Contract management challenges in sourcing | Expert talks

CLM challenges in sourcing

Managing contracts with suppliers has always been a challenging aspect of supply chain management, but in the post-pandemic era, it's become even more complex. When it comes to the source-to-contract (S2C) processes involving negotiating, managing, and monitoring contracts with suppliers, the complexities that come with managing contracts can have significant repercussions on cost control, operational efficiency, and overall supplier relationships.

In this blog post, we'll explore these challenges through an insightful conversation with Ajay Sundararaj, a leading expert in contract management and sourcing, and unearth valuable insights and best practices to help you successfully navigate this critical aspect of your business operations.

Contract management in a typical S2C process

Ajay described the sourcing process starting with research on potential suppliers, examining their history, financial stability, and potential red flags. A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is established before sharing any confidential information. The sourcing team then collects information from potential suppliers using requests for information (RFIs) and requests for proposals (RFPs). Following selection, suppliers are registered and approved within the organization's system.

Contract management in S2CThroughout the partnership, supplier performance is closely monitored and the key performance indicators (KPIs) are tracked. As the contract ends, the sourcing team assesses the supplier's overall performance to decide on renewal or termination. This structured process facilitates streamlined supplier selection and contract management, fostering stronger partnerships and improved efficiency.

Key contract management challenges and conflicts in sourcing

Ajay emphasized the terms that are usually negotiated during the sourcing process:

Payment and insurance terms: Based on the supplier's size and capacity, negotiations for shorter payment periods and lower insurance coverage amounts are typical.

Indemnification and force majeure terms: These clauses, which protect the parties from unforeseen circumstances and risks, are also frequently red-lined. During the pandemic-induced lockdowns, suppliers had to return to their force majeure clauses to protect themselves.

Term of the contract and renewals: While some suppliers might prefer automatic renewals after a specific period, others may want to renegotiate clauses and new terms based on performance and other factors.

The key challenges of a contract manager in the sourcing process include:

  • Bringing all stakeholders, such as business partners, suppliers, and respective legal teams, to the negotiation table.
  • Arriving at terms that are mutually beneficial to all involved parties.

  • Doing both of the above within the limitations of the time frame is acceptable for the overall project.

These challenges underscore the importance of flexibility and negotiation skills in sourcing. Effectively addressing supplier concerns is pivotal in fostering strong relationships and successful collaborations.

Mitigating S2C challenges and tracking the health of your contract management process

Ajay highlighted the following key tips to remember in an S2C process:

  •  Evaluate suppliers on various criteria, including quality, punctuality, flexibility, and pricing, and favor those who offer superior products and services holistically.
  • Consolidate services with a single supplier wherever possible to reduce tail spend. Diversify judiciously, factoring in the risks involved.

  • Track vital contract milestones, such as renewals and fulfillment of critical contractual obligations, to ensure prompt action.

Ajay also insisted on the significance of maintaining robust contract lifecycle management systems to arrive at a healthy process:

  • Identify bottlenecks in your contract management process and implement steps to mitigate them.

  • Arrive at KPIs that measure the health of your contract management process.

  • Implement digital contract management systems that come with a single central repository to track all of your contracts across various stages and send timely notifications for critical milestones.

"Seamless communication between business partners, rationalization of suppliers, and timely action on contract milestones are crucial components of an effective contract management strategy," Ajay pointed out.

The importance of compliance and risk mitigation

Ajay underscored the importance of several key aspects of compliance and risk mitigation in the sourcing process. First, it's essential to ensure that suppliers have the necessary permits and authorizations to operate within a particular jurisdiction, because this can help avoid legal and regulatory issues. Before engagement, the potential risks associated with a supplier's performance or history, such as past bankruptcies, criminal charges, or legal disputes, should be thoroughly assessed.

"By meticulously focusing on compliance and risk mitigation, organizations can protect themselves from potential legal, operational, and financial setbacks, thereby nurturing more stable and secure supplier relationships," Ajay emphasized.

Building a strong supplier relationship

Ajay also explained the importance of nurturing strong supplier relationships, advocating for an approach that results in mutual benefits. He advised understanding the supplier's challenges with empathy and working collaboratively to address any issues.

"By investing time to understand the supplier's organization better, including their capabilities and any new offerings, I have been able to maintain healthy relationships and gain insights into their strengths and weaknesses, allowing me to negotiate better deals and achieve cost savings," Ajay noted.

What can organizations do to improve their contract management?

Ajay cited several key factors contributing to better contract management processes in sourcing. First, he suggested standardizing the contract management process from authoring through to execution and post-execution.

 For example, standardizing contract templates can streamline and expedite contract authoring. Contract management shouldn't solely be a task for the sourcing team. All stakeholders, including legal teams and business partners, should be involved, held accountable, and adequately trained for managing contracts. He also stressed the need for companies to remain open to adapting and enhancing their contract management processes in response to changing market needs.

Wrapping up

"Effective contract management is crucial for organizations to ensure compliance, mitigate business risks, and achieve cost savings," Ajay explained. "Following best practices, building strong supplier relationships, and embracing technological advancements can significantly enhance the CLM process, ultimately leading to more efficient, agile, and successful organizations," he concluded.

Contract management has become increasingly challenging due to factors such as rapid technological advancements, intensifying competition, evolving customer needs and preferences, disruptions in supply chain operations, and the need to comply with ever-changing regulations. If you're looking for an end-to-end solution to manage your contracts, we recommend you sign up for a free trial of Zoho Contracts or request for a personalized demo.



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