Helping public purchasers enhance their skills
The International Association for Contract and Commercial Management (IACCM) enables organizations and professionals to achieve world-class standards in their trading relationships. The IACCM, based in Ridgefield, Conn., provides thought leadership, training, research, advisory services and networking opportunities to public procurement professionals, contracting managers, directors and other officials in public- and private sectors. Memberships are available to organizations, individuals and vendors.
It’s crucial for public procurement directors to have great contract management skills, says Peggy Chang Barber, IACCM’s Regional CEO Americas and Global General Counsel. “As public services increasingly depend on external suppliers, the public sector desperately needs leaders who grasp the wider view of performance and have the competence to select and manage supply outcomes,” Barber says. She explains that failed programs within the contracting lifecycle typically result not from problems with the core procurement process, but from weaknesses in supplier selection and supplier performance management.
Great contract management skills must be accompanied by great category management and strategic sourcing skills, as well as supplier relationship management skills, Barber tells Co-op Solutions. “These three areas of strategy, contracting and relationship management create a synergistic solution which yields the greatest return of value for those who integrate them as a holistic approach.”
Barber says it’s key that professionals keep their contract management skills current. “Those skills must be geared towards success in 2022 and not 2002.
The public sector is leading the way in innovation, Barber says; this fact, she says, has been uncovered through IACCM research. “Collaborative and relational contracting models have seen significant adoption rates in the public sector. Outcome- and performance-based contracting have also experienced great traction in the public sector.” In the meantime, she says the private sector has replicated many of the key performance indicators and contracting incentives that have been put in place in public sector contracts. “These innovations can help eliminate redundancies in workloads and process steps, as well as elevate the role of contract management in the delivery of success.”
IACCM helps government contract managers at both practical and inspirational levels, Barber says. “We show them what is possible for themselves and their organization, whether through training and certification, better management of bids and strategic transactions, or driving fundamental change in their organization.”
IACCM’s Supplier Relationship Management certification program, for instance, has produced a new breed of contract manager who understands both the contracting and the post-award supplier relationship management practices that can lead to successful outcomes, Barber says.
IACCM also supports contract standards development. These can include developing clause libraries, simplifying agreements and supporting digitization. The group has advised on new organizational and operating models, as well as benchmarking of policies and practices across agencies and jurisdictions. “We help government contract managers deliver superior business results for their organization and achieve personal recognition for their contribution and knowledge,” Barber says.
Whether or not government contract managers have adequate staff to complete needed tasks depends on several factors, Barber says. She believes one fact to keep in mind is that the public sector handles many of the most complex and innovative programs. “So to keep pace, contract managers need support. Has automation been properly designed and implemented? Is there sufficient delegation? Is the contracting process creating avoidable complexity?” She says IACCM has helped its members answer many questions like these.
To boost productivity, Barber says contract managers need to determine the best way to integrate IT and automated systems into their operations. “Automation, ranging from optical character recognition software to artificial intelligence, represents a new challenge and opportunity.”
Barber says government contract managers are not keeping up with their workloads in 2019, and that problem is not unique to government.
She says increasing workloads and crisis management is a widespread problem and will only be addressed through a change in approach and the adoption of new technologies. “Contract management is running behind many other functional areas in this regard, so it is truly important that we tackle this issue. We must recognize that working harder is not the answer; we must work differently and leverage automation.”
In order to harness the power of automation, organizations need to ensure they are aligned with broader strategic goals and policies, not simply automating old ways of working, Barber tells Co-op Solutions. “This requires contract managers to be willing to change how they approach their workload. The fact that contract managers are overloaded will hopefully lead to acknowledgement that change and investment are needed.”
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County and the GPN web site. Contact: [email protected]