Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Contract Management as part of a Team

For major contracts the management of performance is frequently a team effort. Frequently there will be a project or program manager who leads the activity. They are usually responsible to manage the team, and the over all manage performance so work is performed on time and on budget. The project manager will perform tasks the contract manager may perform in managing a small contract. The contract manager plays a supporting role to the project manager. Instead of leading periodic review meetings the contract manager may attend and manage the documentation of the meeting, the action item status. Depending upon the authority of the project manager, they contract manager may not be the one negotiating and deciding upon changes to the scope or work, they will have the primary responsibility of capturing and documenting it for the contract file.

The key in working as part of a team is to:
1.Understand and agree upon who has authority to take certain actions.
2.Establish a clear understanding on who is responsible to perform each of the individual tasks and what their responsibility is. There is no one single approach to program management and you want to ensure that nothing will fall through the cracks and not be managed.
3.Establish how the team will communicate and how information will be collected, shared and included as part of the contract file.

Program managers will normally have key activities that they feel they need to control and manage. They are usually focused in making sure that the work is performed on time, on budget and in accordance with the commitments.They will want to control all the activities that manage those. The contract manager needs to be the expert on what the contract requirements are so they can advise the program manager of what they can or cannot do under the agreement. The contract manager also needs to be able to provide advice and guidance on what the contract says in the event of a dispute between the parties. The contract manager is also responsible for getting copies of all contract documents and maintaining the contract file to reflect any changes that occur and any issues or correspondence between the parties.

If a contract manager has good program management skills, a program manager may want the contract manager to manage certain tasks in addition to their other responsibilities of managing the contract. Three common ones may be to manage:
1.Manage payment or receivables. This could include receipt and review of invoices to manage sure that the items and amounts claimed comply with the terms of the agreement and managing correction when they don’t comply..
2.Manage any bailed, loaned, or consigned items and their accounting or return.
3.Manage programs involved in the disclosure or receipt of confidential information to ensure that any provisions of a confidentiality agreement are met.

Other common tasks a contract manager may perform in major programs are:
a) Manage any early terminations with or without cause.
b) Manage notices as required.
c) Collect and document any acceptance and test activities required by the contract
d) Provide information or reporting on compliance.
e) Manage final acceptance and turnover of all required documents.
f) Manage collection and return of any items that must be returned upon completion.
g) Close or renew contract.

Future posts will discuss all of these.

Working as a contract manager on a major program provides great experience. You learn much more about the work involved in performing the contract. You also see first hand what works, what doesn't work and what can be improved from a contract perspective and share that so others learn.

Two final comments:
A key to being successful in working as a contract manager that is part of a team is to build a good working relationship with the program manager and other members of the team.
Contract managers have fiduciary responsibilities to their company to ensure that the activities surrounding the contract are completely and accurately documented and performance is done in accordance with the contract terms.Contract managers should demand exactly that from other members of the team. In the end the contract file need to accurately represent what occurred during the term of the contract.

If you learned from this post, think about how much more you could learn from the book.
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