What does agile contracting mean?

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It’s not every day you see the word “agile” in the modern business sense connected to the topic of contract management.

That’s why this recent post on the website for staffing and consulting company, Eliassen Group, caught our attention: Utilizing Agile in the World of Contract Management.

In the post, Rob Annis, senior agile coach for Eliassen Group, notes that “Agile” practices are relevant beyond the traditional areas it’s associated with (IT, software development, etc.).

They even apply to … contract management. Annis notes some examples of thinking “agile” that overlap nicely with recent thinking in contract management.

For example, Annis writes: “One of the key tenets of Agile is that of collaborative decision-making between customer and client” and “collaboration is a key part of Agile and should inform the contract writer’s behavior and its inclusion in the contract.”

This is a key theme of what’s been called outcomes-based contracting: the practice or exercise of a vendor and client collaborating closely on the desired end results of a contract — rather than a narrow concern with delivery of products or services in X quantity by Y date.

It’s a great way to discuss quality, not just quantity — and a way to build bridges and solidify relationships. So should we call outcomes-based contracting “agile contracting”? It’s probably not a good idea — but they are definitely in the same family of thinking.

You can find out a lot more about what people are saying about outcomes-based contracting in this blog post that also links to a great video.

The Eliasson Group post also reminded me of something observed among the winners of the 2014 Innovation Awards granted by the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management.

As mentioned in this blog: “It is clear that those companies reaping huge bottom-line rewards from contract innovation were willing to go deeper into the true nature of a business relationship than what a given contract demonstrated.”

So does this mean contract management is now a “hot” topic now that experts on agility are mentioning it? Well, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that … but it’s interesting how some similar ideas are popping up on what makes a good contract.

[About the author: Todd Hyten is a former business journalist who now writes about B2B topics and consults on content marketing. You can find him on Twitter and ]

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