The Arguile Search Blog

7 reasons to consider a career in commercial contract management

Commercial contract management is a career pathway that can be misunderstood and is often undervalued. This confusion and ambiguity brings uncertainty to an industry that holds such great potential and opportunity and those operating in the sector are hopeful of a surge in talent. Regardless of what stage you are at in your career – from graduate to experienced professional – the field of commercial contract management should not be overlooked.

Potential to develop key business skills

As an ever-changing and fast-paced industry, roles within CCM offer the development of key business skills, many of which are transferable across a range of sectors. Data from the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management (IACCM) reveals that 88 per cent of surveyed contract managers would recommend contract management as a good starting point in a professional business career, and this is because of what it can offer its future employees.

The way in which skills can be adapted and built upon here begins through the foundations that CCM provides and is a real pull for considering a career in the field. Whether this is through opening pathways to explore negotiations of major contracts; exposure to multiple business fuctions; or driving change and identifying leadership qualities, CCM is a real-eye opener.

Opportunity to accelerate careers

The Center for Advanced Procurement Strategy (CAPS) stated in a recent report that 70 per cent of companies are experiencing a supply management shortage and this is mirrored in supplier organisations. This highlights a challenge across the industry, and the gap in talent marks a real need for CCM professionals and those who seek to accelerate their career in the field.

One of the best routes into CCM is via a graduate scheme with a multinational company; to name a few BAE, Rolls Royce and CGI offer excellent graduate programs. It is also important to take on continuous in-house and external training to enhance professional development, explore mentoring and partnership opportunities and concentrate on finding the right pathway.

By up-skilling in this way, it is not uncommon for career progression to move at a swift pace. Many CCM professionals earn more than similarly qualified lawyers and accountants and are typically given responsibility at an earlier stage in their career.

There is access to a wide range of sectors

To consider a career in CCM, you must recognise that the industry covers sectors far and wide, from aerospace and defence, IT and Outsourcing to oil and gas and through to engineering and rail as well.

The great thing about CCM is that these sectors offer the opportunity for professionals to become specialists in their field, strategising and dominating as a leader and innovative figure.

Working in this industry also means that the sectors will often be demanding of different projects, from negotiations to analytical tasks – a career in CCM will never be dull, and no two days ever the same.

Unknowingly, it is a thriving industry

In a report from The National Audit Office, it is estimated that just over £250 billion of central and local government money went to private suppliers in the 2015-16 financial year – that’s a lot of contracts to bid for and manage.

For large entities such as the government, and the contract possibilities that they have on offer, a third of their spending here is indicative of a thriving industry. From contracting drugs and medicine for the NHS to supplying military fleets for the Ministry of Defence, the opportunities are endless.

With the possibility to secure multi-million-pound deals and negotiate contracts and terms with some of the most well-known companies around the globe, it certainly is an attractive industry to move into.

Clear opportunity to increase visibility

Identifying leadership styles, negotiating methods and having a firm hand in understanding CCM as a professional in the sector will ensure visibility of both the profession and the professional. The same report from CAPS Research indicates that 40 per cent says that recruiting in this field is more challenging than for any other function.

Does this suggest a misunderstanding of CCM? Or that the public do not understand what the industry does? Probably; but that is changing and you can be at the vanguard of that change.

Continued exposure to senior level executives

The career of a CCM professional will provide exposure to senior level executives, board members and stakeholders. Opting for a career in this industry means that this exposure is likely to come early on, working alongside senior roles to deliver services to a wide range of potentially high-profile clients.

Looking at this from an advantageous outlook means that the progression for someone in CCM will only be stalled by their drive, not the opportunities that surround them. The insight, too, that can be passed down from senior level executives is another reason why the industry continues to grow and thrive in the knowledge it holds.

The industry is strengthened by the IACCM

The IACCM is a body that, with over 55,000 members, has a global voice in the development of the CCM industry. With great insight provided, and membership and training opportunities rife too, the IACCM is the go-to resource for CCM professionals and strengthens the work that is carried out in the industry.

