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Making sense of contract management software

Hesitant? Confused? Frightened of making the wrong choice?

These are common emotions among those charged with reviewing and selecting contract management tools and systems. While software has been available for almost 25 years, the success stories are few and far between. Many have invested, only to discover that functionality is not there, that adoption rates are low, that implementation costs rapidly spiral …..

Is automating contract management doomed to fail? Discover the answers!

It is a complicated process, leading many to conclude that the best way forward is to tackle specific elements, using a variety of tools. But there have been remarkable advances in the technologies now available to us, so is past experience a good guide? Could it be that the problem is not in the software, but in the way we assume contracting must be done?

With the growing pressure on legal, commercial and procurement teams to deliver greater value, there is no question that contract performance must improve. Streamlining the process, identifying sources of value and empowering the business to better manage risk can only be achieved through technology. So which technology to consider and choose?

The confusion of choice

With more than 250 options, it is not surprising that those charged with identifying and selecting a system feel overwhelmed. Do we want an application, a platform, a set of integrated tools from multiple suppliers? The WorldCC selection tool has been designed to help in evaluating and narrowing the options. It is supplier agnostic, free to use and comes with no strings attached (i.e. you will not be inundated with calls from possible vendors or consultants!). Following a major update and overhaul, the tool (already used by more than 20,000 organizations) is about to be re-launched, along with an explanatory webinar and discussion of the latest trends and opportunities for contract management automation.

If you want clarity, sign up for the launch webinar due to run on February 3rd. Participate live, or receive the recording. You can register here.

Technology sector contracting: leaders or laggards?

Yesterday saw the launch of the first in World Commerce & Contracting’s series of industry benchmark reports – and where better to start than the Technology and Software sector.

With so much emphasis now placed on the social and business impacts of technology and software, it is natural to suppose that this industry would be at the forefront in its deployment – that they would be well in the lead in streamlining and digitizing commercial and contracting processes.

That may be a reasonable supposition – but it would be wrong! Relative to cross-industry averages, commercial and contract management capabilities in the technology and software sector are among the least developed and technology deployment is among the lowest.

Without diving into the specific data (there is a wealth of that in the report), what are the reasons behind this neglect? The research suggests that many organizations in this sector simply have not adjusted to the changes in their offerings and market. In many cases, they are operating with CCM resources and systems designed to support a world of product sales and licensing. Their investments have focused on pre-award contracting, to support speed and volume. They utilize extensive offshore and outsourced resources and in many cases see contracts purely as legal or financial instruments, rather than as tools that support effective and profitable business operations. As the industry has shifted towards performance, outcome and ‘as-a-Service’ commercial models, internal capabilities in negotiating and managing these forms of relationship have not adequately developed.

The report indicates growing executive awareness of the need for improvement – 63% of respondents indicate a growth in focus and 75% highlight adoption of tools and systems as a priority, especially to support post-award value and performance. There is appreciation that technology alone will not be enough – raising current skills and retaining talent are also high on the agenda.

In summary, the industry has a pressing need for improved visibility into contracts and contract data across the lifecycle. In an environment of longer-term services and performance contracts, there is increased recognition of the critical impact CCM has on economic and financial performance – overall operational cost, value retention and opportunities for revenue growth. The historic focus on audit and compliance is taking a back seat and speed, while remaining important, must be fully aligned with value. And the benefits? Analysis of comparative performance suggests potential margin improvements of 5-7%.

The WorldCC benchmark report was published on January 13th, 2022 and results were also presented in a webinar, conducted in partnership with leading technology provider Icertis. This is the first in a series of 10 industry reports that will be published over the next 10 weeks; #2 in the series will address Healthcare & Pharma and is due for release on January 24th.

It’s a New Year: how happy will it be?

I am neither a fortune-teller, nor a clairvoyant, but I do have extensive insights to the discipline of commercial and contract management and what the year ahead may hold for practitioners in this field.

