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What Makes a Successful Contract Manager?

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What makes a successful contract manager? It takes a variety of skills, and using those skills properly, to become a successful contract manager. To find out what skills are needed, we asked several contract managers what makes them successful. Here is what they had to say:

I have been involved in contract management for nearly twenty years.

Following are a few critical success factors:

- Be an effective communicator: Being an outstanding communicator requires the contract manager to consistently ensure they are clearly understood by all stakeholders; that all stakeholders understand what is expected of them throughout the contract lifecycle; and that all stakeholders communicate effectively with one another as well as with the contract manager.

- Meticulous attention to detail while simultaneously keeping abreast of the 50,000 foot view: All details within the contract must be addressed in their entirety in order to avoid unnecessary disputes that could lead to litigation. At the same time, the contract manager must be mindful that all of these details enable successful attainment of the overall contract objectives.

- Understand how to provide leadership instead of just management: The contract manager must be able to diplomatically demonstrate that they understand all stakeholder concerns throughout the contract lifecycle while holding all stakeholders accountable for their respective roles in achieving an overall successful outcome.

- Negotiation: A successful contract manager needs to understand the motivations, interests, and goals of all stakeholders during development of the contract as well as throughout the contract lifecycle. Ignorance about negotiating expertise can jeopardize critical relationships and potentially lead to costly litigation.

- Conflict Resolution: Related to negotiation, the contract manager has to promptly recognize when problems and obstacles arise. The successful contract manager will be able to leverage their in-depth understanding of the relevant issues to provide immediate solutions for such issues.

- Technical competency: The contract manager should have solid knowledge about the capabilities required of all stakeholders in order to achieve the desired contractual outcomes.

Dr. Greg Thomas, CMC, PMP
CEO, Roos Technologies International - a global management consulting firm

  1. Understand the craft (know the right thing to do)

  2. Hone the craft (do the right thing)

  3. Act reasonably (develop and exercise good judgment (which generally comes from exercising bad judgment))

  4. Document your files (document, document, document)

Tom Reid
Chief Problem Solver
Certified Contracting Solutions, LLC

A good contract manager must have similar skill sets to that of a Project Manager. A Contract Manager must be detailed oriented and must have exceptional interpretive skills as some contracts can be very complex. In order to manage a group of contracts or a very complex contract, the Manger must have a good understanding of the industry in which the contract is to be executed and will need to put in place the proper process and procedures that will be required to successfully manage a contract. Construction contracts are managed different than that of a staffing position or the purchasing and installation of a piece of equipment, or the biweekly service contract for a printer. Training in contract execution, ethics, and law are a must as each industry may have its own unique requirements. An Example: The US Government (GOV) has requirements of Contract Management (CM), The Department of Defense (DOD) guidelines on CM are based on the GOVs with addition regulations fitting their mission. The Army, Navy, and other agencies have their own set of requirements it's important to understand how your contract is to be managed. Certifications for CORs are every two to three years to keep up with new requirements and procedures. Lastly, a successful Contract Manager must have good people skills as there will come a time where the owner (CEO, Commander) of the contract may not understand the contract process or the requirement. Simply put, the Contract Manager's job to make sure that the contract is executed within the legal limits and approved organizational guidelines PERIOD.

Barry B. Herbert, Jr. MBA, MSM, MPM
President - Program & Project Management
Harvin Consulting, LLC

As an attorney working in the Silicon Valley software contracts area, I am uniquely suited to explain what makes a contract manager successful.

On top of the basics, like keeping on top of renewals, expiration dates, and maintaining negotiation records, the contract manager must build the system around the type of contracts. Service contracts are going to have different terms than commercial contracts. A detailed knowledge of the industry, and the types of agreements that he or she will be managing is important. Software specific contract managers practically have to be engineers to understand what the contract is about.

Tomas M. Flores, Esq.
San Jose, CA
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