It is not enough to think narrowly about your role in CCM; you too have to recognise the influence of senior officials, authoritative bodies and clients who can drive change and improve your professional journey. For those considering a career in CCM, the sky really is the limit.

What one candidate’s story tells us about the talent shortage in CCM

The talent shortage in commercial contract management is well-known and in need of tackling – urgently. This is a candidate-led market, of the like we have never seen before, employers are on the back foot and highly skilled workers are receiving multiple job offers.

Indeed, we were recently working with one candidate who found herself in the fortunate position of receiving four offers on the same day. For many role types, this would be exceptional but when it comes to CCM positions it is increasingly becoming the norm – candidates are able to effectively cherry-pick the roles that suit them best. But what does this tell us about why there is such a chronic talent shortage in CCM?

Fast-developing sectors need candidates with specialised skills and qualifications

As a fast-paced and dynamic industry, CCM needs candidates that are advanced and highly skilled, and can adapt to the different sectors in which they operate, from defence through to facilities management and IT.

It can be difficult to find candidates with these qualifications and skills, and younger people finishing further education may not yet have the experience or knowledge of the opportunities that a career as a CCM can offer them. This gap can be bridged through graduate programmes, internal training as part of the hiring process and by adopting new technologies to welcome in a new generation of talent.

Indeed, we are also experiencing an older, developing workforce, meaning that certain sector-focused skills may not always be in line with the new wave of technology, and up-skilling needs to be delivered to ensure senior positions in CCM can be filled too.

The sector is often viewed as confusing

It can be a misunderstood discipline, but CCM offers the opportunity to develop an array of key business skills to candidates looking to move into a career in the industry. The complexity of the way in which the industry operates can seem ambiguous and unclear, having a wider impact on the way talent is sourced.

Why do we need CCM? Who does it benefit? Are suppliers and clients meeting their terms and contractual obligations? Do you have to be a negotiator in practice to do this role? The list goes on. In reality, the CCM world is busting at the seams with a range of sectors that are desperately seeking the right fit – who get CCM and want to drive change.

Digital transformation is changing the way that talent is sourced and adapts

Those working in CCM need to be drivers of change in order to ensure they aren’t left behind when digital transformation takes shape. In years past, the adoption of technology within CCM has been slow. According to the Future of Jobs Report 2018, from the World Economic Forum, the skills gap has been widened by the adoption of new technologies.

We also know that by 2022, the skills required to perform most jobs will have shifted significantly, showing how job profiles are changing in line with shifts in work processes and automation. The skills gap in this industry in particular only highlights the need for more professionals to move into this space and adopt a new, dynamic method of approaching the key areas of work.

However, it is important to remember that whilst digital transformation is moving at a quickening pace, it is those working in CCM that enable and direct new processes and the development of new skills. From the experience of the team at Arguile Search, the talent pipeline for roles in CCM is experiencing a short supply, and the current candidate-led market signifies a real shift in the way CCM is perceived.

For more information on some of the roles that are currently in demand, and to find your perfect fit in CCM, get in touch with the Arguile Search team today.

What kind of negotiator are you?

Negotiation is perhaps the most important skill in the Commercial and Contract Managers armoury, and possibly the hardest to teach. There are so many ways to begin a negotiation and there is no perfect approach. We thought it would be fun to look at some high-profile negotiators and discuss the traits that have – or haven’t – made them successful. So, which of these five high-profile professionals do you identify with…if any?!

Seb Coe

Seb Coe “The Showman”

  • Complete self-confidence in his own abilities
  • Knows how to build a complete team
  • Can favour style over substance

As an integral figure in the London 2012 Olympic Games bid, Coe demonstrated his self-belief by charming delegates, flying the metaphorical British flag all-around the globe and appearing to never waver from his carefully prepared notes in his committed speeches.

He used his influencing skills to find out what his “customer” needed and shaped his response in a way that was more compelling than his competitors responses and then carefully built a strong multi-skilled team to cover every angle of the negotiation.

