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Managing the paperwork involved in closing IT sales costs channel partners time and money, especially if the deal involves a behemoth such as IBM.

With that in mind, IBM has gone paperless. Starting June 19, the vendor is making it possible for partners to manage any type of contract required for product sales and services through a Web application called Contracts OnLine.

IBM launched the application in response to feedback from SMB (small and midsize business) partners who said they were spending too much time and money managing contracts. SMB partners typically are resource-strapped companies for which the expenses of overnight paperwork deliveries and other contract-related costs can add up.

Contracts OnLine, developed by IBM Research, is a Web-hosted application that the vendor says reduces the time to complete contracts.

By moving the process online, the vendor also aims to reduce the potential for the errors that sometimes are introduced into paperwork, necessitating multiple review cycles and delaying sales closings.

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Authorized users involved in contract negotiations can access the application any time, anywhere to upload documents, review, make changes, approve, sign contracts and check status, the vendor said.

“Businesses no longer need to fax documents back and forth or take chances with undelivered e-mail or overnight services to complete a contract,” said Cathy Lasser, vice president of industry solutions and emerging technology at IBM Research.

Processing a standard contract, she added, normally would require a flurry of e-mails and faxing copies for at least two days. Now the process takes as little as 15 minutes, she said.

The online application automatically sends e-mails to the appropriate people when contracts are available to review and sign. It also lets users communicate, collaborate with others, delegate tasks, and search and retrieve documents.

The hosted application leverages IBM’s WebSphere Application Server and DB2 database technology.

“Contracts OnLine makes managing contracts with our clients much easier by tracking documents throughout the entire process,” said Steve Crawford, manager of hardware technology and services at Jack Henry & Associates. “I can see in real time where a contract stands and take the necessary action to close business the same day.”