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Collaborating across boundaries

October 16, 2017

Trading relationships often involve multiple parties whose support and alignment is critical to success. Achieving that support and alignment depends on empathy – an understanding and appreciation of their point of view (whether or not we agree with it).

Last week, IACCM held its 16th annual Americas conference, bringing together groups that represent four of the key stakeholders in every significant trading relationship – lawyers, project managers, contracts and commercial and procurement professionals. The spirit of collaboration was palpable. Newcomers especially were amazed at the openness and inclusive behaviors, commenting on the positive, ‘can-do’ atmosphere.

So what makes it different?

For an event to succeed, it requires a shared sense of purpose that goes beyond simple networking. The IACCM conference enables conversations between people who would not normally meet each other outside a negotiation. With its focus on ‘trading relationships’, they rapidly find a uniting topic, something that all of them care about and consider important.

I am going to highlight three of my observations from the event – three factors that helped build this spirit of togetherness.

  1. Each of the functional groups is facing similar pressure to increase delivery of measurable value. This means a need to expand their role and thinking – and to achieve this, building bridges between each other is an obvious way to generate more creative, more successful solutions and outcomes.
  2. At this event, even more strongly than in the past, there was a clear consensus that the approach to formation and management of trading relationships is changing. The integration of ‘the contract’ and ‘the relationship’ lay at the heart of many presentations and case studies, with focus shifting to the terms that support improved governance, greater adaptability and proactive performance management.
  3. There is a new enthusiasm and belief in the opportunities that lie ahead of us – in particular from new and emerging technologies. With ContractTech a major feature of the event, delegates were given multiple insights to an exciting future, where the quality of data will enable a shift of role and business influence.

For several years, IACCM research has pointed to the scale of value erosion that comes from weaknesses in the way we form and manage contracts. While a few organizations have picked up on this and driven significant improvements, most have not. Suddenly, the reticence is disappearing; there is a real belief that a focus on ‘relationship resource planning’ can yield the next big wave of savings – and that the IACCM community, with its ‘collaboration across boundaries’, will be at the heart of the movement that drives these benefits.

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