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What is a Contract Manager?

Updated: March 28, 2023
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What Is a Contract Manager?

A contract manager supervises the creation of contracts for an organization. When a company does business with a vendor, partner, employee, or customer, the company's contract manager is tasked with preparing, analyzing, and negotiating contracts.

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Contract Manager Job Description

A contract manager creates and amends contracts for an employer. Contract managers write up contracts related to the purchase or sale of goods and services and then track those contracts through their lifecycles. While job responsibilities vary based on company size and which types of goods and services are bought and sold, a contract manager's focus will always be on optimizing contracts with their employer's best interests in mind.

Contract Manager Duties and Responsibilities

Contract managers oversee contracts that their employers are involved with, so they must have in-depth knowledge of contract features. A contract manager needs to understand the advantages and pitfalls of contracts and be familiar with a plethora of contract details. Here are some of their typical duties and responsibilities:

  • Create, analyze, negotiate, and execute an array of contracts for various transactions
  • Build and maintain relationships with vendors, clients, and other business connections
  • Maintain contract-related documents and correspondence
  • Present contract information to relevant parties, such as stakeholders
  • Troubleshoot contract-related problems, such as breach of contract
  • Keep track of contracts and extend, renew, or close them out
  • Assist with the employer's compliance with mandatory standards
  • Stay informed about changes to relevant rules and regulations

Contract Managers vs. Project Managers

A contract manager works on a project for an employer, just like a project manager does, but the contract manager's focus lies solely on contracts. In contrast, a project manager oversees an array of project aspects, including but not limited to contracts. Both types of employees are essential, but their duties and responsibilities are not the same — though there may be some overlap at times.

Contract managers understand the intricacies of contracts, while project managers may not have the same level of knowledge about sales contracts and other forms of agreements. Firms need contract managers to ensure that their contracts are carefully created and as beneficial to their interests as possible.

Without a contract manager, contract creation may result in contracts that cost a company more money than they should or in contract disputes that may be expensive and time-consuming to resolve. If a contract manager has sufficient experience, they will create contracts that:

  • Are a win-win for both parties, in terms of being fair and offering advantages to both sides
  • Minimize or eliminate risk factors related to the contractual relationship
  • Nurture positive long-term relationships with vendors and customers

In comparison, a project manager may not have the skills needed to create contracts that are beneficial to their employer and all other involved parties. Unlike a contract manager, however, a project manager has to wear many different hats to do their job successfully. For example, a project manager may:

  • Supervise product or service development
  • Oversee the launch of a product or service
  • Put together a detailed product budget
  • Source out necessary supplies
  • Make a timeline for the project that includes a range of project milestones

Contract managers and project managers may work together as part of a project management team. The contract manager has a more focused area of expertise than the project manager, who oversees many different elements of a project from start to finish. Contract managers and project managers work in an assortment of industry sectors, including government agencies, health care, and construction.

Contract Manager Education and Experience

A contract manager needs the right education and experience to excel in their field. They will generally have some or all of the following education and experience:

  • Bachelor of Business Administration degree
  • Master of Business Administration degree
  • CCCM certification (Certified Commercial Contracts Manager) awarded by the National Contract Management Association (NCMA)
  • CPCM certification (Certified Professional Contracts Manager) awarded by the NCMA
  • CFCM certification (Certified Federal Contracts Manager) from the NCMA
  • Relevant work experience preparing and monitoring contracts

Read this guide to get an idea of what type of contract management certification you should pursue and how to earn it.

Skills and Abilities of a Great Contract Manager

Contract managers who excel in their field succeed thanks to an ideal blend of interpersonal and technical skills.

Interpersonal skills are social skills that are utilized in the workplace to communicate information and work effectively as a team. Contract managers must liaise with a host of people to create contracts that serve the needs of their companies. Although aspects of contract creation are very technical, many contract details need to be shared with others, and this is why good communication and collaboration skills are essential. They also need to have strong negotiation skills.

Whether a contract manager is presenting contract details to shareholders or connecting with a vendor or client, the contract manager must be:

  • Polite
  • Professional
  • Committed to building and maintaining strong and positive relationships

Technical skills are also essential. Contract managers need an in-depth understanding of how to create contracts and how to add the right elements to support the employer's best interests. These technical skills are applied to creating contracts that ensure the timely and affordable delivery of items or services. A contract manager must also understand the risk factors inherent in contracts and use technical skills to mitigate those risks. Some risks may be financial, while other risks may relate to a company's operations.

To mitigate risks, contract managers need to understand:

  • Practices and internal policies of the companies they work for
  • External regulations and laws

A contract manager also needs to be tech savvy in terms of using hardware and software to create and manage contracts. These days, there are automated platforms for contract creation and management, and contract managers may need to know how to use one or more of these platforms.

Contract Managers Benefit From Continuing Education

This education doesn't need to happen in a classroom or online learning environment, although it might. It may happen by staying abreast of developments in the contract management industry, especially in the contract manager's specific niche. For instance, a contract manager who works in the health care field may want to monitor developments in this industry that could impact contracts or relationships with vendors. The trend toward the delivery of virtual health care is one example.

Government laws and regulations that impact contract management may also change periodically, and contract managers need to track and understand those changes. Ongoing learning will help a contract manager adapt to changes promptly and effectively.

Companies put a lot of their money into contracts with vendors and customers, so contract managers who learn how to minimize or eliminate risk through continuing education can better serve the needs of their employers. Ongoing learning also helps contract managers assist their employers with compliance with mandatory standards.

The contract management industry is growing, and many company visionaries are increasingly aware of the value of having competent and dedicated contract managers on their teams. These skilled contract managers may outsource some aspects of contract creation to experts, such as contract lawyers who can offer valuable legal guidance. Outsourcing in this manner may speed up the pace of contract management in order to save time and money.

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