IACCM Day Two – Can Sell-side and Buy-side Live Together Successfully?

HurlinghamAfter my colleague Nancy Clinton attended Monday's first day of the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management (IACCM) Forum, I went along on Tuesday to the Hurlingham Club, probably the most beautiful conference venue I've ever seen. Have your coffee looking out onto the five perfect croquet pitches (Hurlingham is the home of that fine sport), the pond with the ducks, or the professional standard grass tennis courts. Just a lovely place, excellent food and actually a very practical conference venue too.

The day started with Tim Cummins, the founder and CEO, talking about the new academic journal that has been launched by the Association. JSCAN, the Journal of Strategic Contracting and Negotiation, is a serious academic publication, with an impressive international editorial board and an intent to be a leading journal - it can already claim impressive "circulation" as IACCM members all get an electronic copy. I haven't read it yet, but we will report on the contents shortly. But it is a sign of IACCM's success and further ambition.

In terms of the general event, there were over 150 delegates today, all there very promptly I noted, unlike most procurement events I go to. From the delegate list, it looked pretty much split equally between buy and sell side, with perhaps a small majority for sell side, although job titles like "commercial director" can these days be either or both! Sponsors included IBM Emptoris, Sci Quest, Seal plus a couple of firms we don't I know so well (but probably should) - Sirion Labs and Merrill Datasite, who are both software providers in the contract and supplier management field.

I still struggle a bit to get excited about issues such as "cycle time from contract initiation to signature" for firms on the sales side - IACCM has this twin-headed approach as it has members on both sales and buy side. So at times, the content cannot be totally relevant to everyone. On the other hand, the day showed that there are real benefits in that twin functional approach. If we think about how much time we now spend talking about working together with key suppliers, supplier relationship management, or capturing innovation: all areas that lead themselves to a collaborative approach between buy and sell side.

For instance, the keynote from Neil Rackham was of real interest to everyone I suspect. As the author of SPIN selling and founder of Huthwaite, he has been a sales guru for years, but actually his work is totally relevant to buy-side negotiators too. He made some very insightful points for both sales and procurement organisations and people; we will have more on his session to follow.

We were also interested in Joshua Reddaway of the National Audit Office, speaking as part of a panel discussion - NAO folk don't often put their heads above the parapet! But he was good, talking about the need for commercial skills in government, the ownership of contracts sitting with the business but supported by commercial expertise, and rebalancing power between government and providers. He mentioned government using politics as part of the power dynamics in relationships - ""government cannot out-negotiate the private sector but can use politics." I wasn't so sure I got him on that point. But he even made quite a good off-the-cuff joke about auditing ...!

We'll have more on the event to follow, and also some musing on the whole relationship between procurement and contract management.

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