It’s not uncommon for business functions to lay claim to ownership or proficiency in another domain – but that doesn’t make it right.
In the case of contract management, the procurement, legal and project management functions are among those who assert it is ‘theirs’, that it is in some way a sub-set of what they do. That is, they make that claim until things go wrong – at which point it conveniently becomes someone else’s fault.
I am making these observations because people frequently question whether contract management is a discipline in its own right. They do not immediately register its importance for each party in a trading relationship, its role in ensuring benefits are realised and obligations are fulfilled. Quite obviously, it is not about Procurement – it is about establishing an effective relationship under the right terms and then overseeing their performance – and that requires a contract manager within the customer and a contract manager within the supplier.
it is of course quite possible that this contract management role can be a sub-set of another job – such delegation occurs in many areas of business organization. The problem comes when those with a delegated authority fail to realise the limits of their knowledge and expertise.
It is attitudes and behaviours like this that cause so many contracts to go wrong or to under-perform. No one has ever prevented any of these functions building proficiency – indeed, I have personally made many efforts to rouse their interest. The fact is, contract management is not core to their perceived purpose or expertise. They mostly want to own it, rather than actually do it – because in reality, contract management today is a complicated field, requiring the sort of skills and knowledge that is not taught in the law, supply management or project management syllabus. And that is why contract management has become a discipline in its own right, with its own body of knowledge, tools and methods.
I am not suggesting that practitioners in law, procurement or project management know nothing about contract management, nor that they should have no role in it. They should simply appreciate that just because they know something about the subject does not make them an expert – any more than a contract manager (who is trained in aspects of their role) is expert in their disciplines.
Contract management aggregates across many specialist fields and interests and, in a sense, is a servant to all of them. One reason it is being claimed by these different groups is because, unlike many of them, it is less threatened by new technologies and job losses. It will therefore continue to be an attractive career path in its own right – and not simply a sub-set of another discipline.
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