Q&A Background

Common pain points and ‘COVID-19’ questions with CEO, David Fish

Undermasthead Shape

In December, we sat down (virtually) with our CEO, David Fish, to discuss his background and how Clear came to be.

Following this, we had a few popular questions that were raised in discussions – so we took the opportunity to put David on the spot once more…

David, thank you for sitting down with us again.

What are the current topics that are affecting the organisations you work with?

Harnessing the power of technology and communications and driving value from big data are all key to our customers and business partners. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are already offering increased efficiency, reduction in overhead costs, better accuracy and the ability to identify trends and interpret data as well as testing alternative models to implement a better business future.

But how can this be harnessed to offer a lifeline to struggling organisations? We are constantly witnessing organisations look to technological advancements to improve products and services. The key to this for me is a mixture of people, process and tools / technology. It is the human-centric insight that drives the greatest returns from technology.

These days we also need to consider the bigger picture, so we strive to support clients to reduce their impact on our planet and encourage cross border and intercompany collaboration and sharing of knowledge and ideas. Commercial contract and procurement people must be driving the exploration of these opportunities and working together to deliver results, as we have the ability to help organisations reduce their impact on the planet and do morally and ethically sound business through principles of sustainable procurement and social value.

What difference can Clear make to common issues you see impacting the contract lifecycle?

Clear’s ethos is all about driving a human centric approach to both finding and solving problems and critically this puts the people who are most impacted by the problem, often the Clear customer, at the centre of whatever solution is being delivered.

The end goal is that the solution stems from the needs of the people using the service or experiencing the pain point, rather than the organisation that wants to solve the problem consulting at the client. This means our people are business advisors and problem solvers.

Procurement and supply chain advisors need to be more agile to not only adapt with the times but lead innovation as organisations transform to a new normal; and be strategic as well as tactical, so that the advice is not just limited to best price or quickest turnaround but considers less tangible factors; including sustainability and impact to the environment.

A real focus on delivery of change and transformation, as a vital component part of the overall organisation business model means procurement advisors then merge with contract advisors to be become all round commercial, or business advisors, and force their way up the value chain.

When we look at the recent headlines about contract drafting for the vaccine production and supply between AstraZeneca and the EU, the effort presumably expended on definitions of “best reasonable efforts”; time spent rather than trying to anticipate examples of what might occur and how it would managed, operationally and commercially, rather than specifically solving in a form of words, a road map if you will, of issues that were important to the people doing the deal and the people impacted as a result. Surely contracts should be a vehicle for doing good business, mutually, especially when lives are at risk and not a weapon of attrition.

What is meant by “Pain and Pinch Points”?

Pain Point or Pinch Point are things that organisations are experiencing, that they see and feel are affecting their ability to do good business and are getting in the way across the commercial contract lifecycle. Often these will not be clear, in terms of different factors or dependent actions, various stakeholders affected or in terms of cause and effect. This is our sweet spot – making this ‘clear’, this is what we love to help solve in terms of diagnosis and then implementation of a solution with the Client.

For example, a Client might not feel that they are getting the best service from suppliers within their supply chain as things are late or not working as expected. Each time they raise it internally there is no ongoing reporting to back this up and so it has not been addressed and it is affecting the trust between the parties.

David Fish

There might be several reasons for this. Are the obligations and RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed) parties clearly set out and agreed? Is the RAID (Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies) also sufficiently understood by the parties and the best placed party to own and control the risks and issues agreed up front? Is there a mechanism for early warning via reporting and governance? How are the parties incentivised and influenced to work together to solve problems when they occur? Etc.

Often there are several factors in play, and it is not always straight forward to resolve them at once, especially whilst keeping the service or supply chain afloat whilst fixing the underlying cause and resolving the effect. This is where we come in and take the stress out of the process to get you back to working efficiently.

What makes a good contract manager and makes a great contract manager?

A good contract manager will know their contract and the other parties to the contract, in terms of detail of obligations, dependencies, performance targets, remedies, reporting and governance; this inevitably involves managing stakeholders and personalities which can then be a tipping point from a good to a great contract manager.

A great contract manager will know these obligations of course, but also have the underlying confidence and ability to influence others to apply pragmatism and innovation to problem solving. They will try to find the solution that will endure, not just win at all costs or hold the other party “over a barrel” as this is often a short term approach that does not sustain the relationship between the parties. A great contract manager will also have the ability to dip into other disciplines and get the best information and facilitate actions and behaviour from others that contribute to the solution, even if these things are not at first apparent within the contract management remit.

How does the future effects of COVID-19 impact your typical partners?

The COVID-19 crisis has enabled strategic procurement to really focus on solutions rather than administration and move fast where necessary. This has been the time to shine for procurement and supply chain management and where best practice exists, we must keep this momentum and keep our profession in the spotlight. On the other hand, we have seen some big deals rushed through where maybe lessons can be learned for the future about what not to do.

Supply chain resilience has become more important so there is mitigation and alternatives if something unexpected happens. This is true for COVID-19 and also for the changes as a result of Brexit, where reliance on international vendors exposes us to potentially volatile trade agreements and additional administration burden.

Clear provide a range of skills and expertise via a range of delivery models that add value, work with you to identify and solve pain points and hit the ground running from day one – this was critical in 2020 and will be vital to 2021.

Are there any specific examples of businesses that have fallen foul to poor contract commercial management?

When we look at Carillion a couple of years ago, or Debenhams just recently, there are several factors that might have caused their demise. Clear were not involved in either so we can only speculate – was it an unrealistic share of risk upon the contractor for an unrealistic price in the case of Carillion’s original tender? Or was it more to do with difficulties in their supply chain resulting in delays, overspend and late payment of charges affecting cash flow across the supply chain?

In the case of Debenhams is it more to do with the COVID-19 impact on the high street affecting sales and changes in shopping habits or does the supply chain, reliance on far eastern suppliers for materials and clothing and lack of resilience across an extended and complex supply chain mean that dwindling margins and an outdated model could not sustain such an unprecedented event as the COVID crisis?

Either way, Clear have the ability, the appetite and enthusiasm to help organisations do better business across the commercial contract lifecycle, to ride out the current crisis and emerge stronger for the future.

As we look forward to the Spring, we have IR35 tax changes coming over the horizon. This is where “Contract Management as a Service” and “Supply Chain as a Service” come to the fore. We will come into your organisation and help scope your requirements, ask what is important to you or keeping you up and night and then find a packaged solution and help you to get it resolved…and leave a lasting legacy. We have all experienced enough sleepless nights over the last 12 months, and we are still not out of the woods, so anything Clear can do to help solve your pain points will hopefully help another person sleep better tonight…

Thank you David.

 If you have any questions about the topics raised above, or simply want to get in touch to discuss how we can help you, contact – [email protected]