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Project and Contract Management

May 24, 2016

Do we complement each other, or do we compete?

On May 22nd, the UK’s Sunday Times carried a major feature highlighting the growing importance of projects and their management. It rightly highlighted the fact that traditional purchasing of goods is giving way to the purchase of results, of outcomes. This trend is further enhanced by continued outsourcing of business operations and service delivery.

The value of projects is supposed to increase by more than 50% – or $18 trillion – over the next few years, creating nearly 16 million new jobs (though it strikes me that many of these will be replacement jobs, not new). The article implies many of these roles will be as ‘project managers’ – in other words, coordinators of the activities needed to deliver valuable contract and project outcomes.

So what are the implications of this to contract managers? Does it represent additional opportunity, or potential elimination?

I think we need to look at this from several angles. First, it has been my belief for almost 30 years that any ambitious contract manager needs basic training in the principles of project management. The disciplines associated with project management are applicable to the assembly of a contract, especially the coordination across multiple stakeholders. Second, project managers need similar awareness of contracts (as project management tools) and broader commercial issues (since these are what frequently undermines their project). With some exceptions, there appears to be little interest or understanding on the part of project managers that these are valuable areas of knowledge or expertise. Third, commercial complexity and volatility shows every sign of continuing to increase over the years ahead, demanding resources capable of anticipating, coordinating and managing the results. Fourth, I very much doubt that we will see the emergence of a new breed of ‘multi-functional’ experts, capable of managing every aspect of a complex project, from inception of opportunity to close-out.

What I expect is that our increasingly automated age will still require cross-disciplinary coordinators. It is subject experts who will suffer the greatest attrition, steadily replaced by knowledge systems. So it may be that project managers (primarily technical coordination skills) and contract managers (primarily commercial skills) will increasingly partner and perhaps share accountability for successful project delivery.  


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