28th November 2019
28th November 2019
By Sarvarth Misra, Co-founder and CEO at ContractPodAi
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 an organization’s health. 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.
A quick look at Indeed (job board website) shows that the CM’s role goes by various titles such as:
Associated responsibilities often include:
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.
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:
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 the innovation mindset. That being an 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.
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, like 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 healthcare, government, insurance, and financial sectors.
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 is the project management elements. Naturally, that includes ensuring there is 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 manager 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.
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.
Co-founder and CEO
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