Contract Planning: What You Need to Know

April 25, 2024 • Contract Management • 6 minutes

Table of contents

  1. What is contract planning?
  2. What are the stages of contract planning?
  3. Best practices in contract planning
  4. Challenges in contract planning
  5. What software tools can simplify contract planning?
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Contract planning makes a major difference in your ability to capture revenue and protect against contractual risks. For example, poorly planned contract dates can quickly lead to inefficiencies and spend leakage when you’re trying to manage a multi-department project.

In fact, all throughout Operations, tightly managed contracts can help you avoid missed deadlines, unplanned renewals, and other avoidable expenses. So let’s take a closer look at the stages of contract planning, along with some challenges and best practices. But first, a straightforward definition.

What is contract planning?

Contract planning is the process of strategically designing and organizing the stages of a contract from inception to completion. Contract plans start with the initial drafting of an agreement, and proceed all the way to monitoring compliance and enforcing the terms.

By planning your contracts effectively, you smooth out operational workflows, reduce risks, and stay in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. What’s more, careful planning helps you prevent disputes and manage the legal and financial aspects proactively.

What are the stages of contract planning?

Contract planning covers all the stages of contract management. Here’s how it plays out in each stage of a contract’s lifecycle.

Stage 1: Pre-contract phase

Before you draft the actual contract, follow these initial steps.

  • Requirement gathering: Collect detailed requirements from all relevant parties. This helps you understand the scope and expectations of the contract.
  • Strategy formulation: Develop a strategy that outlines how the contract will align with your organization’s goals. This includes identifying the key objectives and how you plan to achieve them.
  • Stakeholder consultation: Consult with all stakeholders involved, gathering insights and approvals to make sure the contract meets everyone’s needs and anticipates future conditions.

Stage 2: Contract drafting

When creating the contract, follow these steps for clarity and completeness.

  • Clear terms and conditions: Write terms and conditions that are straightforward and unambiguous to prevent misunderstandings.
  • Inclusion of necessary clauses: Include all necessary clauses to address aspects like scope of work, payment terms, dispute resolution mechanisms, and termination conditions.

Stage 3: Contract negotiation

Contract negotiation doesn’t have to be a headache, if you follow these best practices.

  • Establish fair terms: Negotiate terms that are fair and equitable for all parties, aiming for a balance that fosters long-term relationships.
  • Anticipate potential issues: Construct a forecast of potential issues, and write out plans for addressing them, to prevent future disputes and complications.

Stage 4: Approval and execution

Finally, follow these steps to finalize and execute the contract.

  • Follow an internal approval process: Conduct a thorough internal review that involves all decision-makers. Confirm that the contract meets all organizational guidelines and strategic goals.
  • Execute the contract: Execute the contract using electronic signatures to streamline the process. It’s a good idea to validate the contract with a legal expert to verify that it’s binding and enforceable.

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Best practices in contract planning

When planning around a contract, you’ll want to adhere to the following list of best practices.

Standardize contract processes

Standardizing your contract processes helps uphold consistency and reduce errors. Develop templates for common contract types and scenarios within your organization. Train your team to use consistent contract approval workflows.

Create a centralized contract repository

Use a contract repository to centralize your records of all contracts and related metadata, such as deadlines. Use a repository that allows you to track changes, maintain version control, and search for key terms in contract language.

Perform regular reviews and updates

Schedule regular reviews of your existing contracts to adapt to changes in law, business goals, and market conditions. Encourage team members to provide feedback on contract performance, which can inform future updates and strategy adjustments.

By adhering to these best practices in contract planning, you ensure that your contracts are robust, compliant, and strategically aligned with your organization’s objectives.

Challenges in contract planning

Keep an eye out for the following challenges when conducting contract planning.


Miscommunication is a frequent challenge in contract planning that can lead to misaligned expectations and disputes. Regular meetings and communications during the contract drafting and negotiation phases can also help keep all parties on the same page. Utilize collaborative platforms where stakeholders can review and comment on contract drafts in real time.

Compliance issues

Maintaining contractual compliance with regulatory requirements is critical, especially in industries facing frequent legislative changes. Conduct compliance training sessions for your team, and perform periodic compliance checks throughout the contract lifecycle.

Complex contract requirements

Handling complex contract requirements often involves multiple stakeholders and can be prone to errors. To streamline this process, break down complex requirements into manageable tasks and assign clear responsibilities. Leverage contract management software that enables you to automate approvals and signatures, and track deadlines.

By addressing these challenges proactively, you can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your contract planning process.

What software tools can simplify contract planning?

Software tools can significantly enhance the efficiency, accuracy, and compliance of your contract management processes.

Contract management software

Using software solutions for contract planning brings several benefits that streamline the process. Automated deadline reminders help you keep track of key dates and obligations, preventing missed deadlines.

As mentioned above, a centralized document repository makes it easier to access and manage all contract-related documents, so you can retrieve them quickly. And audit trails created by these systems provide a transparent record of all changes and actions taken inside contract docs.

Integrations with ERP and CRM systems

Integrating contract planning software with other business systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM), enhances efficiency and improves data accuracy.

These integrations keep that data flowing seamlessly between systems, reducing manual entry errors and providing a unified view of information. They also facilitate better decision-making by providing comprehensive insights into contract impacts on various aspects of the business.

Effective contract planning enables you to streamline operations, reduce risks, and stay compliant. By organizing your contracts thoughtfully, you improve efficiency and prevent disputes, helping your organization save time and resources while maintaining strong contractual relationships and making sure you achieve your strategic objectives.

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