Tag Archives: smart contracts

How to Create a Buzz Around Contract Management

It can be hard to create a buzz around contract management. Get it wrong and it can sting badly. Get it right and the results can be honey-sweet!

Photo by Karsten Würth (@karsten.wuerth) on Unsplash

Procurement can sometimes be a real flash in the pan. The commercial squad can descend on any project that looks big enough, ugly enough or sexy enough. Money and risk can be like bees to honey – the higher it is, the sweeter the taste. It’s a sure fire way to get procurement’s attention!

Procurement professionals can be highly skilled at project planning, sourcing and providing commercial advice leading to strong contract frameworks. But when the show is over often everyone moves on to the next big shiny thing. 

While there is merit in ensuring that a solid sourcing exercise is executed, often the cream on top comes from executing exemplary contract management.

Contract Management? Yawn!

Contract management doesn’t have to be boring! If businesses get serious about contract management then serious results can be realised. There is nothing worse than a set and forget contract. It is almost guaranteed that some gold is being missed somewhere.

Contract management is quite simple at the heart of it (although admittedly it could definitely do with a re-brand).

How to Get Started

1. Ride on the buzz of signing. Capitalise on the newness of the contract by setting up the relationship meetings correctly at the beginning.

If you are a procurement person who will not be managing the contract then set up the meeting with the key relationship managers on both sides of the fence. You’ll be surprised how much value you can keep extracting, even if the contract is only freshly anointed! 

2. Take time to get the roles and responsibilities right and make sure each party understands their role.

3. Measure results and performance in a meaningful way. At the beginning of the project think about good ways to measure success. Make sure to ask your internal customers and supply market for ideas. 

4. Execute. Set the meetings, carry them out, do the surveys, do the reviews, gather the data, analyse the data, report on the data. 

How to do it right

Being organisationally ready is key. While individuals can carry out actions and get results, true value is experienced when the culture of the organisation (or the procurement team) is geared towards supplier relationship and contract management (SR&CM).

The best examples can be seen where dedicated SR&CM resources reside in a procurement team, rather than expecting individual team members to carry out these tasks within a role that encompasses many other specialisms.

Contract Management Challenges

Being aware of the challenges of embarking on a culture of change can help to set reasonable expectations of what is achievable and how long it may take. Knowing some of the sticking points from those that have gone before can be helpful in scoping out the scale and length of journey that is ahead.

The common challenges can be:

  • Resource. Obtaining sign off to get dedicated resource and gaining buy-in on the idea. Finding the right skill sets can be difficult. Sometimes new roles and directions can change the culture of the team.
  • Internal customers complaining about suppliers but either: not telling anyone; not telling the supplier; not telling procurement; and / or all of the above, plus not being willing to measure performance once mechanisms are put in place.
  • Bias – not wanting to use a supplier “just because”. To manage true poor performance (as opposed to perceived), then procurement need something tangible to build the picture and also, to give the supplier a genuine chance to improve.

What is the pay off at the end of the rainbow?

If procurement functions commit to embedding contract management into their team environment there can be many rewards.

  • Increased capability within the Procurement team – opportunity for other specialisms within procurement to learn from SRM&CM experts
  • Increased capability in the business as the contract managers and people dealing with the suppliers in the day to day increase their commercial acumen in regards to having tough conversations (or good ones!) with suppliers
  • Closing the gap between the supplier and the buyer. Understanding each side of the fence and the challenges experienced from both sides.
  • Ability to tackle poor performance in contracts effectively and efficiently as evidence is gathered, reported on and monitored. We’re not talking big brother looking to punish the supply market, there are often improvements required on both sides.

This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.

Accelerating Procurement With Contract-Centric Sourcing

Today’s procurement organisations are being asked to move faster than ever to source the materials needed by their companies. How can contract-centric sourcing help?

By Alexyz3d  / Shutterstock

Today’s procurement organisations are being asked to move faster than ever to source the materials needed by their companies.

It’s a difficult position to be in. Under the current sourcing paradigm, the multi-step process of securing the vendor is time-consuming, and even then can expose a company to risk and leakage.

But the good news is that there is another way. In this blog, I will introduce readers to what we call “contract-centric sourcing,” a new paradigm for sourcing organisations that can save millions in leakage and accelerate the buying process.

The current paradigm

The current paradigm looks something like this: first, the buyer issues an RFx, and then evaluates vendors who respond on two criteria: technical and commercial capabilities. The vendor’s technical capabilities relate to whether they will be able to truly fulfill the buyer’s needs. Commercial capabilities relate to whether the vendor’s price for its products or materials fit into the buyer’s profit models.