After the shocks of 2020, many felt that 2021 must be better. In large part, they were wrong. It turned out to be a massively disrupted year and we enter 2022 with many in the CCM community recovering from unprecedented levels of operational workload. They suffered from the disjointed nature of the contracting process – often struggling to find agreements, or to gather required information; facing the frustration of data fragmentation and difficulties in accessing key stakeholders. The innate inefficiencies of current organizational and procedural design – and the absence of integrated technology – became all too evident, hampering efforts to deal effectively with continued market disruption, supply challenges and frequent contract renegotiations.

So this time, surely, 2022 cannot be worse?

The signs are mixed. Supply disruptions continue. Workforce availability – and skill shortages – are proving a persistent problem. Geopolitical insecurity is threatening world trade. And in its various forms, the pandemic continues. Yet uncertainty brings with it opportunities. WorldCC’s recent benchmark report highlights massive growth in executive interest and investment in raising contracting and commercial capabilities, since these are critical in managing market volatility. The research tells us that the focus for CCM must be:

  • Protecting against disruption
  • Better anticipating and managing risk
  • Operating at speed
  • Safeguarding revenue and growth

These objectives will be met through simplification – of process, of data flows, of artefacts such as contracts and governance frameworks. They demand a new blend of people and technology – a shift that is recognized and welcomed by many of today’s CCM practitioners.

So does this add up to a happy new year?

For those who dislike change, 2022 will be an unsettling year. For those that embrace change, 2022 will perhaps turn out to be the most satisfying year of their career.

Commercial ethics: reflections on a turbulent year

For many, 2021 has once again been a year like no other. Volatile, uncertain, emotionally and intellectually challenging. In future years, researchers looking back at how we reacted – the impacts on our societies, our values, the way we interact with each other – will observe the opportunists and the philanthropists, those who sought advantage and those who acted generously to others. But will they mark it as a turning point in human attitudes and behaviors?

It is in times like this that questions of ethics come to the fore – and commercial ethics are a critical element in overall well-being and recovery. There are some who have sought to profit, who have delighted in the disruption and their ability to add to it. I suspect historians will observe this in many of the supply shortages that have occurred. They may well comment also on the actions of the media, so often desperate to sensationalize, to spread alarm and despondency. The role of politicians – and geopolitics in particular – is also certain to come under scrutiny.

But what of the business world in general? Has this shared experience caused us to think and act differently? Will future generations look back and see a turning point, a shift from competition to cooperation, a new spirit of collaboration?

Back in April, at the World Commerce and Contracting Academic Symposium, Ugur Sahin (CEO of BioNTech and developer of the Pfizer vaccine) called on the commercial community to formulate a new model – a model for ‘trust based collaboration’. He drew on the experience of vaccine development, achieved in record time, to explain and extol the commercial framework that had been used to such positive effect.

So can we learn from the experiences of vaccine development? Does this provide us with a fresh perspective on the ethical and practical standards for commercial relationships, or was this just an aberration?

The CFO of Pfizer recently observed that the best deals are often those where there is no deal. In making this comment, he perhaps mirrored Ugur Sahin’s reflection that in a time of crisis, there is no room or place for contracts. Creative action demands a focus on discipline and structure, but not on issues of commercial precision and enforceability. Those come later, once there is sufficient certainty about outcomes. Hence, BioNTech and Pfizer established clear procedures for governance, but contracts came much later.

AstraZeneca and Oxford University followed a similar path, though with commercial principles in some ways more clearly defined. From the outset, they established that any vaccine they produced would be on a non-profit basis. With an average price of $4 (against Pfizer’s $20) and much lower distribution and storage costs, AstraZeneca have arguably contributed far more to the world than any other manufacturer. Their commercial ethos has extended to supporting production at scale in many of the world’s poorest countries, entering contracts and providing a full guidance toolkit to support rapid availability of vaccine. (At this time, the AstraZeneca vaccine is world leader in terms of production).

Yet AstraZeneca also gained headlines for a high profile contractual dispute with the European Commission. It may well be argued that the company was commercially naïve and fell foul of geopolitics, combined with agreeing to an inappropriate form of contract. In spite of all its altruistic endeavour, AstraZeneca has emerged (unfairly, in the view of many) with a mixed reputation – unlike others, who have actually made substantial windfall profits and seen a surging share price.

