7 Key Contract Manager Skills You Need Today
When today’s medium and large-sized corporations have 20,000 – 40,000 active contracts, there is a clear need to have processes, and people in place to manage it all. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the general counsel’s office. And, in many organizations, the agreements specific role has evolved into that of the contract manager (CM). With such an important responsibility, the CM role is critical to maintaining and carrying out the contract management lifecycle (CLM) process at their organization. Hence, the question is what contract manager skills are pertinent and important to learn, and will strengthen and sharpen their skills with training and practice.
What is the ROI of CLM?
WHAT ARE COMMON CM JOB TITLES?
A quick look at Indeed (job board website) shows that the CM’s role goes by various titles such as:
- Senior Contract Manager
- Contract Administration Manager
- Sourcing & Contracting Manager
- Contract & Negotiations Manager
WHAT ARE THE TYPICAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF A CM?
Associated responsibilities often include:
- Author, assess, negotiate and execute agreements
- Develop good working relationships with suppliers, strategic partners, alliances, and other third parties – relating to contractual matters
- Contract administration – as in record-keeping for an agreement related documents and matters
- Internal and external issue resolution and risk management
- Complete agreement close-outs, terminations, renewals, adjustments, and extensions
Communicate agreement to all organizational stakeholders. Being thorough and focusing on details is one of the most important contract manager skills.
As such, it is important for CM’s to hone their contract manager skills in…
WHAT ARE THE TOP CONTRACT MANAGER SKILLS?
The top 7 skills a contract manager must have include:
- Depth of Business Knowledge
- Technology & Innovation
- Pulse on Your Agreements
- Communication & Project Management
- Attention to Detail
Let’s explore each of these skills individually.
It is clear that agreement managers work with many different groups of individuals. And, this is both within the organization and outside of it. Contracts touch many different business areas, and the dual play here is the need to collaborate with both internal as well as external contacts.
Now, the CM often must work with subject matter experts to understand and focus on certain details. Yet at other times they must work with the counterparts, and outside contacts to resolve issues, monitor performance, or propose tweaks to the agreement.
2. DEPTH OF BUSINESS KNOWLEDGE
In this regard, it is always good to have a broad contact base within your own organization. A good contract manager will certainly know about their organization’s business, but will also know who to call upon for functional or area expertise. So, interpersonal skills, networking, and strong working relationships count.
In addition to knowing the business – they also need contractual elements of their business. They have to:
- Have a continual pulse on their agreements
- Understand changes to standard clauses
- Know of the accepted wording adjustments
- Be up to date on changes to the authoring templates
- Understand risk management relating to non-compliance
3. TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION
We are not in the dark ages anymore. So, the age of manual processes, agreements stored in paper format in filing cabinets, and spreadsheet management – is over. Ok, this may still be wishful thinking. Some of you may have squirmed at reading that previous sentence. Truthfully, we are on the digital transformation journey. Not there yet, but the legal profession and the contractual area are starting to adopt important new technologies like contract lifecycle management (CLM).
Contract Managers need to be on top of their technology. In addition, we need to know about better processes and ways to manage our agreements. It isn’t about continually being on the bleeding edge, but it is important to have an innovation mindset. That being openness to new methods and technology that can help to improve speed, reduce processing times, and help improve the quality of the company’s agreements.
4. PULSE ON YOUR AGREEMENTS
Interpersonal skills, networking, and strong working relationships count. Arguably, having a pulse on your agreements – is an important skill and capability. It is not expressly a contract process, nor is it about knowing every set of terms and conditions in every accord. Rather, it is about bringing various skills together. It is about understanding the changes in your own internal policies, standard clauses, and critical terms. Equally important is keeping a pulse on the external factors, as the governing policies, and shifts in contract laws.
Technology can be helpful here too. Part of keeping a pulse on your own contracts is running analytics across your agreement base. This lets you know of the averages, norms, peculiarities, and outliers. It is part of good risk management to both be on top of these issues, as well as improve the consistency of your agreements over time.
Also, don’t forget the need to understand regulatory and governance issues in specific industries. This is especially true in the healthcare, government, insurance, and financial sectors.
5. COMMUNICATION & PROJECT MANAGEMENT
No surprise here. After the dust settles between the parties, stakeholders need to know about the deal. However, the organization also needs to know about the various expectations on both sides, obligations, performance metrics, and any compliance issues.
Closely associated with communication are the project management elements. Naturally, that includes ensuring there is a follow-up on issues, continual monitoring, and performance audits. For many industries, it requires the collaboration and coordination of various specialized teams to assess and scrutinize the deliverables.
It isn’t only up to the General Counsel’s office to negotiate with third parties and vendors. Certainly, procurement negotiates quite often. However, it has to be part of the contract management skills. After an agreement is hammered out, there will be shifts, tweaks, and adjustments needed once the actions start taking place. You simply cannot think of every possible permutation, option, and possibility until the ‘rubber hits the road.’ As such, the role must negotiate with both internal and external parties, to make changes that are reasonable, or figure out alternatives. Naturally, negotiation ties closely with risk management and collaboration.
7. ATTENTION TO DETAIL
There is no getting around it. A CM has to watch for and be good at the details such as missed punctuation at the end of a sentence or a missed word. Inarticulate or imprecise phrasing can also completely change the meaning of a clause or key condition.
Among the contract manager skills, the focus on details and being thorough might even be one of the most important to a CM. Despite being such an important skill, it is unclear that there is any training to help in this aspect. Therefore, you cannot just let contract issues slip between the cracks. The best plan is to practice, understand the importance of this critical role, and keep vigilant. Having access to sophisticated contract management software can make the difference between an average CM, and an extraordinary one, as well. For more information on getting started with your contract management journey, check out our Contract Management Primer.
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