Choosing a vendor is a business-critical decision, as the wrong vendor can disrupt the entire supply chain, so sourcing professionals want to exercise reasonable caution when making their choice, slowing down the process.

Contract negotiations slow sourcing

Even after a Letter of Intent (LOI) is issued by a buyer, the actual contract still needs to be negotiated. At this point other departments will get involved, including legal and finance. Legal, for example, may recognise that the jurisdiction the vendor operates in requires extra anti-child-labor documentation, and insert a clause requiring that documentation.

Since it is a contract, these clauses will have to be negotiated with the vendor, who may respond by changing the commercial terms of the contract. For example, the vendor could come back and say that the extra documentation will force them to charge more for their product. This back and forth can dramatically slow or even derail the sourcing process.

Non-optimised contracts

After all this time-consuming effort to choose a vendor and then execute a contract, the contracts often return less-than-ideal results. McKinsey and Company estimates that about 3.5 per cent of spend is leaked in the source-to-settle business process. More than half of that leakage is due to noncompliance either with government regulation or internal company standards, both of which come down to a disconnected contract management process.

Using contracts to transform your sourcing process

While this way of doing business has long been accepted as the norm, the paradigm is becoming a major liability as the pace of commerce accelerates. Here at Icertis, we are focused on using digital contracts and AI-infused contract management software to transform companies’ commercial foundation. This includes putting contracts at the center of sourcing.

Contract-centric sourcing is a new paradigm that allows procurement professionals to both accelerate their buying processes while also reducing leakage.

Contracts: a third pillar of vendor evaluation 

Here’s how it works. Contract-centric sourcing introduces contracts at the very beginning of the sourcing process and makes contract compliance a third pillar by which vendors are evaluated, next to technical and commercial capabilities.

Before an RFx is even issued, buyers evaluate past contract data to map out a category strategy that will deliver the most long-term benefits to the company. This helps the buyer craft the right RFx for their business needs.

Then, as part of the RFx, the buyer presents prospective vendors, via a digital contract management platform, with all the contract language they would like the vendor to agree to. The vendor redlines the contract based on its own needs and requirements. Once all vendor bids are in, buyers are able to evaluate how much contract negotiation would be required before choosing a preferred vendor and issuing an LOI. With the help of AI, the buyers can compare vendor redlines and determine which redlines represent acceptable changes and which are red flags.

(Note: A vendor redlining a contract does not disqualify them. It simply surfaces all redlines before a vendor is selected, so that those disagreements don’t rear their head unexpectedly later in the buying process. It’s all about visibility.)

Capturing Negotiations 

Since this process is administered on a single contract management platform, all discussion between the buyer and the vendor about contract language is captured in a single place (as opposed to several lawyers’ email inboxes) for later reference both during the lifecycle of the contract and after.

Sourcing organisations that link contract management and sourcing have a huge wealth of data about a vendor’s past negotiation strategy and behavior, as well as how well they perform against contract language. This is powerful data that hasn’t been fully leveraged in the current paradigm.

The Approach of Leading Enterprises 

Leading enterprises are already adopting contract-centric sourcing. Daimler is using the Icertis Contract Management (ICM) platform to completely rethink how it manages 500,000 suppliers. Daimler officials determined contracts were the natural place to start an overhaul of the procurement system, since it is the contract that underpins the entire buyer-supplier relationship.

“The deployment [of ICM] optimises the source-to-contract process by ensuring best-in-class supplier evaluation, selection, contracting, and collaboration,” said Dr. Stephen Stathel, head of Daimler’s New Procurement System.

The business world is changing. It’s no longer enough for procurement organisations to balance risk with accelerating business; they need to find ways to reduce risk and accelerate the pace of business.

Icertis is sponsoring Big Ideas Summit London on March 14th. Sign up now as a digital delegate to follow the day’s action wherever you are in the world.  

Are Smart Contracts A Game Changer for Procurement?

Are smart contracts, enabled by blockchain, the next big thing or just a temporary hype?

What is a contract? Put simply, a contract is any agreement that is built on the logic “if…[ABC] – then…[XYZ]”. And we make these kind of arrangements very day both in business and our private lives.

  • If I’m working on the development of the Procurement department at a particular company from 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday – then I’m paid £5000 on the 25th day of every month and I earn the right to have 25 vacation days per year
  • If I pay £45 on the first day of the month – then I get an unlimited internet package for the entire month delivered to my IP address from this internet provider

This is the basic logic behind all kind of contracts.

