IBM Puts Sales Contracts Online

The technology vendor on Monday launched Contracts OnLine, a service that eliminates the need to download, print out, and return customer sales and leasing contracts to IBM, said Jane Snowdon, manager of global small and medium sized businesses at IBM Research, Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

Originally touted by IBM officials as an offering aimed at SMBs, Contracts OnLine is actually intended for use by even the largest enterprise partner or customer to draft contracts with IBM, said Snowdon. The service is free, and not a single type of IBM sales or leasing contract has been left out, she said.

Contracts OnLine "covers all possible contracts for doing business with IBM," said Snowdon.

The reason such a service did not arrive sooner from IBM is that certain technology components - such as IBM's Digital Watermark digital signature tools - had not reached fruition, said Snowdon. Such tools ensure that Contracts OnLine delivers legally binding contracts, she said.

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With Contracts OnLine, a typical two-party contract between IBM and a partner or customer which used to take about two days for IBM to enter into its system now takes only about 15 minutes to find its way to the appropriate parties in IBM, said Snowdon. The system routes contracts, notifies those who need to review them, keeps track of changes, and issues e-mail reminders when actions need to be taken, according to IBM.

Steve Crawford, manager of hardware technology and services at Jack Henry and Associates, a Monett, MO., solution provider, said IBM invited them to pilot Contracts OnLine late last year. Since then, Jack Henry and Associates has used the new system exclusively when doing business with IBM, said Crawford.

"It's been very good. It simplifies the process and eliminates a lot of paper," he said.

What Crawford said was missing in the early version of Contracts OnLine was a step-by-step list of the processes customers used to view and complete contracts. IBM added such a feature after Crawford said it would improve the system, he said.

Currently, Jack Henry does 20 to 30 contracts a week through the Contracts OnLine. Before they were handling contracts through mail and e-mail, said Crawford.