Strong roots, new beginnings - how IACCM began, where we are today

Published: 15 Jan 2014 Average Rating: unrated Print
This article appeared in Contracting Excellence magazine on 15 Jan 2014 view edition

Author: IACCM interviewed Tim Cummins, CEO IACCM and Steve Huhn, President of Stephen Huhn Associates

During a recent interview, Tim Cummins and Steve Huhn1 discussed how IACCM began with a vision inspired by an obvious need to build a community for commercial and contract management professionals. At that time (late 1990s), no community existed to harness the collective business contributions of these practitioners.  This is the story of a team of visionaries who put down roots and watched the business grow faster than expected.

Today, IACCM, founded in 1999, embraces 30,000 members in over 155 countries representing almost 12,000 organizations worldwide. 

Read article by clicking on the link below, or click here to read the full interview.

Looking back, can you describe the contracting landscape in 1999 when IACCM was founded2 and tell us what the thrust for the association was at that time?

Tim:  We didn't have a landscape for Contract Management, just rocks strewn around!  We lacked an international contracts and commercial community or profession. Although people had broadly similar roles and job titles, it really was virtually a blank canvas, and this was a fairly consistent phenomenon in business.  

Steve: Tim, you had the vision back then to develop that into reality. My background then was much more the hard realities of trying to build a business. I had been general counsel for what became IBM Global Services and had negotiated the first few outsourcing agreements, which were more business-focussed than legal.

Steve, were you more aligned with the sales organisation than the legal organisation or had you split out from them?

Steve: Yes, we reported into various parts of the business, but clearly we were viewed as an adjunct to sales as opposed to the legal function. This sometimes caused some interesting internal discussions, not to say strife, organisationally!

Tim, at that point were you in the business development function or corporate finance?

Tim: It's interesting to ask -- I'm not quite sure! It was really an offshoot of  the corporate marketing group that then transformed into a small advisory team. Certainly we had close links to finance, but it was just a special task force of two assigned to drive the re-engineering effort for the global contracting process and to establish a functional organisation.

In terms of getting senior executive support, they saw a need within IBM. Did that involve one particular deal?

Tim: My answer will be different from Steve's, who was very much in a high pressure deal-making environment. I was addressing this at the corporate level within IBM, so I was seeing the conflicts and pressures from truly a global cross-business point of view.

Steve: From a team of six we grew to over 100 people.  Our team formed the model for providing negotiations support for a corporate sales function. Eventually we took responsibility for all sales contracting and contract management within IBM for services, products and general practices.  So, the organisation became global. We had 550 people within the global organisation by the late 1990s.

Was IBM at the forefront of developments at this time of increasing globalisation?

Tim: A crisis existed in the telecoms and technology sector, driven by the impact of globalisation. International presence was getting in the way of the global capability. It was very specific at that point to technology and telecoms where the founding companies for IACCM came from.  Yet, this phenomenon was not unique.

Fast forward to today, what has changed?  Do you think organisations still exist where understanding the discipline is still relatively undeveloped?

Tim: Clearly there has been significant progress, indeed if there hadn't, we wouldn't still be here. But does that mean we're at the journey's end, absolutely not!  As we said at the beginning of this interview, contracts and commercial staff were massively fragmented. Much of the work has been to steadily recruit those individuals into a co-ordinated body, help them recognise that personal development, status and career opportunities are enhanced by the existence of a professional community.

Some people really get it.  They understand that power is in numbers, in influence and in having consistent predictable forms of service and skills. But others feel quite threatened.  

Steve: The most significant difference between then and now is we now have a career and a profession called “contracts and negotiations”. It extends across many different companies and involves not just the sell-side of negotiating, winning deals and managing those contracts, but also the buy-side. Many companies now recognize that you can have a career in contracting, and that it's a noble career. This is a huge change and a huge accomplishment.

Tim: Although they recognize the need, many organisations and senior management still regard a career in contracting as something to be tolerated rather than absolutely welcomed. I think we've moved beyond that now.  

Is progress being made now on establishing training and education to support and refresh the profession?

Steve: We are in the infancy of this career.  We need formal, professional training to meet a heavy ongoing demand from the corporate world for people in this role.

Tim: A very important point Steve, and as you rightly say a significant element of our work over the years has been trying to develop that training interest in the formal education sector.

A bigger issue is the contracts and commercial role is very broad in its need for cross-business understanding. That cuts right across the way that the universities and business schools are organised today. With increasing executive interest and awareness that we are already beginning to see, senior management will join us more in promoting and encouraging the growth of the discipline within the educational sector.

In terms of the future what biggest developments are we likely to see?