What is the no.1 problem with contracts today?

Nobody can guarantee the implementation of a contract’s conditions on both sides.

The employee might come into the office every day, but half of their working time is spent watching YouTube in the coffee area.

Maybe you pay each month for your internet service, but the traffic is too slow and connection gets lost at the most important moments…

In business these potential problems are solved by official contracts where a breach of contract could result in legal action.

But why should I trust my lawyers, my banks and the courts more than I trust my own business partners? Ultimately we are mutually dependent on each other so my business partner should be interested in maintaining that mutual trust. Moreover, why should I pay all these middlemen to implement and monitor contracts, why should I spend my time and money on court cases if the contract conditions have clearly been violated by the other party?

Blockchain is already addressing these issues with some success. And these “if… – then…” algorithms created with Blockchain technology are called smart contracts.

Example of Smart contract logic: Purchase of manufacturing equipment

Imagine a manufacturing company, MANCOM, needs to double its packaging line capacity. They are planning to get the new packaging equipment according to their technical specification, with production output of 10,000 pieces per shift, up and running at full capacity until 1st of June 2019.

After running their request for quotation (RFQ) – they have selected a company, YOURPACK, and prepare their Smart contract.

These Smart contract can include the following conditions in the protocol:

In the best case YOURPACK delivers the equipment to MANCOM before the 1st of March 2019, and gets 50 per cent payment automatically. Then before the 1st of June equipment runs with the planned capacity, and gets another 50 per cent automatically from MANCOM’s account.

If there are delays with delivery or installation – payment is reduced accordingly. So YOURPACK’s interest is to do everything in their power to make things in time.

If MANCOM delays the payment – the equipment blocks itself and cannot be used. So it is in MANCOM’s interest is to pay in-time and in full.

Once again, the main principle of the Smart contract is to use “if…then…” logic. And to decide upon the precise triggers that will lead to specific consequences. An important aspect of Smart contracts is automation – that is avoiding the human factor after the agreement is validated from both sides.

Invest time and efforts in writing down the causes and effects, which should be clear and transparent and which cannot be misinterpreted.

After you have agreed on the principles and the “if… then…” algorithms – give the assignment to programmers who will create their codes and protocols based on Blockchain.

Blockchain: the enabler of Smart contracts

At the heart of Blockchain we need the following core ingredients:

  • asymmetric cryptography – which gives the ability to create the records and protect them
  • distributed systems – which gives the ability to transfer value by making updates to the records

And the beauty of blockchain is that is allows us to digitally sign transactions. And what is even more important – you can prove it. After the record is created and distributed to the network, no one can modify or change it without others being aware of it. The levels of security and traceability are incomparable to traditional contracts and transactions.

Today we create huge contracts with numerous clauses and appendices. We hire expensive lawyers to create these contracts and then we hire yet more expensive lawyers to protect our rights, and prove in court what we meant by all those numerous clauses when the contract was first written.

Comparison table: Smart and Traditional contracts

Smart contractsTraditional contracts
Program or protocol, which uses Blockchain technology Paper documents composed using corporate and legal standards
Based on code, written in computer language Based on legislation and written by lawyers
You need assistance with defining terms of contract and with coding You need legal assistance to compose and register contract
Contract conditions are unchangeable once approved by all parties. They are transparent and automatically checked. If contract terms are violated – certain penalty, punishment or sanction occurs automatically Can be amended or interpreted differently by different lawyers. Conditions may be partly fulfilled or poorly fulfilled. If contract terms are violated – you resolve conflicts by negotiations or in the courts
The security of the transaction is guaranteed No guarantee, most laws can be bypassed
All transactions carried out without third parties and intermediaries Transactions are made with a number of other involved parties: lawyers, banks, courts or public services…
Transactions may happen using Crypto-currencies Transactions are made using traditional currencies through banks
When the terms of the contract are fulfilled, the exchange of values takes place instantly Exchange of values occurs with delays
The contract can be concluded with a person from anywhere in the world without personal presence The contract is signed only with the personal meeting of the two parties
Protection from corruption or fraud High risk of fraud, corruption or bribery

The next big thing or just a temporary hype?

Smart contracts are facing many challenges on the way to mass application in Procurement.

I don’t know how fast it will become a common practice, or the full possibilities behind blockchain technology for Procurement and Supply Chain Management, because we are only at the beginning.

In today’s world new technology can challenge and change the status quo within a matter of years. And I advise you to be at the forefront of these changes.