Key skills for contract management professionals

Anyone in charge of contract management software knows that using the software is just one part of the job. Administrators often become the nexus for disseminating key contract information to many departments or branches.

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This makes administrators a kind of jack-of-all trades; they may create end-date alerts for one department while another may only care that contract changes are recorded properly. It can be a big job handling staff that uses the software, working with other departments, and generally staying on top of contract management duties.

Is anyone prepared for this? It’s not like there’s a central school of contract management with a set-in-stone list of skill-building courses (would that there were!).

Fortunately, an article posted on the website for the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management gives some insights into skill sets. The article “The Competencies a Contract Manager Needs: A Process Perspective goes into great depth on all aspects of skills needed for someone who is a hands-on professional in contract management.

The authors, María Arraiza-Monteux and René Franz Henschel, outline the skills needed along the gamut of contract work, from initiation, bid, development, negotiation and finally to management.

Obviously, for the purposes of this blog, we’ll focus on the “manage” portion. Their observations serve as good reminders of the key skills for contract management. This is not an exhaustive list, just a few fundamentals that really matter – and are worth noting.

Understand (well) the industry and business they serve. This may sound a bit simplistic, but consider that in medium or large-size enterprises there can be a bewildering variety of financial, non-financial and strategic contracts. For those administering contract management software, for example, knowing the key fulfillment requirements of a non-financial strategic partnership contract can affect how key dates are identified in the contract. The same may go for a fulfillment supplier’s contract, for example.

Be familiar with risk management. At a basic level, this can mean simply ensuring that key departments understand when contracts are nearing end-dates or key deliverable dates. But the full range of risk management is worth examining. While contract management staff may not be responsible for knowing all about risk management, it may be up to them to identify key financial risks as a result of contract breaches or missed deadlines.

Have good project management skills. Project management can be a widely defined skill. But increasingly it’s seen as being able to execute on specific goals with an often ad-hoc team and an extended group of stakeholders.Consider the job required of contract management administrators after a software solution is implemented: they have to train staff and work with other departments or branches to gather documentation in order to centralize it. This can mean working with ad-hoc groups to get these tasks done, and understanding both company-wide and department or branch needs.

What these points underscore is that contract management goes beyond the record-keeping function. Focusing on the above knowledge sets will help administrators and staff alike to be more effective.