The ultimate guide to contract versioning

Contract process
February 19, 2023
Keeping track of your contract versions can be a challenge without the right processes in place. Discover how to best manage contract versioning in this guide.

What is contract versioning?

Contract versioning is the process of managing different versions of a contract to ensure that parties are reviewing, negotiating, and signing the right copy. 

It involves tracking the changes made to a contract, either in the same document or in a new one, and ensuring these versions are stored securely. 

There are lots of ways that businesses can do this, but some are more effective than others. In this guide, you’ll find out how to gain control of your contract versions - with and without software. 

But let’s start from the beginning: why does contract version control matter in the first place? 

Why is contract version control important? 

Contact version control is important because working on the wrong version of a contract can result in confusion and contractual disputes

In fact, poor contract versioning can have serious implications right through the contract lifecycle, from contract drafting all the way through to contract reporting

If counterparties sign the wrong version of a contract it can leave the contract owner legally bound by terms they never intended to agree to. 

There’s also the risk of saving the wrong version of a contract and reporting on the wrong contract data as a result. This can mean missed contractual obligations and even a breach of contract

Given the risks associated with ineffective contract versioning, you’d expect businesses to be on top of their contract versions. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. 

Why is it difficult to track contract versions?

Businesses might manage hundreds, if not thousands, of contracts. But contracts aren't always well organized, with document storage often split between different platforms and different versions of a template being saved with inconsistent file names. 

This means that multiple different versions of a contract can be floating around at any one time, each stored in different places, with different access permissions, and with different descriptions. 

This lack of consistency makes it impossible to track which changes were made to a contract and when, which results in the loss of valuable data.

How to gain control of contract versioning in 2023

Luckily, there’s a way for businesses to regain control of contract versioning. The best and most efficient way to do this is to implement contract management software

A contract management platform like Juro enables businesses to:

  • Track all changes made to a contract by capturing the edits, the time they were made, and who made them, in a detailed audit trail. This makes it easy to look back on contract revisions without having to move between and compare files. 
  • Lock their contracts to control who can edit which sections of it. For example, Juro users can lock the free text in a contract template and only allow parties to edit the data in smartfields instead. 
  • Find contracts in seconds as contracts created in Juro are built as structured data and so are fully searchable. Juro users can quickly search through their contracts using OCR and build custom contract dashboards to make filtering through them simple.
  • Streamline negotiations using browser-based negotiation and redlining functionality. Instead of moving contracts into Word to redline them, counterparties can add comments and suggestions directly into the contract in Juro, not in a new version.

To find out more about how Juro enables businesses to manage contract versions more effectively, hit the button below to book a personalized demo. Otherwise, keep reading for some tips on how to manage contract versioning without software. 

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Contract versioning best practices 

But what if you don’t have access to a contract tool that supports contract versioning? Well, there are still a few things you can do to make managing contract versions easier. Let’s run through a few of these best practices now. 

1. Stay consistent with your file types 

Firstly, you should stay consistent with the type of files you use for your contracts.

If some contracts are saved as Word files in your local drive and others are saved as Google Docs or PDFs, they probably won’t be stored in one space. 

This makes it difficult to track how many versions there are and which version you need to use. It can also make it difficult to work on the same file as PDFs are static documents so can’t be redlined or edited. It's also hard to know when to get rid of redundant files.

2. Centralize your contract storage 

It’s also important to store all of your contracts in one place. If contracts are living in peoples’ inboxes or local drives then it’s difficult to track versions and the data within them. 

It’s best to store your contracts securely in one workspace, ideally where they can be filtered and grouped into different folders. Juro’s contract repository is a great solution for businesses that need to store and report on contracts easily, but you can also create folders in a shared drive if you’re looking for something with less functionality. 

If you’re interested in moving all of your existing contracts into one place, check out this guide to contract migrations

3. Use robust naming conventions

The last thing you want to do is go searching through five different versions of a contract to try and find the most recent one. 

If you’re going to have them stored as separate files, you should use naming conventions to make it clear which version is which without opening them. The file name can cover: 

  • The type of contract
  • The counterparty name
  • The date
  • The version number 

This will help to organize your contracts so that you can find them faster. However, it’s still not as effective as having all of your versions grouped together in Juro with a detailed audit trail marking any changes. 

4. Communicate your process clearly with other stakeholders

You probably won’t be the only person in your business that creates and manages contracts. This makes it even harder to control when new versions of a contract are created, how they’re stored, and when they’re used. 

That’s why it’s important to communicate your contract versioning process with everyone that comes into contact with contracts. One way to do this is to cover it in a contract playbook but you could also relay the message in the form of training.

Take control of your contract versioning

While we’ve shared a lot of useful tips for contract versioning, the best way to gain version control is to implement a contracting solution like Juro that manages your contracts from end to end.

To find out more about how Juro can improve your contract process, fill in the form below to speak to a specialist. 

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