Tim: Over the next few years, we will see important initiatives, including growing connections with business schools and universities around the world and the importance of this capability being recognized in the business environment. We're also beginning to see engagement in many other ways.  

Returning to the globalisation issue and IACCM as probably the only truly international and global organisation, how will such changes impact IACCM, our members and the work that we do?

Steve: Two driving themes here: First, business is global and large enterprise business is irretrievably global. So if you're going to engage in business with a large enterprise you'd better be prepared to deal with global issues on both the buy and sell sides.

Second, maybe more importantly, we have an opportunity to share tools, techniques, approaches, lessons learned and knowledge among practitioners around the globe. People in this profession thirst for that kind of support, and this is one reason behind IACCM's phenomenal success and growth.

Tim: And as markets evolve -- unless you have commitment and performance capability that matches market demands -- you will run into massive problems.  Look at what's going on in the public sector right now:  issues like Obamacare; the UK decision not to push ahead with outsourcing of its defence procurement; regular, highly-publicised waste of public money around the world.

Repeatedly, we see how organisations need to shape new forms of relationship with suppliers.  We see how customers' needs are not being matched with an understanding of the underlying commitment and commercial capabilities that are going to be necessary.

Looking forward, again, what are the biggest challenges you see for IACCM?

Tim: IACCM has made good progress, having established a body of knowledge.  We have several thousand people who are now certified as professionals and who are providing real value in the market.  More companies are looking to hire people with IACCM accreditation.

But big questions remain. I see IACCM's role increasingly as being about providing the thought leadership and insight that top management needs to answer questions about building and developing this competence.  

To finish then, could you give us a statement on your passion for the future, the profession or IACCM?

Tim: In the beginning we relied on our members to carry the message of [the profession] forward, to tug on the sleeves of executive management and try to get them to listen. This was very hard, not only to gain attention, but also to reach the point where our own membership had enough belief and confidence to actually reach out and do this.

I think we're now moving from what I would term a 'push' environment to much more of a 'pull' environment, where top management is recognizing the critical nature of this,  is desperate to know the right answers and is now leading much of that outreach.

Steve: I would say this is a profession that has an outstanding future in front of it,.  It is growing and attracting very skilled, very capable members. I see nothing but continued growth and success for this profession and for IACCM, the organisation that supports them.

Click here to read the full interview


1.  A management team from six organisations were the original founders of IACCM: 

  • British Telecommunications (BT)
  • Hewlett-Packard (HP)
  • International Business Machines (IBM)
  • Lucent Technologies
  • Marconi Communications
  • Siemens


Tim Cummins, CEO and founder of IACCM  In his role as President/CEO of IACCM, Tim works with leading corporations, public and academic bodies, supporting executive awareness and understanding of the role that procurement, contracting and relationship management increasingly play in 21st century business performance and public policy. 

Prior to IACCM, Tim's business career included executive roles at IBM and a period on the chairman's staff, leading studies on the impacts of globalisation and the reengineering of IBM's global contracting processes. His earlier career involved the banking, automotive and aerospace industries, initially in corporate finance and later in commercial and business development. He led negotiations up to $1.5bn in value and his work has taken him to over 40 countries. 

Tim's writing is extensively published and he has acted in an advisory capacity to government bodies in countries that include the US, UK, Australia, Canada and Japan, as well as regular briefings to senior managers at many of the world's largest companies.

Steve Huhn, an early supporter and strong endorser of IACCM, and the President of Stephen Huhn Associates, San Jose, California, enjoyed a long career in Information Technology having worked for IBM for 25 years and Hewlett Packard for 13 more before retiring to a consulting practice in 2013.  Steve is a lawyer by training, and worked as IBM internal counsel for the early part of his career.  Steve was the first general counsel of IBM's Global Services and was instrumental in the formation and early successes of that business.   In 1995 Steve created the contracts and negotiations group at IBM which played a key role in IBM's successful growth of the services business.   Steve held a variety of key positions in HP's services business, including VP of sales for HP Services.  He helped lead the growth of HP's services business from $250m to over $6bn in annual sales by the time of HP's acquisition of EDS.  Throughout his career, Steve led or actively managed well over 100 complex services transactions valued in excess of $75bn in revenue, closing deals on five different continents.  Since leaving HP, Steve has formed Stephen Huhn Associates, LLC and is consulting with a number of firms on a variety of transactions.  His capabilities include deal-making, strategic selling, negotiations, contracting and relationship management.  Steve is a graduate of American University and Cornell Law School and lives in San Jose, California with his wife and son.

TO CONTACT THE AUTHORS, please mail your question to Info@IACCM.com or connect using the IACCM Member Search (login required).




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