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Commercial Management is an anti-profession

February 21, 2020

Let’s face it, professions are both good and bad. They create standards and promote integrity. But they also introduce restrictions and delays.

Professions have a long history and they exist in part to protect the public interest. However, professions were also formed to protect their own interests – to limit competition, to hoard know-how or expertise.

In the business world, professions have been supplemented by functions and specialisms. Each of them in turn brings the benefit of deep knowledge, and the challenge of protectionism. Research suggests that many of these specialisms will be replaced by automation and artificial intelligence systems. That research also points to the emergence of ‘the integrator’ – a role long espoused by IACCM and at the heart of its training programs.

Why does it matter?

A consequence of specialism is complexity. Business decisions mostly require multi-dimensional input. It becomes challenging to gather that input when it is scattered across multiple expert groups, each of which often has its own systems and data which only they can access or understand. And even when the input has been gathered, it must be reconciled – for example, how do the views of sales, legal, finance, engineering, supply chain etc. stack up against the business requirement or market need?

Recinciliation of stakeholder views and needs lies at the core of commercial management. It is the disciplined process through which a need or opportunity is evaluated. As such, it is an integrationist role, supporting decision-making on matters of policy and practice and in the context of individual projects or contracts.

But it doesn’t exist

It is true to say that this integrationist role is largely absent in many organizations. And that is why so many executives feel challenged by uncertainty and disruption. Modern business desperately needs the emergence of individuals who have the competence to orchestrate across specialisms and develop commercially viable solutions. They must be adaptive, risk aware, opportunity focused, committed to continuous personal development and focused on enabling others, rather than competing with them.

So if training is required, isn’t Commercial Management just another profession in the making? Perhaps; but I think of it more as a discipline because it is a field that welcomes entrants from many backgrounds and perspectives. It is a broad and inclusive community that embraces change and encourages new ideas. And this is what makes it a disruptive force, challenging the long-held beliefs and practices of established professions.

CEOs and CFOs don’t want more professions and specialists; they want people and systems who cut across and make sense of them.



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