Why I would use Excel for my Contract Management System

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How do I get on this legal technology wave? Where do I even start? A “contract management system” or a “document management system” (“CMS”) is a good place. Business operations are not affected, but the legal department can get their hands dirty and show results for it.

If you would like a CMS, then the next question is how actually to do it? If you have the budget and the resources, getting a neat and fancy tech solution is excellent. If you're strapped for cash and need to be creative, a solution may be hiding in your computer.

For this little victory, I present to you the most powerful application in the Microsoft Office family — Microsoft Excel. It’s a spreadsheet program that does well with numbers and formulas, but since it started added fonts and cell shading (apparently it was the pioneer), some people have used for other purposes. This includes our CMS.

Microsoft Office PROTIP : Instead of using Word to lay out complicated information, try using Excel instead. A massive table with multiple rows and columns, or trying to fit too much data on one page. Put all the information in one worksheet and print it to fit the sheet on one page. Done! (You might want to question yourself why you are trying to present something so complicated though.)

Hey, wait a second! Isn’t Microsoft Excel a spreadsheet program? If we are compiling a table of information, shouldn’t we be using a database program? Like Microsoft Access? Wrong tool for the job, right?!

Excel can be used for your Contract Management System

I have got nothing against database programs. Heck, my first programming project when I was a teenager was to create a database application detailing the lives of my hamsters. Reports, Forms, queries — I am quite okay with all that. However, there are several reasons why I would still use Excel.

  1. Formatting as Table unlocks sorting, filtering by phrases and other dandy stuff. You can even filter and sort by colour. I use these features to filter say the contracts that are expiring in the current quarter. I also can filter information such as the place where the contract is formed or the contracting party.
  2. Pivot Tables also help to organise data in a way to gain new insights. For example, I can find out quickly which jurisdictions my counterparties are from.

You can adopt this Excel CMS Format

Here is a blank format of an Excel Contract Management System you can download. You can modify or adapt it in any way you deem fit.

CMS Format CMS Format.xlsx 15 KB download-circle

Here are a few highlights of the form:

Some Limitations in your Excel Contract Management System

The Excel CMS presents a rough and ready format you can use to get your contract management system tooled up quickly. The filter and sorting has immediate benefits even in contract review, since now I can have access to other similar or related contracts across the company to see what are the standards.

However, the system has many limitations:

However, once you can demonstrate practical benefits and a workflow, stepping up to a real made for the purpose document or contract management system is easier to climb.

Would I still use Excel for Contract Management?Many people would like to use Excel to manage their contract data. After two years of operating such a system, would I still recommend it?Love.Law.Robots.HoufuHere's my follow up to this post – two years after using this system. (Free subscription required)


This little victory challenges the idea that you have to leap into a system someone made for that purpose to get tech on your side. Using tools that your organisation already has and paid for, this is a straightforward hack. For the win!

#tech #MicrosoftOffice #LegalTech #ContractManagementSystem #Updated

Author Portrait Love.Law.Robots. – A blog by Ang Hou Fu