So what conclusions can we draw on the status of commercial morality and ethics? Might we be able to claim that business has become more socially aware, that the pandemic has perhaps enabled greater momentum for the ESG principles and an increased sense of moral obligation? The evidence for such a change is mixed. The political environment has, if anything, deteriorated. We have yet to see whether business practices have fundamentally altered, whether ‘collaboration’, to the extent it is occurring, is being driven by need, or by principle.

Within the commercial community, there are those who are genuinely inspired and inspiring others with the potential for new and better ways. New technologies enable the sort of transparency, visibility and – in some cases – anonymity that can turn good intent into practical reality. There are heart-warming examples where exploitation is being exposed, where lives and livelihoods truly are improving. In my work at the University of Leeds, I am encouraged and excited by the number of law students who are motivated to tackle injustice and create a fairer, more open society. At WorldCC, we observe growing interest and adoption of relational principles within contracting.

Times of turbulence generate change and changes are without question happening – but many are fragile. My hope for 2022 is that the commercial community raises its voice and promotes the ethical standards and supporting systems that alone can move us along the path to making trust-based collaboration a norm, rather than an exception.

Is Contract or Commercial Management a career?

This year’s Talent and Wellbeing Survey tells us that the answer for many is yes – and they enjoy their work. They find it challenging and feel that they are making a valuable contribution to their organization’s goals. A growing proportion also take their professional status seriously and recognize the importance of a formal certification.

But there is a ‘but’ ….

Thirteen percent are unhappy with their role and position and sixteen percent (that’s one in six) plan to leave their current role in the next six months. With 65% seeing the job market as either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, it appears unlikely that they will have too much difficulty finding an alternative.

What is it that drives people to move? The overwhelming reason is a sense of poor opportunities for career growth and training within their current employer. Indeed, 40% say that developing their career depends on moving.

‘The Great Resignation’

There is nothing in the survey results so far to indicate that there is ‘a great resignation’ among the Contracts and Commercial Management community. The data regarding plans to change job is , if anything, showing a slight decline relative to past years. One reason for this may be that executive management is showing much greater interest and appreciation for the importance of the role. ‘Feeling loved’ has a big impact on retention.

One thing that has been impacted by the pandemic is the extent to which most people want – indeed demand – flexible working. A clear majority say they would not work somewhere that did not offer this and it is the number one thing that they value about their current job – surpassing even salary and compensation.

Into the future

The CCM community appears confident that it is developing the skills needed for the future – although many also show concern over their employer’s limited investment in training. And when evaluating the areas of competence that will be most important, many appear to be at odds with expert predictions. One thing that they do recognize – and even welcome – is the ability to work increasingly with technology. Two-thirds are eager for tools and systems – most likely because they see it addressing the thing they most dislike about their job: the volume of administrative tasks.

The WorldCC Talent and Wellbeing Survey remains open for input and is gathering a wide range of data to assist individuals and employers in better understanding the current state of Contract & Commercial Management. The report (to be issued in January 2022) will provide insight to personal development and wider issues of talent growth, retention and recruitment.

What’s happening to salaries?

“We just can’t find the right people.”

In conversation after conversation, executives tell me they are struggling to fill posts and retain staff in their commercial teams. One consequence is that salaries are increasing – and benefit packages being re-evaluated. In the United States, I am hearing about 30% being a ‘normal’ level of salary escalation. In the UK, the number seems to be more conservative – perhaps 20%.

Complete the 2021 WorldCC salary survey and test your position here.

But before we all get carried away, it is important to check the details. These increases are far from universal. They apply to people with some critical skills, or perhaps those who exhibit the ability to re-skill, fast. While the basic attributes of good procurement staff, lawyers and contract / commercial managers are in relatively high demand, it is those who bring demonstrable value to the demands of today’s fast-changing markets who command a premium.

So who are those ‘special people’? Certainly those with the know-how to support a shift to digitization are among the elite. Not surprisingly, very few have that experience on their resume. Similarly, people who demonstrate a history of delivering value (versus negotiated savings) are prominent – especially in an environment where Procurement teams are fighting not for cost reductions, but to limit cost increases. Strong, proven supply chain skills are at a premium, especially if they demonstrate an understanding of how to reduce supply risk and develop supplier loyalty.

