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Contract & Commercial Management: A Year In Review

December 31, 2015

No matter where you look, the need for greater competence in contract and commercial management is obvious. Whether it is through the comments of leading business publications or the statements of top management and politicians, the days when these disciplines were either ignored or pushed into the background are fast coming to a close.

The Economist, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, McKinsey, E&Y, KPMG, Deloitte, PwC – the list goes on and on. Each of them, at different times and in different ways, has highlighted the critical role of commercial and contract management skills in assessing markets, defining capabilities, establishing commitments and overseeing performance. It is not hard to see why: 2015 has witnessed continued trends towards a world defined by outcomes and outputs, an environment where reputation matters, where non-compliance carries a heavy cost – while failure to innovate and change brings decline and eventual collapse.

New businesses are being built through the economy of ideas and commercial innovation. Emerging markets are awakening to their urgent need for the contract and commercial skills needed to flourish on the world stage. Yet the leading economies are recognizing the same issue, as they seek to promote the growth of small and medium business and to redefine delivery of public services through contracted relationships.

All this comes together in highlighting the shortage of relevant skills. It is revealing the absence of trained personnel and the fact that ‘commercial staff’ (lawyers, procurement, contract management, finance) are far too limited in their understanding or empathy with commercial issues. There has been growing urgency in addressing these issues of organizational and individual competence.

For IACCM, the only Association focused in these combined fields, it has been a remarkable year. The confluence of trends has been met with the launch of the Journal of Strategic Contracting & Negotiation (JSCAN), the first ever academic publication in this field; it has seen the running of two ‘Massive Open Online Courses’ (MOOCS), attracting almost 40,000 students; it has been supported by the growth and enhancement of IACCM’s learning programs and training syllabus, as well as the Association’s continued entry into global markets, with participation now from more than 160 countries.

What this year has shown us is that there are remarkable opportunities for individuals and organizations that excel in their contract and commercial skills. IACCM’s industry studies clearly show that investment in these areas delivers a substantial return – financial, reputational and in the management of change. My next blog – 2016: A Year In Prospect – will explore the implications for the year ahead.

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