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How does your team stack up?

September 14, 2020

Twenty-five years ago, I was leading a project at the IBM Corporation to develop a worldwide contracting process. The world was in a state of turmoil, with new technologies breaking down boundaries and geopolitical change challenging established norms.

At IBM, we knew that we had to change – and we had to do it fast. The market was demanding products and services that would equip them for this altered environment. Our management systems, our measurement and reward systems, our internal technology – the Corporation faced a need for fundamental transformation.

The role of contracts …. and the contracting community

Until that time, contracts had been designed to support local markets. Transactions occurred at a country level. Processes and resources were also developed locally. So even as we rapidly re-engineered our contract terms and models, we still faced a critical challenge – the people to support them. Back then, we did not even know who those people were, whether they actually existed. It took months to explore how contracts were assembled, negotiated and managed in the different operational teams around the world. And even when we had found those answers, we had no insight to levels of skill or knowledge.

That is where a formal Competency Assessment became critical. We had to develop a consistent definition of the skills and knowledge we considered critical. We had to develop a tool to assess the community of people performing contract and commercial roles. We needed to understand the extent, nature and geographic variability in strengths and weaknesses. Only then could we start to design and build a worldwide team capable of supporting the business.

Making your team stack up

The re-engineering project was a massive success. It equipped IBM with a high-performing contracts and negotiations function that was an important pillar in its survival and growth in those uncertain and demanding times.

My learning from that time was put to use a few years later, with the formation of IACCM (now World Commerce & Contracting). The Association developed a world-leading approach to Competency Management, not only drawing form that experience at IBM, but with the added ability to provide in-depth benchmarks. Today, an organization can undertake the skills and knowledge assessment, it can identify relative strengths and weaknesses across its team – and it can also make comparison with the outside world, answering questions like ‘How do my negotiators stack up against industry norms?’ or ‘How diverse is the knowledge and experience of my commercial team against those of our top competitors?’

Insights such as this create a true capability to ensure that your team stacks up. It informs talent development and acquisition. It supports targeted investment in training. It enables monitoring of progress. In the words of one Vice-President of a large contract management team: “The skill-set upgrade initiative is based on talent scouting/hiring, investments in training, and the World Commerce & Contracting certification program.  We have been using the World Commerce & Contracting Competency Management Program for the purpose of comparing our contract managers against the market.  Whilst I am fully aware of potential constraints, it is the best model we could think of and has helped big time to show the needs and the progress in terms of people investments to our senior management.”

We are once again in turbulent times, with boundaries shifting and a need for highly adaptable people and systems. In the context of these demanding conditions, how does your team stack up? And how do you, as an individual, stack up? World Commerce & Contracting provides its members – both individual and corporate – with the ability to discover the answers.

Starting September 14th, the World Commerce & Contracting TASK program addresses the topic ‘How do you and your team stack up?’ 

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