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Contracts & Stress

December 17, 2012

IACCM surveys have revealed growing stress on the part of many contracts and commercial staff.

There are a number of factors contributing to this situation and they vary somewhat between organizations. For example:

1) The general economic uncertainty affects many, but not all, member companies. Some are struggling to maintain revenues and in many there is unrelenting pressure to cut costs.

2) The struggle to retain market share while at the same time cutting costs can bear heavily on contract and commercial groups, since they are under pressure to find ways to support new business while at the same time performing with no addditional resource. Across the board, most legal, commercial and contract management teams indicate steady increases in workload.

3) As at any time of pressure, management is unrelenting in its questions over value and its expectations of ‘doing more with less’. For some groups this has led to major changes in role, status or process. They feel threatened and insecure.

4) An on-going problem is the feeling in many practitioners that they lack strong functional leadership. Many heads of function appear to have reached their position because they were excellent dealmakers or practitioners; that does not necessarily equip them well for the politics of senior management. A large proportion of staff feel their leaders lack the strategic insight and networking skills to keep them safe.

These concerns are by no means limited to the contracts and commercial community. Studies related to most business functions reveal similar insecurities about the future. Many argue that we are on the brink of fundamental realignments in business organization and that these stresses are inevitable.

Should the contracting community be especially nervous? I think that they are right to worry about their strategic positioning and the understanding by senior management of their value. But I think they should be optimistic about the future, so long as they grasp the importance of developing a clear vision and message associated with the delivery of that value. Right now, there is too little commitment to raising professional standards or doing the things that ensure the function’s competitiveness in such a dynamic business environment.

So for a New Year resolution, I would be determiend to invest in my own future (i.e. become certified, participate in working groups, expand my network and visibility);  I would be pushing functional management to develop and explain the strategy for contracts and commercial excellence; and finally, if I felt that my company simply would not progress, I would be researching those organizations where the role is understood and valued. There are plenty of them – and stress is not inevitable!

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