On the sell-side, value delivery is also high on the agenda, especially when combined with experience of more complex or innovative delivery models – for example, outcome and performance-based agreements. Being able to demonstrate strong client relationship skills is also increasingly a plus.

Ultimately, the big money is going to those who can demonstrate their contribution to rapid change and an ability to cope with market volatility. Commercial capability is under stress in many organizations. They are moving fast to streamline data flows, introduce new contract models, improve cross-functional collaboration and develop more adaptive market relationships – and they need people who can help them get there.

The WorldCC 2021 salary survey is providing insight to these trends and showing us which industries and geographic regions are leading the way. If you want to understand more – or test where you stand in the salary ranks – complete the survey at Please note that at this time, the survey is focused on a limited set of countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States) – others will follow shortly.

Under pressure: what are the barriers to improved contracting?

In the push for increased speed, adaptability and value, the contracting process is often a stand-out in resisting change. Indeed, the 2021 Benchmark Study from World Commerce and Contracting reveals that average cycle times for contract closure have actually increased over the last two years.

The role of lawyers

Many factors contribute to this apparent inertia. Some studies point the finger squarely at in-house legal teams and their resistance to change. Recent studies by EY are reinforced by thought-leaders such as Mark Cohen, Chair of the Digital Legal Exchange, who exhorts lawyers to truly become part of the business by embracing participation in multi-functional teams. Others highlight that the legal profession’s view of ‘innovation’ would, for others, represent minor incremental improvement.

Unearthing the truth

In a current study, World Commerce and Contracting digs into the question of whether barriers between legal teams and ‘the business’ are breaking down. Traditionally, it is true that many in-house groups tended to behave more like a captive law firm than ‘just another business function’ and there’s little question that where this arm’s-length behavior persists, it impacts the efficiency and effectiveness of the contracting process. But with the advent of new technologies and the growth of Legal Operations, has that changed? 

A spotlight on both legal AND business practice

The survey will reveal the views and experiences of both lawyers and non-lawyers in how effectively they work together. Importantly, the results will highlight areas where there may be opportunities for improvement – on both sides. For all the criticisms of legal, there is also plenty of evidence to suggest that the business often engages the legal team too late and provides incomplete or inaccurate information. ‘Team play’ has to work in both directions.

So wherever you sit in the business, share your experiences by participating here. In return, you’ll receive an advance copy of the report and a personal invitation to a webinar where we will discuss the results. 

The 22 year journey

September 1999. The summer intern had left. Alone, staring at a computer screen with a rudimentary website to keep me company. A handful of supporters, no income and just a belief that this was a journey that mattered, that the world would benefit from commercial and contract management becoming recognized disciplines.

It was thus that the journey began. Twenty two years ago, IACCM had its official launch in a small shared office in Armonk, New York. I bought a cake to celebrate. No one came – so I ate it all. I’d had no ambition to develop or run a not-for-profit membership association. It was not part of my life plan. But I knew from 25 years of business experience just how much value business and society could gain from the professionalization of commercial and contract management. And the more push-back I received, the more determined I became.

Now, 22 years on, it is so gratifying that this week I have received hundreds of messages on LinkedIn from friends, colleagues, members and even a few complete strangers acknowledging the journey. I reflect on how I have felt ….. at times exhausted, at moments downhearted, but each day uplifted by the small advances, achievements and those I’ve met along the way. It’s the knowledge of helping someone, of making new discoveries, of looking back and realizing just how far we have travelled, how many places we have been and lives we have touched ……

It’s a journey that never ends. There are always new discoveries to be made, new recruits to train, new methods to promote. But it is no longer a lonely journey, no longer just a few voices seeking to find their audience. With the top consultancies all promoting the discipline, with a fast growing body of academic support, with increasing media attention, the original mission has been fulfilled. Commercial and Contract Management are disciplines and those who adopt them are reaping the rewards.

This month, I step back from being a full-time employee of IACCM (now World Commerce & Contracting). I remain President and continue to contribute to research, training and member engagement, but now in a consulting capacity. My belief and enthusiasm, my wish to serve the CCM community, remain undimmed, but the continuing journey is benefitting from fresher legs, from embarking in new directions and climbing higher peaks.

