Skip to content

Contract Management – Career or Dead-end?

August 24, 2010

An IACCM member recently posted this question and suggested I might want to pursue the topic with a blog.

“I am looking for some perspectives on what career options are available for someone who has gained substantial experience in sell-side Contracts & Commercial Management. As an example, it is fairly well known that management consultants have the option of moving to industry & assuming senior positions within buyer industries.

A few mentors I have spoken to, regard Commercial / Contracts management as a fairly specialised field, and tend to recommmend not to become specialised early on in one’s career, especially in this climate. I do not entirely agree with this view, but if you can share your perspectives that will be helpful.”

I am going to start my comments with the optimists view. In my opinion, Commercial / Contract management is one of those rare areas that is both specialist and generalist. It can lead to a career path within the field – or generate openings elsewhere. The great thing about the role is that it offers extensive insights to many areas of the business and can generate significant exposure to senior management. The training this offers to high-performers is that they may rise up the ranks of the commercial function, or perhaps have the chance to branch into general management roles, such as business development or senior business unit positions, even business unit leadership. In an era when everyone is being pushed towards deeper and deeper professional specialization, contracts / commercial professionals have the best of both worlds – they can become a specialist in their own field, but in so doing maintain wide knowledge and contacts within many others (finance, legal, operations, marketing, channel management etc.) and thereby have options elsewhere.

Now to the counter-view. What I have written depends very much on how the organization regards the commercial /c ontracts role. If it is in fact more focused on compliance and has very limited strategic importance, it may indeed be a route to nowhere – at least within that company. If the scope is only to implement and administer other people’s rules, then it is not going to be seen by senior management as a ‘high contribution’ role and that will indeed be constraining. So the talented individual either needs to change the perception (by shifting the contribution and status of the function) or escape – either to another function or to another company.

I suspect the mentors in this case perceive the role in the latter light.

More generally, it is worthy of note that most commercial / contracts professionals enjoy their job, though a high proportion feel that their functional leadership is not sufficiently active in promoting the role. A high proportion also plan to stay in the role, though of course today many have entered from other groups – we still lack a high ratio of graduate entrants.

At IACCM, we know we have some way to go before there is universal recognition of the ‘professional status’ of a commercial / contracts manager. And it is this status that tends to lead to robust career path opportunities. But so long as you are in a company where there is respect for the role and real opportunity to contribute and make a difference, then I think it is rarely a dead-end job. If the openings within the function don’t appear, there are many instances of talented individuals moving to very senior roles because of the excellent grounding and experience they gained in their commercial role.

Many, like me, fall in love with the role .. and even if they move out of it for a while, find the lure of returing too hard to resist.

I look forward to other views and comments …..

  1. Amit Kapoor permalink

    Thanks Tim, this is helpful. Specifically, I found the optimist’s view very insightful.

  2. Karsten Kuske permalink

    Reading this, I found myself resp. my own career. C&C Management is NOT a dead end, it offers a wide field of possibilities to those who want to work in this area. I´m glad that, after one year of “absence”, I had the possibility to return to Contracts Management.

  3. Excellent Post! Thank you for sharing. In my opinion, for those who work in the public/government sector, they are likely to end up with “more focused on compliance” because government procurements are heavily regulated. That is a generalization, of course.

  4. Chris permalink

    Thanks for this!
    I just got offered a contract manager role in a large music and trying to weigh up the benefits, this has really helped me!

    Thank you!

  5. Chris, I’m glad it has been helpful. The role continues to grow – let me know how you get on!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: