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Four Tips for Becoming a Better Contract Manager

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It’s an understatement to say that most contracts wouldn’t survive without the hard work of contract managers. Smoothing out any problems that may arise, managers ultimately oversee the contract from the initial bidding through completion. They also have responsibility for combing each contract for conflicting information and they act as the liaison between the service provider and the customer. Millions of dollars and potentially years of work are riding on the skills of contract managers.
Contract managers interested in learning how to become better, more effective employees should consider these four tips:

1. Become knowledgeable in the industry

This is essential, even for the most experienced contract manager. Each industry has specific jargon and it is very difficult to catch inconsistencies and grammatical errors if you have never heard of the terms or acronyms used in the contract. Knowing the language of the industry will translate to less time spent researching and asking others for answers and more time doing your job efficiently.

Another benefit of being knowledgeable is that the contract manager will come across as more trustworthy to those who are bidding. If the bidders have to explain terms and processes to a contracting manager during negotiations, he may not be taken seriously. Being unfamiliar with the subject will also slow everything down and can make the contracting manager appear unprofessional.

2. Understand the contracting process

In reality, the contracting process rarely plays out perfectly. Every contract will be slowed by challenges, like protests or amendments, and the contracting manager is best served by being prepared for this in advance. The more intimately he knows the process and potential obstacles, the quicker he can solve them and get the contract process back on track.

When bidding does go smoothly, be prepared for the fact that it can still take months to officially award a contract. This timeline is lengthened if curveballs come and the contract manager is not equipped to handle them. Contract managers should keep in mind that for every day the bidding process continues, someone involved loses money. The inability to resolve contracting problems quickly and professionally could lead to more than just cranky bidders and bosses. It could cause loss of revenue, productivity and opportunity.

3. Get certified in contract management

Like most industries, the world of contracting is evolving constantly, as are the skills required. Luckily, there are certifications and courses that can help to keep a contracting manager up to date on the latest techniques, trends and processes. As a bonus, certifications also help others to recognize one’s capabilities and can help a resume stand out during a job search.

4. Take advantage of the Contracting Officers’ Technical Representatives (COTRs)

Because a contracting manager can’t know every detail of a project throughout the entire process, a technical representative is usually assigned to the job to provide assistance. These individuals act as the liaison between the service provider and the contract manager, keeping both apprised of the details.

It is important to note that only the contract manager can approve modifications that increase the scope of work or the cost. As such, the contract manager’s job will be much easier if the technical representatives understand the limits of their authority. A contracting manager should also be sure that the COTR is clear on the contract’s scope of work to reduce the risk of miscommunication later.

In closing, there are many actions that can be taken to positively impact the effectiveness of a contract manager. Taking the first step with the four simple tips above can help a contracting officer turn the corner in his career.

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