Reviewing CobbleStone Systems: Contract Web INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

I N F O R M AT I O N TECHNOLOGY
BY RYAN D. DICKOVER
Reviewing CobbleStone Systems: Contract Web
This site was reviewed in February 2005.
Contract Web is CobbleStone System’s flagship
product, designed for an enterprise-level implementation to help large companies upkeep, track, and
manage their contract awards and proposals. A simpler version of the system is available for smaller
businesses in the desktop edition, too—however, this
review focuses on the product’s use at the corporate
level.
Users
The heart of Contract Web is the idea that those who
manage contracts in the private sector have a few key
concerns. They want to
■
Stay on top of impending deadlines for contract
renewals and expirations,
■
Monitor actual contract performance versus definitized
numbers from the initial agreement, and
■
Know who is responsible for particular contracts.
The Information Technology (IT) Corner profiles/reviews a new software program or suite each month. In the case of profiles, the
information is provided to Contract Management (CM) by the vendor. Reviews are by-lined and express the opinion of the author.
NCMA and CM do not necessarily endorse or support any vendor
profiled/reviewed in the IT Corner. Anyone interested in reviewing software for the IT Corner should contact Kathryn Mullan at
[email protected] or 571/382-1107.
56 ■ Contract Management / April 2005
To solve these and other issues, Contract Web uses a
database tied into a Web server that can be deployed either
by the firm or in the user’s own environment. The system
is Microsoft-based, using SQL Server 2000—or users can
to host it themselves, using Microsoft Internet Information
Service (IIS). An FAQ on the product is available at
http://cobblestonesystems.com/faqs.htm.
Functions
The Internet product demo I took went smoothly, and the
ease of the system’s use is clear. The product helps accomplish main contract management goals (mentioned above)
very well, without a lot of flash. The user has significant
amounts of “idiot-proof” control over configuring system
details to best match the particular organization.
There are three significant modules to analyze.
I N F O R M AT I O N
(1) Contract Web Calendar. This calendar uses embedded
links to show users what contracts are expiring. Clicking
a link brings up a customizable details screen, which
reveals everything related to the award: tasks, dollar
amounts, people, start/end dates, and user-defined text
boxes. You also can generate automatic e-mail alerts,
triggered by user-defined events in the system. The ability
to upload attachments also is impressive: With a scanner
(preferably one that can output .tif file format), the user
can create a paperless repository for the organization.
(2) Report Generator. This tool is where Contract Web
houses most of its added value. It lets users run canned
reports and—with simple “click and fill” templates—
make their own reports for whatever purpose desired.
Reports can then be exported in any data format and
automatically e-mailed. The module allows users to
find out what contracts are behind in payments or soon
to expire, and also can be tailored to assist in getting
contracts (via a list of outstanding RFPs, assigned by
category). This system can track subcontracts—and
once, CobbleStone configured it to support multiple
companies, too.
(3) Company Information. This module permits the
user to establish a user base of employees, locations,
departments, and vendors. This module controls
management’s ability to task contract responsibility to
T E C H N O L O G Y
certain individuals and offers security through access
restrictions to certain reports or contracts.
There are also features in Contract Web that allow for
the user to accept contract requests over the Web, although
in a limited sense (this is not an e-business application or
resource management system capable of handling reverse
auctions or tracking supplies). Additionally, Contract Web
permits the development of contract templates, such as
time-and-material, cost-plus-fixed-fee, firm-fixed-price, or
custom-made terms and conditions.
Conclusion
The system would be a smart investment for a small or
mid-sized business that has grown too large for internal
Microsoft Office contracts management. Its target audience
is the private sector, and while theoretically a public sector
agency could augment the system for its own tracking and
management needs, a significant amount of customization
would be required to meet the needs of complex federal
contracts or to be compatible with systems already in place. CM
About the Reviewer
RYAN D. DICKOVER is a contracting specialist. He is an Oraclecertified database administrator and holds an M.B.A. from Old
Dominion University. Send comments on this article to
[email protected]
April 2005 / Contract Management ■ 57