Today’s increasingly competitive business market drives competition for limited government resources to incredible lengths.  This creates new scrutiny for both buyers and sellers as they work to leverage limited resources to accomplish mission specific goals and outcomes. Contract Management, and the individuals who find themselves in those positions play a vital role in how effective their business or agency are at managing and expending funds. Proper training and an understanding of current policies is vital for successful resource management and accountability.

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The challenges and hot topics in Contract Management

The Contract Management field is as diverse as it is complicated, which combined with a more competitive marketplace creates a much higher level of stress and anxiety for staff and management.  The September issue of the Journal of Contract Management presents several articles on topics including contract termination, contractor personnel monitoring, IT acquisition, certification liability, False Claims Act, corruption, and dispute resolution.  These topics represent hot issues just for the month of September, highlighting the complexity of a field in need of experienced people.  The benefits of experienced contract managers can reduce administrative costs, enhance fiscal accountability, prevent audit concerns, and reduce legal liability.  The ramifications of inexperience and lack of consistent and current training can jeopardize future funding for government agencies and the reputation of private sector businesses.

Introducing A New Training Approach

This past year, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) made a solid investment in the development of staff with contract management responsibilities.  They approached our Continuing & Professional Studies (CPS) at Towson University to assist in developing a training program that highlighted best practices in contact management, giving their staff the tools necessary to enhance accountability and develop effective fiscal management procedures.  MDOT’s leadership understands the importance of establishing effective processes, which generate financial savings providing a distinct competitive advantage for the unit, and the agencies that are subcontracted to provide a good or service.

Finding the Right Expert

CPS brought in a respected instructor, Dr. John Wilkinson, former educational lead for the National Contract Management Association, to develop and deploy training for up to 500 staff members.  To date, we have held two sessions, providing training to over 100 staff members emphasizing the contract management process including pre-award, acquisition strategy, and post award processes.  Training participants were grouped for practical exercises to understand procurement system gaps and overlaps, while proposing best practices to overcome systemic inefficiencies.

We always read the negative press associated with government and private sector employees terminated for a variety of reasons related to audit findings in the contract management process.  Insufficient record keeping, improper solicitation, budget issues often lead to conclusions of impropriety, when in all likelihood, the contact manager was a victim of inexperience and ignorance.  Agencies like MDOT, are taking active steps to safeguard their employees and instill fiscal responsibility and we should applaud their actions.

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