You might argue Seb Coe is was more of a sales person than a negotiator. Although he has managed to negotiate a great number of successes, he’s a big picture thinker who uses his skills to sell a deal and move on, not always considering the nitty gritty.

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt “The One Who Will Get His Way”

  • Persuasive speaker
  • Refuses to compromise on key points
  • Fails to build long-term relationships

Self-proclaimed “excellent negotiator”, Hunt also had involvement in the success of the 2012 Olympic Games. It’s his time as Health Secretary, however that makes for an interesting case study. Hunt was the UK’s longest serving Health Secretary, holding the position from 2012 to 2018. In this time, he demonstrated his strengths as a key negotiator by; persuading the prime minister to significantly boost NHS spending; overseeing the introduction of the first national waiting-time target; and, of course, simply refusing to be sacked when then-new PM Theresa May wanted him in a new role.

His persuasive manner, coupled with a total refusal to move on key sticking points, makes him a force to be reckoned with in negotiations. Of course, lacking in the ability to compromise isn’t necessarily a positive, but nevertheless it works for Hunt – at least when it comes to the first deal. His hard line approach means that colleagues make deals with him out of necessity, rather than choice, which can have a lasting effect on future deals and renegotiations. Hunt doesn’t always consider the long-term relationship when it comes to negotiating – a trait which certainly hasn’t helped him in the current Tory leadership race.

David Davis

David Davis “The Positional Negotiator”

  • Follows through on his commitments
  • Aggressive attitude to negotiations
  • Failure to compromise on elements of key deals

Davis, of course, also has a firm hand in politics. In his most regarded role, as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union from 2016 to 2018, he was tasked with being one of the key negotiators as Britain navigated its exit strategy from the EU. Despite his previous determination to see Brexit through, he resigned from his position as he did not have confidence in the Prime Ministers Brexit plan. As a life-long Eurosceptic, Davis stuck to his guns all the way through his role – even if it meant leaving his post. Unlike Hunt, however, sticking to his guns didn’t work out as well for Davis, who ultimately resigned his post.  

Davis’s communication skills or lack thereof may have made all the difference in this negotiation. Rumoured to have spent very little time actually engaging with his negotiating counterpart, Michel Barnier, Davis’ poor communication combined with his refusal to compromise don’t always work in his favour.

Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel “The Pragmatist”

  • Not afraid to be a lone voice of reason
  • Uses communication skills to address diplomatic tensions
  • Can be slow and indecisive at times of integral political need

For the last 14 years, Merkel has held the position of German Chancellor – arguably the biggest job in European politics. She is perhaps one of the most feared negotiators in the current political climate, demonstrating her key traits by always presenting herself foremostly as an internationalist.

“She has a way of talking to [Putin] that nobody has,” one of her senior officials told The New Yorker.

Merkel is known to have an incredibly close negotiating partnership with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin – which sets her apart from other world leaders. Managing this relationship is key for Germany, and her pragmatic, sensible and well considered approach to reaching deals – and compromises – is one of her greatest assets as a negotiating master. She is not afraid to stand alone with her views, and during her time as Minister for the Environment, her ability to listen and reach compromises allowed her to negotiate the Berlin climate deal.

Yet, this master of negotiation does have one sticking point – her indecisive manner. In fact, the Germans have coined the term ‘MerkeIn’ to describe Merkel’s negotiating style. This means to be indecisive and lacking an opinion. Slow and steady wins the race, or so they say, but can this style succeed in today’s agile workplace?

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg “The Consensus Builder”

  • Understands the industry she works in and uses that knowledge as power
  • Works “with” counterparts rather than “against” them
  • Not assertive or aggressive enough in dealing with demanding situations

Sandberg is a tech executive, businesswoman and current Chief Operating Officer for Facebook, a position she has held since 2008. When appointed the position, Sandberg negotiated for a higher salary, succeeding in getting Mark Zuckerberg on side by stating,

“This is the only time you and I will ever be on opposite sides of the table”

While some negotiators like to draw clear battle lines with their opponents, Sandberg prefers to charm her counterparts, convincing them that they will settle on the deal which best benefits all parties.

