Blueridge Software program Contract Assistant (which begins at $899 for the Customary version) is a purposefully constructed, old-school contract administration system. It has maintained a regionally put in product in a world of cloud-based choices. The consumer/server product has been in use for greater than 15 years for purchasers comparable to credit score unions, hospitals, pharmaceutical firms, and different organizations that have to hold knowledge behind their firewall.
Since our preliminary evaluation, Contract Assistant has gone by way of modest function and customization enhancements. However three editions of the product (Customary, Professional, and Enterprise) are nonetheless visually comparable, with a big selection of menus and options in comparison with the extra sparse person interfaces (UIs) of newer, cloud-based choices. Blueridge Software program says it has chosen to remain within the consumer/server software program area quite than compete with dozens of comparable cloud-based choices.
Contract Assistant would not supply any contract authoring, negotiation, or built-in collaboration capabilities. You possibly can flip to Harmony or Editors’ Alternative Updraft for that. Neither is Contract Assistant as endlessly customizable or filled with end-to-end contract life cycle administration options as Editors’ Alternative Agiloft. However, if your business or organization prefers a locally deployed option for secure contract storage (with granular categorization options and management features), then Contract Assistant is a well-equipped tool. It gives you strong reporting and alerting plus great user manuals to get you up to speed.
Pricing and Plans
As mentioned, Contract Assistant comes in three different editions: Standard, Pro, and Enterprise. The different editions provide varying levels of service based upon the size of your business or number of users. The editions range in price from $899 to $8,999. Contract Assistant begins at $899 for the Standard edition, which is a single-user version installed on your PC. This version is ideal for sole proprietors or organizations in which only a single administrator is needed to oversee the contracts in your system.
This entry-level edition comes with complete electronic records, multi-database support, basic fields and file support, and unlimited “alarmable events” or alerts per contract. You also get simple and advanced search, reports, and customization of contract categories and fields. For additional custom-built report functionality, you can spring for the Standard edition Plus, priced at $1,198. It gives you access to the optional Report Designer. Unlike the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) pricing of cloud-based products, the base pricing for each edition is a one-time-only cost as opposed to the recurring subscription costs of every cloud-based product reviewed in this roundup. All editions also come with a free 30-day trial.
One of the major differences between these three editions is the ability to input contracts or documents directly into the database. With the Standard and Pro editions, the user can link the local version of the documents to its profile in Contract Assistant. In this situation, the document’s profile on Contract Assistant can be linked to its location on the drive or server but the document never actually gets uploaded to the database. Presumably, for users of the Standard and Pro editions, the storage within the database wouldn’t be necessary as the documents could just as easily be kept on the personal computer of the user or on a shared drive for a small group. However, for large companies or firms, such an arrangement would likely prove unwieldy both for performance as well as security considerations.
The Pro edition is a local area network (LAN) product designed for small to midsize businesses (SMBs) or small workgroups within an organizaton. It’s priced at $3,499 for the base license (five users), though additional seats can be added at extra cost. Feature-wise, the Pro edition includes document management integration with Laserfiche and multi-user support with basic security and permissions.
Finally, the Enterprise edition is priced at $8,999 for the base license (five users). This is a SQL Server/Client LAN/WAN (wide area network) product that comes with a full array of advanced document categorization and storage features. These features include cabinets and subfolders, full-text search, recurring alerts, complete customization, database document storage, and custom reporting tied to user permission level. Optional annual maintenance is 18 percent of the total purchase price for all plans. This gets you product update availability and access to phone support (as opposed to only free email support). You can upgrade to another version at any time. Additional user licenses are priced on a graduated scale in which per-license price goes down as volume goes up for the Pro and Enterprise editions:
1-4 licenses: $299
5-9 licenses: $269
10+ licenses: $229
For example, if today you purchase two additional licenses, then you would pay $299 each. If you later purchase three more licenses, then you would pay $269 for each of those.
For example, if today you purchase three additional licenses, then you would pay $599 each. If you later purchase eight more licenses, then you would pay $529 for each of those.
Getting Set Up
Contract Assistant’s Pro and Enterprise editions can be installed on users’ PCs or virtualized (i.e., installed on an application server running Citrix or Terminal Services,or as a self-hosted web app using Citrix XenApp.) In other words, Contract Assistant is client/server software hosted on your network, with no data residing in the cloud. To allow database access in larger businesses, this means you’ll need to install Microsoft SQL Server with the Enterprise edition. Be sure to contact Blueridge Software for detailed specifics on what the back-end requirements will be for your environment. Find out what version of SQL Server and Windows Server is required and whether these resources could be run virtually or require their own physical server.
To test the Standard edition for our updated review, I set up a free trial and downloaded the software onto my Windows 10 PC. Blueridge Software does not provide Mac downloads. The company says it supports Windows 7, 8, and 10 but, after downloading the software package, I was prompted to download an older version of .NET Framework before the installation would proceed. This was a minor compatibility hangup. But, after downloading .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 (as opposed to the current version 4.7), the install quickly completed and I was up and running.
