Here at Digital Strategy Works, we are always trying out new services to improve our own processes. In order to manage our work, we use the following software as a service tools. Many of these companies have partnered with each other on API integrations, so the tools sync with one another to share information.
- Basecamp for project management,
- JIRA for agile/scrum product development and project management of complex applications,
- Harvest for time tracking and invoicing,
- Xero for accounting,
- CollabSpot for CRM integration from Gmail with Highrise a CRM tool that also syncs with Basecamp,
- BugDigger for bug tracking,
- Google Apps for our company email, file management and shared document repo
- Github for version control
- Adobe EchoSign for sending documents for signatures from our clients
While all these services are great, we’ve been struggling with contracts and agreements. How to manage them, track changes and ultimately send them out for signature. I was looking at contractual.ly for organizing my DSW agreements and sending them out for signature.
DSW partner and CTO, Michael McNeill, pointed out that I could integrate Adobe EchoSign with Google Docs installed through the Google Apps Marketplace, which could possible save us money. Contractual.ly pricing is $10 a month for one user and $30 a month for two users. It climbs quickly to $100 a month for 5 or more users. I don’t understand how you go from $10 for one user to $30 for two users, but let’s shelve that for now and get back to the task at hand.
EchoSign does have a freemium tier, which I’ve been using. You can sign up for free and send up to 5 documents out for signature per month. Using the freemium tier of EchoSign is certainly inexpensive. At this point, we’re not sending over 5 docs a month for signature, but soon we will be and that may end up costing us more and here is why.
EchoSign’s Pro plan is advertised at $14.95 per month if you pay up front for the year and $19.95 monthly – and, only for one user. At that level, you can store up to 500 documents. The next tier for 2 or more users starts at $29.95 per month on a monthly billing cycle or $19.95 per month if you pay the year up front. Without knowing how much we’re going to use the service, we’re opting for the freemium plan and could go to the $29.95 a month in a few months, if it makes sense.
At this price point, contractual.ly is competitive. With contractual.ly, you can pay $49 per year upfront for a single user or $30 a month for 2 users. I think I saw a coupon code out there for $5 off per month, as well. The difference between EchoSign and contractual.ly is that with EchoSign, you’re only sending out for signature and storing your docs in the cloud. With contractual.ly, you’re both storing your docs and are able to collaborate with your employees and partners or customers in the system. However, I’m not sure yet if by users they mean both your company and your clients, which would then increase the cost to $100 a month for 5 users if you had to include some of your clients as users, so they too can access the admin. That could get expensive down the road if you were paying for more users per month, but have already completed agreements and there’s no reason to keep those users in your system. I have to further investigate to see who is a “user.” For now, let’s look at the challenges of using Google Docs and EchoSign together.
The issue with Google Docs or any Word formatted agreement, is that when you do a search and replace inside the agreement, you’re bound to replace text that you didn’t want to replace. You then have to scan the document to make sure that the text is correct. Each time you change your template, you have to worry about what you may have changed inadvertently and with agreements, its very important to ensure their accuracy, as changing the spelling of one word inadvertently could nullify a clause in the agreement.
With contractual.ly, you insert fields and once you publish the document, you can then change the text in only those fields you’ve identified. The system allows you to place the same field multiple times throughout, that way when you enter your text, it writes once and reads everywhere.
Yes, I’m aware that there are probably macros for Word that can be used to change the text in certain locations of the document, but I don’t believe that translates to Google Docs. I checked and found only an update for macros in Google Spreadsheets. We’ll still have to use Search and Replace in Word to change, for example, the name of the client throughout the document.
My partner also thought that using Google Docs would be good for collaboration – making changes and that sort of thing. The issue here is that when you share documents outside of your Google Apps account, there are times when clients cannot get into Gmail or they refuse to use Gmail or Google for privacy reasons. I’ve encountered the first scenario, where someone could not open the Google Docs link. I have also encountered the second. Not everyone want to use Google and some may not even have a Gmail account to store the document to their own Google Drive. That has been a minor problem so far, but could become more complex over time.
The questions is, is Google Docs the right tool for contract management and collaboration? Well, we’ll find out when I have to update an agreement and then resend the new version via EchoSign. In some ways, transparency may be lost or mistakes may be made, because someone may update the doc and not rename it as a new version in Google Drive. Yes, you can do a revision, but that doesn’t mean the title of the doc changes. I believe you have to do that yourself.
I found an issue with installing Adobe EchoSign’s Google App from the Google Apps Marketplace. When you attempt to install the app through your Google Docs account by CNTRL-Click the document name and then select Open With, then select Connect More Apps, it is not available in the Marketplace manager.
The Marketplace manager will open. Do a quick search for Adobe or EchoSign and see the result shown below.
I found a workaround by clicking the new Gmail Apps tool that was recently added to the header of your Google products. It is the grid icon between my name (+Anthony) and the bell icon (as shown below).
As you can see, EchoSign is already installed. But to actually find it, you have to click on More from Apps Marketplace, where you can search for it and then click, “Add It Now” as shown below.
Once the App is installed, you will be shown a notification that the installation is ready (not shown here), but to complete the connection, you will have to sign into your EchoSign account. If you don’t have one, then the link provided in the notification will take you to the Adobe EchoSign signup page.
As you have seen from the prior images, EchoSign app was added to my Google Apps manager, but there’s not much you can do with it here after installation. What EchoSign really does is sync with Google Docs. It then can show you what documents are ready in your Google Docs to attach and send for electronic signature.
I did notice another cool feature of Adobe EchoSign: the ability to send docs for signature from Evernote, DropBox and Box.com. You can find those services by clicking on the “More” link to the right of the word, “Google Drive.” I haven’t used it yet, but it’s there if you need it. The issue here is always going to be, can you do document collaboration and management with the connecting services and do it well? Maybe these services will provide tools for document management as Google does with it’s Google Drive and Google Docs.
So, is it worth $10 a month for one user at contractual.ly and pointing my clients there to review, comment on and sign docs? I think the field generator is excellent and will prevent a lot of mistakes. It would work much better than Find and Replace in Google Docs or Word, and it saves time and effort in setting up a macro, which doesn’t look as easy as they make it out to be. For now, we’ll try out the EchoSign plus Google Docs integration and see how it works for DSW and our clients. If we have too many formatting issues or clients have trouble accessing the Google Docs link, I’m going to head back over to contractual.ly and try it out.
Here’s a video explaining the Adobe EchoSign experience – although without the link to Google Docs.
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