She also clearly understands the sector in which she operates, meaning that her negotiating partners are seldom able to overwhelm her with sector-specific knowledge and using market insights to forge better deals.

Of course, building a consensus around decisions can quickly fall apart if that decision was proven to be the wrong choice. Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Sandberg became embroiled in rows over culpability – does she lack the assertiveness to take responsibility for her negotiations?

The AI threat: Just how real is it?

Not a week seems to go by without some headline-grabbing news about artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. Many are scared that automation will take their jobs – indeed, recent figures suggest that some 4 million contracting roles could be lost to automation.

Admittedly, for some roles, the roll-out of automation will be bad news but for others, there are many benefits. Overall, the World Economic Forum predicts that there will be a net increase in the number of jobs. It foresees 75 million jobs across all industries being displaced by 2022, but 133 million new jobs will be created because of automation.

Could it be that the potential threat of AI to contract management is a bit more bittersweet than the headlines would have you believe?

Legacy systems stalling progress

There are several factors to consider when looking at the impact of AI on the sector. Currently, legacy systems and attitudes are stifling AI’s adoption and any pros or cons stemming from it. AI requires a lot of data in a useable format to work efficiently – and many organisations simply don’t have suitable quantities of clean data to use. Before implementing AI and automation, organisations have to get their data governance and management in order – and that takes time.

Additional roles created

Additional human roles will be created through automation. Nine in 10 employers actually increased their headcount because of automation, in roles which only exist because of automation. 16 per cent of companies have expanded their IT teams, for example, to help systems run smoothly. Within contract management, manually intensive work such as tagging documents can be done through automation, leaving human employees to focus on negotiation, support, management and strategy. These are generally the more interesting aspects of the job, so a degree of automation should be welcomed by contract managers.

Reskilling becomes commonplace

That said, some positions will be completely automated and former workers in those roles will be forced to re-skill. Lifelong learning will be crucial in the future, with people unsure which roles will be automated next.

To futureproof themselves, contract managers must focus on honing their human skills such as communication, empathy and critical thinking. How to achieve that is still largely unanswered. There’s been a boom in online learning platforms in recent years, or alternatively people may turn to short courses, distance learning or formal academia.

The disruption caused to individuals who are automated out of a job cannot be underestimated. There’s the stress of losing a position – which some people may have worked in for a long time – couple with the pressure to retrain and possibly finance that training. Workers in low-skilled positions are most at risk of automation and will be most impacted by the financial strain of job losses and reskilling. They may not be able to afford to switch careers and learn new skills. Some antagonism towards automation and AI should be anticipated from those who have lost their jobs to it and organisations.

Responsibility a grey area

The responsibility for retraining and moving redundant workers is still under discussion. Organisations that lay-off significant numbers may find themselves responsible to find alternate roles or training for those individuals, if not legally, then under a duty-of-care to employees.

Governments may be forced to step in when mass redundancies hit a sector, to prevent widespread unemployment and the knock-on economic effects. Alternatively, the onus may fall to each worker, which offers an unwelcome financial burden. It may also increase inequality, as those in low-paying, highly ‘codifiable’ jobs won’t have the means to rapidly reskill and find new careers. Some may fail to find a new role completely, pressuring governments to improve social protection measures. Universal Basic Income may become a necessity.

The benefits of automation

The perks of automation cannot be overlooked; there are cost-efficiencies and productivity improvements involved in automating manual tasks. Beyond this, contract management processes are being improved with greater visibility. AI can automatically classify contracts and tag documents, making them available to relevant parties. It can flag key dates and highlight any compliance issues.

Then there are the benefits to employees; they will be free of excessive admin tasks. Because processes are more efficient, they can get more work done in a shorter timeframe. Job satisfaction may improve, especially if they can work on more negotiation or strategic tasks. That said, greater productivity may lead to shorter working weeks – with possible pay cuts as a result.

