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Commercial & Contract Management: 18 years and counting

This week I have been overwhelmed by messages of congratulation for IACCM’s 18th birthday. It is a stark contrast to 1999, when I recall one of the more encouraging comments was: “It’s been tried before. It’ll never work.” Today, with over 40,000 members, from more than 16,000 organizations in 165 countries, I think we can confidently conclude that the pessimists were wrong. Indeed, it seems safe to say that commercial and contract management are flourishing.

Eighteen years ago, the formation of IACCM was indeed a leap of faith, but that faith was based on an evident shift in business need. The forces of globalization – and in particular the spread of networked technology – had created conditions that demanded greater standardization and simplification of commercial policies, practices and procedures. The contracting process – and contracts themselves – stood out as a major barrier for global business, with traditional multi-national companies operating through relatively independent country subsidiaries and unable to enter into multi-country commitments.

Those conditions also revealed the fragmented and inconsistent nature of contract and commercial skills. There was no consistent training, no underlying body of knowledge. The jobs and skill sets – if they existed at all – were largely undefined, except within a single company.

It took 3 years to gather more than 1,000 members. It was 5 years before IACCM had any paid staff. Still the overwhelming view was that the organization could not survive. Yet steadily, with the strong support and enthusiasm of a dedicated band of believers, the pace of growth accelerated.

Today, the conviction that got us started continues to shine through. Indeed, I believe that we are entering a second and even more fundamental phase of relevance, not only to business, but to society as a whole. This time it is the digital world that is the transforming force. User-based systems, social media, advanced analytics – these are forces that demand a new wave of fundamental simplification in commercial practices and in contract formation. Trust in business, trust in institutions is at a premium. To respond to social and political demands, both public and private sector must operate with increased commercial transparency and using methods – such as contracts – that engender confidence and understanding, rather than distrust and confusion.

Who will lead this new wave of change? For me, the answer is clear. Just as in 1999 a small band of believers led fundamental change in contract and commercial practices, so the next few years will see an expanded band leading the way in creating a framework for successful trading relationships. While many traditional roles may be challenged by the emerging global forces, those in contract and commercial management will adapt and prosper as those agents of change.

My thanks and gratitude go to all those who have been on the journey with us over the last 18 years. Today, the Association is strong, with a dedicated and talented staff, a focused and enthusiastic Board and a myriad of ambassadors among its members. I look forward to welcoming many more over the years ahead, because the journey has only just begun. At 18, IACCM has just come of age – the best is yet to be!

Join us today – become part of the IACCM family at http://www.iaccm.com

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