San Francisco, CA June 11, 2003 Contract management specialist DETERMINE Software this week launched the latest upgrade of its flagship application, adding features that the solution provider said would make it faster and easier for customers to model contracts, configure processes and integrate with applications ranging from SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to Excel.
The solution provider also launched new software delivery and pricing models that it said are intended to make it easier, faster and more affordable for companies to realize the benefits of automating the enterprise contract management lifecycle.
DETERMINE, whose customers include Ace Hardware, Burlington Industries and Chevron-Texaco, said the latest version of its contract performance management (CPM) solution includes upgrade to its Composer Toolset, which allows non-technical users to configure custom contract templates and business processes without incurring the time and expense associated with complex development efforts.
The solution also introduces the provider's CrossLink Desktop Connectors, which enable direct integration of contract processes into end-users' desktop application environment, eliminating the requirement to logon to proprietary portals.
The solution provider believes that its solution brings innovations to three fundamental steps in deploying a contract-based business processes: converting complex documents into actionable information; defining contract-specific processes that meet unique corporate procedures; and deploying the information and processes to all users.
"Our goal is to help customers pull complex legal documents out of the filing cabinet and transform them into usable data that can drive their strategic supplier and partner relationships," said Jon Corshen, vice president of marketing with DETERMINE. "To achieve this goal, we have continued to build a platform that can bridge the gap between the unstructured world of contract documents and the highly structured world of transactional business systems."
With the DataComposer tools, users can model custom contract templates to match unique contract, industry and company requirements. Using a Web interface, non-technical users can define the parameters, forms and contract templates that define the "actionable" data in a contract. Forms and templates can be accessed via the DETERMINE library or from a customer-developed library of forms and templates.
DataComposer is integrated with DETERMINE's reporting and permissioning engine, ensuring that any time a parameter or form is added, it can be immediately reported on while adhering to established access permissions and without requiring database table updates or system recompiles.
The new platform includes extensions to DETERMINE's ProcessComposer Tools, which the provider says make it easier and faster to configure custom contract processes. Enhancements include the addition of a new rules engine to the micro-kernel process manager that underlies the ProcessComposer. The rules engine uses XML-scripts to define actions and task sequences, such as dynamic routing based on contract variables and user actions. DETERMINE says that ProcessComposer allows customers to configure processes by linking together tasks, triggers and rules that are delivered as part of the DETERMINE component library or the customer's library.
In addition, the latest version of the platform includes new CrossLink Desktop Connectors that enable direct integration between the DETERMINE application and various desktop applications, including Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook, and Adobe Acrobat, as well as handheld devices like PALM and Blackberry, or even cell phones. These connectors use the same Web services-based SOAP interface that DETERMINE has used for back-end ERP integration, making it easier to support and upgrade the system, according to the provider. The objective is to allow companies to weave the applications they use everyday into their overall contract management process.
"Because contracts touch so many people in so many different ways, it is impractical to assume that they will all interact with the application through one centralized portal and through a homogenous application interface," asserted Dr. Jamie Taylor, chief technology officer of DETERMINE Software. "We fundamentally believe that you must push contract processes to the edge of the network the desktop where users live and work everyday."
As examples of how the application integrates contract management with desktop application functionality, DETERMINE suggested direct communication of contract information to and from Microsoft Word to support Word-based collaboration for contract negotiations and redlining, the use of Microsoft Excel for loading and mass-editing contract information, integration to Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes to facilitate online notification and collaboration, or integration to a collaboration or work management framework.
"Contract processes vary greatly with different types of contracts as well as individual corporate procedures," said Taylor, adding, "That's why the foundation of the DETERMINE platform is an innovative dynamic object model that provides the kind of flexibility and configurability that is required to bring true value to the contract management process."
New Software Delivery and Pricing Models
DETERMINE also launched a new software delivery model, called DETERMINE Appliance, and a new pay-as-you-go pricing model, the ExpressWay program.
With the Appliance, customers access the DETERMINE solution through a sealed server that resides in their data center behind their firewall. The system comes preinstalled with the DETERMINE application and an embedded database and application server. The DETERMINE Appliance connects to the customer's existing infrastructure. The customer simply places the appliance in their rack, connects network and power cables, and specifies a fixed IP address, giving them a fully managed software solution on their premises.
The DETERMINE Appliance maintains direct connectivity to the DETERMINE Application Network for ongoing access to upgrades and support. DETERMINE provides all application and software maintenance through an authenticated VPN or SSH proxy to the server. DETERMINE has partnered with IBM to provide support and onsite hardware maintenance.
With the new ExpressWay program, DETERMINE offers month-to-month, subscription-based pricing with immediate access to the solution. Requiring an up-front fee and but no long-term commitment, the provider is promoting the program is a "no risk" way for companies to get into contract performance management.
For more information on the potential return on investment in contract automation, see the February 13, 2003, iSourceonline article "The Quick Payback from Contract Automation."
For more information on contract management automation, see the article "Digging Out from the Contract Clutter" in the January 2002 issue of iSource Business.