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The good, the bad …. and the future

September 26, 2016

4294899_thbIs it really 17 years?

This week I was taken by surprise when messages of congratulation started flooding in. They were a reminder that it is 17 years since IACCM was incorporated, with a mission to put contract and commercial management ‘on the map’.

So how have we done? In those early days, many were skeptical that anyone would care. Today, with 40,000 members representing some 14,000 different organizations, we can probably say that we proved them wrong. Others insisted that there was no point because the role was ‘fundamentally different’ in every industry, as well as every jurisdiction. Once again, with members in 164 countries and from every industry, I think we can assume they were mistaken.

Today, there is an established ‘body of knowledge’, globally available training programs, a respected professional certification standard and vibrant member networks, on-line and physical. A fast-growing research base has taken contract and commercial management from a mysterious craft to an acknowledged discipline. Organizations and individuals consciously strive for excellence, appreciating the value this discipline brings to their business. So can we now rest and say, after 17 years, ‘Mission accomplished’? Far from it – in my view, it is a journey just begun, with so much more it can deliver.

In both business and government, there is demand for commercial innovation and excellence – yet far too little supply of individuals with the necessary skills and thought-processes. Both contract and commercial management remain starved of the right technology. While internal enterprise activities have been automated and streamlined, the same cannot be said of inter-enterprise relationships. And IACCM benchmarks continue to show the challenge of establishing accountability for contract and commercial capabilities.

By their nature, contract and commercial management span multiple disciplines. They are activities that integrate – and therefore have no natural home in the typical corporate structure. That is why they report to so many different places and often lack an executive champion or sponsor. It is therefore ironic when top management complains about the lack of ‘commercial excellence’ or ‘contract management competence’. The answer to this is in many ways in their own hands, yet they fail to make the appointments or the investments needed. And as our research shows, that failure incurs real costs and results in the loss of real opportunities.

So there is still some way to go on this particular journey. I hope to report a real acceleration of progress when we hit our 20th birthday – and I am looking forward to many more joining the party!

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