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Commercial Managers in the digital age: keys to success

August 22, 2019

At its heart, commercial management is about grasping the big picture, seeing connections, developing practical solutions. On one level – the availability of information – the digital age is streamlining and simplifying the commercial manager’s role. On many others, it is potentially making it more complicated, or at least very different from the past.

What are the issues?

A recent book put it like this: “Complex trends in globalization, demographic shifts, and new technologies are raising urgent challenges for managers on an everyday level. Because of the number of companies undergoing digital transformation, managers need to navigate an intense speed-to-market landscape while juggling virtual teams within and sometimes outside their organization“.

And this means ….

Commercial managers must not only identify the risks and challenges from this fast-moving environment, but also – and this is critical – innovate, offer creative solutions. Fundamental questions in a digital world are how to innovate, develop new ideas; how to influence and gain insight from both physical and virtual teams; how to communicate and drive change across extended ecosystems. In themselves, the questions are not new. It is the scale and speed that makes things different.

Keys to success

A growing volume of research points to the critical role of communication style and ‘managing your network’. High performing commercial managers unite teams around a clear and shared sense of purpose – not just what they are trying to achieve, but why. They generate an environment where ideas and positive challenge are welcomed and where collaboration is understood, expected and achieved. They are comfortable operating across extended networks, internal and external, both to gather information and achieve results.

At the same time as the digital world imposes these demands, its effective use also makes it possible. Today, there is no excuse for being information deprived; there is no excuse for failing to establish connected networks; there is no excuse for failing to master diverse communication techniques; there is no excuse for lacking self-awareness and influencing skills. These are simply critical attributes for a Commercial Manager.

Communication – the final barrier

Finally, what about communication style and content? As recent conference delegates know, this is an area where IACCM has been doing a lot of research. Working with academics at UC Irvine, we have examined a large number of ‘commercial’ personnel – lawyers, contract and procurement managers. Many are not today exhibiting the critical communication style required to be a commercial leader or influencer. Rather than projecting themselves as enablers, they are seen as ‘preventers’ – safeguarding what we already have, rather than enabling opportunities for the future.

Not everyone wants to be a Commercial Manager, but for those who do it is critical that they understand and grasp the implications and needs of working in the digital age. A good place to start is in shifting personal and team image by challenging and, where necessary, changing what and how we communicate.

IACCM offers its members tools to analyze current communication style and provides methods to establish the new approaches needed for individual and functional growth.

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