Contract management is a critical component of the procurement lifecycle across higher education and nonprofit industries. To effectively serve institutions, contract management must meet two major requirements: the operational demand for a rapid review and approval, and the sometimes-lengthy risk mitigation requirement that contract clauses align with organizational risk management and tactics. To meet these requirements, contract management must be optimized to fit an institution’s structure and strategic goals as well as ensure smooth and consistent collaboration with other procurement players.
Frequently, contract management activities in the higher education and nonprofit industries do not meet these constraints on either the structural, procedural, or technology front. If any of the following are present in contracts management activities, then optimization is likely required:
- Inadequate policy enforcement
- Process bottlenecks and/or lengthy review cycles
- Failure to capture vendor discounts and other cost savings
- Poor vendor data management practices leading to disconnects that detract from effective cash management practices and optimal vendor relationships
- Inefficient procurement team structures
- Lack of effective and meaningful performance metrics
- Absence of the necessary mechanisms to manage performance metrics
An assessment of the contract management configuration can identify the specific challenges that hinder efficiency and compliance. Assessments are typically structured to evaluate three dimensions: people, processes, and technology. Identifying issues is the first step to mitigation so to ensure alignment with strategic goals and current business needs. The remainder of this post discusses factors an institution should consider when transforming identified issues into an actionable plan for improvement and optimization.
Turning Analysis into Action
Once the assessment is complete, summarized findings will inform the creation of an “implementation roadmap.” This roadmap prioritizes actions to ensure that improvements are appropriately sequenced to maximize the return on investment. Initiatives or actions typically found in an implementation roadmap include:
- Policy review and revisions
- Incorporation of standard legal agreements to decrease risk with contract execution
- Process and workflow modifications to increase efficiency and maximize risk mitigation
- Establishment of service level agreements and key performance indicators to optimize customer service and performance
- Development of mechanisms to monitor and respond to performance metrics
- Re-organization of the contract management and/or procurement structure to better align with strategic goals and business needs
- Training and development activities to equip procurement professionals and stakeholders across the institution to maximize policy and process compliance
As noted above, contract management activities are tightly interwoven with other procurement functions, such as vendor management, strategic sourcing, and Accounts Payable (AP). An effective implementation roadmap considers the implications on other procurement activities and leverages organizational change management best practices to ensure long-term adoption and success of improvement initiatives.
How We Can Help
Attain Partners has worked with higher education and nonprofit partners across the US to improve their contracts management operations. Activities have included:
- Operational assessment and business process analysis to understand current structures and climate
- Peer benchmarking and best practices research to identify the optimal structures for the organization
- Future state planning to identify strategic goals and outcomes for procurement activities, collaboration with other departments, and alignment with the larger mission, vision, and values
- Identification of key activities and functions to be restructured or improved through a roadmap and timeline
- Implementation of process improvements embedded with change management frameworks
- Assessment of current technology systems to determine best options for tools that can track metrics and streamline processes through automation
For more information on how Attain Partners can help your organization review and improve contracts management activities, please contact us here.
About the Authors
Melany Barrett is a Senior Consultant in the Management Consulting practice of Attain Partners. With over 8 years of experience in Higher Education, she has a demonstrated knowledge in business process improvement, project management, research administration, and faculty affairs administration. Prior to Attain Partners, Ms. Barrett supported Higher Education administration and strategic initiatives as a member of an internal consulting team. She is a Prosci® Certified Change Management Practitioner with knowledge and training in the field and holds an MBA from the Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
Alexandria Fleming is a Senior Consultant at Attain Partners specializing in change management. She has several years of experience doing change management work and technology implementations. Alexandria is originally from the west coast and enjoys international travel.
Jessica Lee is an Analyst at Attain Partners with prior experience in recruiting services. She is currently supporting both organizational change and project management efforts for Higher Education Clients and is a Prosci® Certified Change Management Practitioner. Jessica brings with her a strong attention to detail and is committed to achieving best results.
Reshma Patel-Jackson is a Senior Principal and the Practice Leader for the Management Consulting business of Attain Partners. She is responsible for and involved in a wide range of consulting initiatives, primarily on change management, strategic planning, business process improvement, organizational assessments, project management, and research administration. Mrs. Patel-Jackson is a Prosci® Certified Change Management Practitioner who has extensive knowledge and training in the field. She has provided strategic planning, project management, change management, internal audit, compliance, and costing services for a variety of not-for-profit, Higher Education, government contracting, and commercial clients.