Once open, Contract Assistant throws a lot of features and options at you. But it does so in a layout that’s better organized than the overwhelming selection of menus in Great Minds Software Contract Advantage and Coupa Contract Lifecycle Management. Contract Assistant offers great Help resources and documentation to assist with setup, navigation, and use. I was immediately given a pop-up for “Getting Started in 10 Easy Steps” going through the product roadmap and QuickStart guide. Chapters are indexed and searchable so you can create your own favorites in the guide and all of Blueridge Software’s Help resources. The Help documentation and general ease of use of the resources made it easy and fast for me to get comfortable with the UI.
Atop the dashboard are tabs for Contract Management, Database and Reporting, Options and Tools, Mass Updates (editing multiple category, record, or user entries), and Help. There is also a Microsoft Word-like toolbar with buttons for creating and saving a new contract entry, plus Delete, Undo, and Search buttons. On the left-hand side is an alphabetical contract index for quick search of your database, broken down into categories and case folders. Contract alarms that are “ringing” (meaning with pressing contract deadlines to be resolved) are displayed in red.
Below the menu bars sits the workspace, which is broken up into windows of adjustable size. The windows are grouped by types of information, offering tabs for Index of Contracts, Contract Information, Key Dates, Categories, Key Elements/Clauses, Overview, File Links, and Notes & Comments (which is the extent of Contract Assistant’s collaboration features). The clause library is similar to what you’ll find in Agiloft and the custom tagging structure is similar to that of ContractWorks.
Managing the Contract Life Cycle
After completing the QuickStart Guide, there’s an equally helpful User Guide with instructions for more advanced entry and configurations. The User Guide gives very exact instructions for creating databases and configuring the various data fields.
The contract management process itself is easy and extremely customizable. When adding new contract entries or editing contract files, you can rename or hide fields, add user captions (in the Options and Tools tab), and manage key dates and alerts. You can also add and manage categories, and extract clauses by using the windows on the right-hand side of the contract detail page. In the Pro and Enterprise editions, you do this through the admin module. As in Agiloft and ContractSafe, admins can add users and set permissions to view particular contracts or elements of the UI. Though, unlike in those tools, you don’t need to go into an admin panel to do it. All fields are editable from the main page. The Pro edition only gives you read-only or full privilege options. But the Enterprise edition has more granular security for specific records and the different databases to which a user belongs. Contract Assistant Enterprise edition can also create what are called “Views” to hide specific fields for different user groups or companies, or to show particular cabinet or folder. Adding a new record is as easy as clicking the New button and making a copy of an existing record template.
As you’re only categorizing existing and pending contracts, you’re not actually creating a new contract, just the database entry for it. In terms of search, you can run queries by text, keyword, date, or fields such as currency or contract type. All fields are searchable and can be pulled into standard or custom reports. However, there is no optical character recognition (OCR) search since the contract viewer requires the document to be an editable text or PDF contract before the database indexes it.
That organization is important because the way Contract Assistant is organized revolves around multiple databases. There is no limit to the number of databases a user can create, though you can only have one database open at a time. For enterprise admins, this is a useful way to manage sensitive contracts that your organization prefers to separate for permissions or security reasons.
Reports can be run in a variety of ways including on an individual contract profile, on the database index, or on only a subset of contracts that meet certain criteria. A report can quickly be generated on a selected contract or on all of the contracts in a particular database, which can be ordered and arranged in a variety of ways.
Users can also run a report by using the results of a particular search, allowing them to limit the reported contracts based upon the desired criteria. As with almost any service, the greater the amount of customization, the more complicated it is. There are basic and advanced filters. The Basic Search feature bends entirely to the user’s wants but does so with an array of check boxes and filter boxes. The Basic Search can be filtered by the standard filter fields or the user-defined fields. More savvy users can switch to the Advanced Search, which is a spreadsheet that responds to Boolean logic. Contract Assistant is the only tool we tested to support Boolean search.
The Enterprise edition has additional search capabilities, which allows for attached documents, notes, and key element notes. Search parameters that will be used repeatedly can be saved for future use. I ran searches for active and pending contracts and added more advanced date filters. When a report is generated, it displays in a separate window. This is a welcome feature because it serves as an instant preview of the report. Once the user is happy with the report, it can be exported in a variety of formats including HTML, PDF, Rich-Text, Plain Text, TIF, or Microsoft Excel. It took some back-and-forth but I was eventually able to get my report to display as desired. Still, this could be troublesome for larger organizations or folks attempting to import larger files.
Old-School Contract Management Done Right
Contract Assistant is that option for businesses and organizations that don’t want a fully managed cloud product. This veteran platform gies you full behind-the-firewall control over your data and contract database. It comes with comprehensive Help resources to help you navigate the traditionally designed UI and customize everything in sight. There are no automated workflows, no direct integrations, and nothing in the way of native contract authoring, collaboration, negotiation, or electronic signing. Agiloft and Concord are better options if you want a cloud-based platform to manage the full contract life cycle and work with external parties. But, if secure, local contract management is what you’re looking for, then Contract Assistant is a tried-and-tested option that will give you what you need.