When I was a very young child, I remember my father used to drive me crazy by asking me 'How long is a piece of string?' I was sure that I would eventually guess the right answer.
I was reminded of this by a note from an IACCM member who asked me 'How much do contract managers in Europe get paid?' While the answers are not as variable or indeterminate as the question about string, they are certainly very broad.
The question was prompted because this manager is having to participate in a company-wide review of salaries and benefits. He is headquartered in the United States, though his staff are worldwide – and his company uses Towers Watson for data gathering. That proves a real problem, because Towers Watson have still not acknowledged the existence of contract and commercial management. The only similar category they offer is that of Contract Administrator, which they designate as a form of legal support. The role and its contribution are defined accordingly. Not surprisingly, this designation yields the type of salary and benefit levels that would attract very few contract or commercial managers.
Earlier this week, I wrote about the relative dominance of the legal profession in the US and the dangers this has for good contracting. This incident reflects the same problem – a perception that anything with the word 'contract' must somehow be subservient to lawyers. A review of the many job roles covered by Towers Watson places contracts personnel in the category 'Legal Support' and defines them in the following way: “Provides support for a variety of law-related activities that do not require a law degree, including legal or factual research, contract administration, document preparation and analysis, citation checking, and trial preparation”. The role is sandwiched between 'Paralegal' and 'Legal Secretary'.
Managers of contract management groups face an increasing problem in determining appropriate compensation for their teams. The dominance of firms such as Towers Watson means that many HR departments will not accept data from any other source, yet when the data they receive is inaccurate and fails to reflect the job being benchmarked, it results in massive internal battles. Because companies only accept this 'impartial' data, it becomes increasingly difficult for organizations like IACCM to collect data of its own – because there is little perceived benefit for companies to participate in surveys.
It seems to me that we need a concerted push by the contracts and commercial community to demand better recognition and understanding of the job role, its contribution and the associated salary levels. Through this blog, we have already done much to define typical job roles and to motivate practitioners to think hard about their potential contribution. This work continues – indeed, we have another webinar on the topic running this week. But if we truly wish to challenge the Towers Watson data, it seems to me that functional heads need to contribute current salary information to a worldwide survey that would once and for all establish the point that Contract and Commercial Managers exist and that they are not fairly or accurately represented by a role of 'Contract Administration'.
Only then will we be able to answer the question 'How much is a Contract Manager worth?'