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Amsterdam has more than red lights

May 15, 2012

I spent the last two days in Amsterdam, participating in the SSON conference, along with a variety of other meetings.

The week has been very much oriented towards discussions with Procurement – and has yielded further evidence of a strong trend towards contract and relationship management skills. It began with a negotiations workshop, in which I was highlighting the things that typically go wrong in business relationships and the fact that many of these ‘problem areas’ do not make the risk register, and therefore are inadequately addressed in the contract. The group was not large, but there was lively discussion and wide recognition that the focus of negotiation needs to shift in order to drive better results. We explored subjects such as the timing of involvement, the definition of scope and goals, approaches to change management and communications.

Contracts must better support the uncertainties and volatility of business needs and market conditions. Essentially, they need to move from the rigidity of being a red ‘stop’ light, to offering clearer routes to the management of alternative routes. This was further reinforced by a number of other discussions, in particular with a representative of the Dutch public sector, who emphasized that contracts and relationships should reflect the need for greater transparency and the ability to adjust to shifts in user requirements. He cited examples of the unexpected adjustments that are needed due to changes in operating conditions or public expectations; our contracts and negotiations ought to make improved allowance for these. I will cover a number of these interesting challenges in detail in further blogs this week.


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