signing a contract on a laptop using Adobe Sign
Graphic of signing a contract on a tablet device using Adobe Sign

Go paperless.


Kick off the process with Acrobat Pro and create your own contract template. E-docs save your business time and money and eliminate logistical nightmares involving mail deliveries, lost documents, different time zones, and more.



Collaborate from anywhere.


Throughout the negotiation process, it’s crucial that all parties can access, edit, and comment on the document. With Acrobat Pro, you can collaborate in real time, from any device, and keep everyone on the most current draft of the contract.



Sign, seal, and deliver (sans paper).


By automating your approval workflows, you can skip the management bottleneck and collect e-signatures in one click. You can even keep track of your contract’s progress on any device.



Dial in your workflow with integrations.


You can pair Acrobat Pro with contract management tools you already use, like IBM, Salesforce, Oracle, and more. Streamline your complex contracts and maximize their functionality with CLM integrations.


Try Acrobat Pro

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Contract management processes made easy Adobe Acrobat Sign

Legally binding e-sign experiences.

E-signature requirements

Manage agreements and meet legal requirements with Acrobat Sign.




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E-Signature legality

Acrobat Sign meets the highest legal standards around the globe.




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Process transformation

Electronic and digital signature compliance

Depend on Acrobat Sign to stay compliant — from anywhere.



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Ready for end-to-end digital processes?

No matter where you are in your journey, take the next step with Adobe Document Cloud.