By Stephanie Overby, CIO.com | Jun 14, 2012
"For the most part, customers haven't thought of valuing contract terms or wouldn't know how to go about it," says Peterson. "Some believe that terms are a 'soft' benefit and, thus, impossible to value accurately. Also, procurements teams are often compensated based on 'savings' without regard to whether the contract will allow them to realize that savings." But you can bet your IT service provider has a dollar amount assigned to every term that might make it to the negotiating table.
If customers don't price out contract terms, they may end up pushing hard on terms with little value while overlooking those that could cause deal degradation down the line. Many IT leaders today, for example, are driving hard bargains on limits of liability for data breaches that are unlikely to occur, says Peterson. Meanwhile, they happily sign off on "sole remedy" language that limits the customer's recourse when a vendor fails to meet its responsibilities. "Customers might be impressed by the strong promises at the start of a contract and miss the fact that the 'sole remedy' clause means that those promises don't provide value," Peterson says.
Estimating contract terms isn't easy. Even experienced third-party advisors don't do it; consultants have limited understanding of the legal language and lawyers lack the business background to run the numbers. But valuing contract terms at zero can lead to surprise charges, lack of control, inability to exit, or compliance failures. One of Peterson's clients, for example, had previously opted for a yearly software license as part of an outsourcing arrangement in order to skirt the perpetual license fees. A few years in, the software had become a fundamental part of the client's business and the annual fee jumped 20 percent. "They asked us what they could do and, because their price lock lasted only three years, the contract was no help," Peterson says.