Weighing up automation

Automation is not a clear-cut benefit, nor is it completely a risk. But it’s coming for every industry and most roles. Dealing with automation is likely going to may your job easier, but if it’s too effective then you’ll likely lose that role. For some, this provides a great opportunity to reskill in different areas, expand their careers and enjoy the streamlined effects of automation. Others may not be so lucky. It’s vital that as we embrace automation, we do not overlook those who’ll be negatively impacted.

The sky’s the limit for contract managers in aerospace

The aerospace sector soared to new heights as the new records for deliveries were set within the UK. The value of such deliveries is estimated to be worth £13 billion to the sector. This spells great news for the UK and its manufacturing industry, as well as the people working within it.  

Strong growth is predicted to continue globally throughout 2019. Fuelled, in part, by a resurgence in passenger air travel. Growing military tensions have also contributed to its current strength.  

Life is good, therefore, for contracts and commercial managers currently working within the sector. But how long can it last for? Is the performance of 2018 and 2019 something for contract and commercial managers to savour in the long-run, or merely a flash-in-the-pan? 

To unpick this loaded question, you must consider the drivers for today’s success. 

An arms race for aerospace 

First, geopolitical tensions are causing countries to increase their military budgets. This is positively affecting the aerospace industry due to the demand for military aircraft. In particular, there is a demand for light air support aircraft.  

Across the world, numerous tensions are causing unease. Chemical attacks on UK soil has damaged the UK’s relationship with Russian. Meanwhile, North Korea consistently threatens its neighbours. Demand for defence and military equipment is on the rise in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, North Korea and the East and South China Seas. Other countries are locked in a tit-for-tat battle as they seek to ensure their military capabilities exceed those of potential attackers. Western Governments and NATO members are increasing their military spend to remain competitive and counter global threats. 

With that said, military threats are no longer solely airborne. For contracts and commercial managers, keeping on top of current risks is a worthwhile endeavour. Cyberwarfare, specifically, has catapulted to the top of the list of concerns that military leaders have. If future battles are fought on computer screens, then the demand for military aircraft will tail off. 

Growth in passenger travel 

A boom in air passenger travel is boosting the aerospace sector’s performance. Commercial aircraft production is in demand, indeed with a backlog of orders. Boeing and Airbus each delivered 49 commercial aircraft in February 2019, an increase of 11 deliveries compared to the same time in 2018. This year, Boeing plans to deliver between 895 and 905 commercial aircraft. This is a 12-13% increase compared to 2018. Similarly, Airbus plans an 11% increase in aircraft delivery. 

However, a significant disruption to the industry is likely after Boeing’s challenges with the 737 MAX. After the Ethiopian Airlines crash, the company has suspended all deliveries of its 737 MAX airplanes. Boeing’s woes don’t stop there, with its shareholders, crash victims’ families and airline companies all suing the manufacturer. The long-term impact of this on Boeing’s financial performance, along with the reputational damage, is yet to be determined.  

The impact of Brexit 

You cannot mention UK aerospace without looking at the ongoing influence of Brexit. UK aerospace leaders reported a slow-down in orders towards the end of 2018 because of uncertainty around the UK’s relationship with Europe.  

As Brexit negotiations continue, loss of orders and investment in the sector may further impact growth. Although the industry, as a whole, is on the up, it may have risen more dramatically if Brexit had not affected the UK’s supply chain. Future disruption to this and a lack of consensus on trade between the EU and UK will increase costs for UK aerospace.  

Many volatile influences 

With external factors such as military tensions and trade agreements currently up-in-the-air, contracts and commercial managers must keep on top of all potential influences on the sector. Brexit is a big topic to remain abreast of, as is the rising tension between North Korea and the rest of the world, the continuing unrest in the Middle East and the ongoing 737 MAX crash consequences.  

The sector is going through a busy period now, but this performance is subject to many volatile elements. The imperative for contract and commercial managers, therefore, is to work hard in building relationships, fulfilling orders and boosting productivity today. Whilst also keeping their eyes on an uncertain future.