I have many wonderful memories and there are more to come. Thank you to everyone who has joined me on this journey. You have given it purpose and made it not simply worthwhile, but truly a pleasure.

Salaries, benefits and the impact of the pandemic

For many, remuneration has been a bit of a see-saw ride in the last 18 months. From pay cuts to sign-on bonuses, from furlough and job losses to skilled labor shortages ….. market volatility and uncertainty have been as much present in the field of salaries and benefits as they have in broader business turbulence.

So what does this mean to commercial professionals – those in the fields of legal, supply management, procurement, sales contracting and contract management? Have those who experienced cuts seen their salaries restored? Are employers treating ‘work from home’ as a benefit? Is there evidence that labor shortages are reflecting in wage increases?

World Commerce and Contracting is renowned for keeping its members up-to-date with the latest trends and developments – and salary data is no exception. We are seeing growing divergence across industries and, to some extent, between job roles. In some cases, we also see greater opportunity for employees to tailor their package with a more flexible mix of salary and benefits, especially in areas such as home versus office working.

If you want insight to how your pay and conditions compare to others, or to where the best remunerated opportunities lie, participate in the 2021 Salary & Benefits Survey (please note, this year the data is being gathered at a country level and at this time surveys are open for Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the US and the UK).

SRM: should it be taken seriously?

In a World Commerce & Contracting poll, more than 80% of business executives said that Supplier Relationship Management is an ‘important’ or ‘essential’ discipline. That’s perhaps not surprising, given the continuing headlines about supply chain disruption and shortages. Gaining better insight and control over supply, becoming a priority customer, even better understanding the next threat, are understandable priorities.

But when executives talk about ‘a discipline’, does that immediately translate to a specific role or business function? Is there a readiness – or perceived longer-term need – to invest in building capability? 

A readiness to invest 

The answer appears to be yes, since a little over 60% of those executives indicate that they either have or are about to expand capability. However, the route to improvement varies. Many associates improved discipline with better integrated technology and more robust data exchange. For them, digitization is key. Yet even those who see this as the way forward recognize the critical role that people will play – whether that’s analysts to make sense of the data, or relationship managers to build increased collaboration with the supply base, or process designers to ensure organizational and systems coherence.

How can we move SRM forward?

With the sense of urgency that these findings imply, why is SRM not more widely recognized and adopted? Several factors appear to be at play:

– for many, the role and purpose of SRM remains poorly defined.  Piecemeal SRM or “figuring it out along the way”, is not SRM and certainly does not provide ‘a discipline’.

– as a cross-organizational discipline, attempts to develop SRM capability often fall foul of internal politics; teams lack the skills to define ownership and manage the collaboration.

– very few people have received meaningful training to lead or perform SRM activities;

– in the absence of clarity or training, many see moving into an SRM role as risky. It may look interesting, but where will it lead?

At World Commerce and Contracting, we work with a growing number of groups to make sense of this confusion. We were well positioned to act, having developed a body of knowledge supported by skills assessment and certification standards almost 10 years ago – the first such program in the world, backed by solid research.

The path ahead

Today, we see the SRM discipline evolving to ensure delivery of value and control through the integration of contracts, relationships and governance. The combination of these three elements provides a coherent and consistent mechanism to work with key suppliers for mutual gain. However, while better systems are an important contributor, it is a consistent body of knowledge, drawing on proven methods and techniques, that is proving critical to success. This is true whether or not capability is developed through dedicated personnel, or as an adjunct to existing responsibilities.

Is there an ROI? The answer is clearly yes. Well-managed SRM has been shown to deliver significant cost benefits through improved market control and grasping opportunities for improvement. Today, as the poll of executives revealed, the benefits go further. They are increasingly focused on building strong, open and collaborative relationships, mitigating risks through improved problem-solving and identifying potential for innovation. 

In response to the market’s urgent need for low-cost, rapid and highly interactive learning, World Commerce & Contracting have supplemented their self-paced SRM training and certification with a new facilitated program see details at