• Ngamuru Advisory
Having co-led the introduction of Relational Contracting into the Australian Department of Defence, where it is known as Collaborative Contracting, since mid 2013 with the help of IACCM I wanted to add my thoughts on your question. For the record we were lucky enough to have Jim Bergman help us on our journey!
In terms of 'Does Relational Contracting require long term commitment over multiple contracts for the parties to realize the benefits?'. Simply put, no it does not. A single contract can absolutely benefit from a relational approach, especially where there is a high level of uncertainty about main elements of the contract such as scope, performance, schedule and of course price. A relational approach allows both parties to work together collaboratively to evolve the solution, noting it could be a novel solution that has not been used before. For example, in the Australian Department of Defence we have a number of contracts where we are either the largest user in the world or the first user, which necessitates a degree of flexibility in the commercial structure since the uncertainty and risk is high. Both parties have to work in good faith to deliver the enterprise outcome to Defence. The relational contracting approach provides a commercial architecture within the contract to allow both buyer and seller to have these discussions without reverting to tightly fought commercial structures.
That said, I do believe that in large organisations such as the Australian Department of Defence, there should be levels of a relational contracting approach. For example, at the contract level, even for multi-party contracts, we'll use a Collaborative Contracting approach. However, when we combine multiple contracts with a single seller, we can then combine these relationships as a part of a Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) approach to vendor management across a program or portfolio of contracts. Again, Jim assisted us with this, although we are still on the SRM journey.
In terms of 'How do we ensure that the benefits (price competitiveness, quality of service, innovation etc.) that can also accrue from competitive sourcing are not lost?'. The Australian Department of Defence has been using Performance Based Contracts (PBCs) since 2005 to ensure both short-term and long-term benefits are being realised. In 2012 we started using what we refer to as Generation 3 PBCs which includes enterprise performance and enterprise behaviours (relational) within the performance measurement framework linked to both commercial consequences, both positive and negative. In this case, we typically use incentives such as contact extensions, sometimes known as rolling wave or award term contracts, to ensure the seller is maintaining the long-term behaviours you described. You can get more information on these type of performance based contracts at my blog at www.performancebasedcontracting.com.
Finally, to assist with the successful implementation of Collaborative Contracting into our commercial functions we developed and released on 28 September 2018 a Collaborative Contracting Better Practice Guide a copy of which you can get from the following link www.defence.gov.au/casg/Multimedia/Collaborative_Contracting_Better_Practice_Guide-9-8860.pdf.
Anyway, I hope this helps. And of course, as part of the IACCM Australia New Zealand Advisory board and an IACCM Fellow I would be happy to answer any further questions.