The aim of any Contract Administrator is to apply fairly the terms and conditions of the signed contract.
This requires a mix of essential personal skills including:
- Organisational skills
- Technical appreciation
- Knowledge of the processes
- Decision-making skills
If the role is done properly it brings certainty to all parties involved, which provides the benefits of the reliable forecasting of outcome.
In my experience there are 10 principles which a good Contract Administrator applies to projects to ensure success:
- They set up a simple system for capturing risks and issues – and review it at every meeting.
A simple log that is shared by all with dates, owners, forecast of impact and key actions or mitigation measures.
- They record all facts and records – as they go and in a way that cannot be disputed later.
This might include programme items, detailed photographic evidence, robust minutes of all meetings and clarifying any points of ambiguity that all parties confirm as correct.
- They agree the impact of all changes before implementation – and record that on a clear contract instruction.
Pre-agreement of the time, cost or specification impact before saying yes is essential.
Sometimes you may have to compromise with a forecast impact but don’t let that be the norm and finalise as soon as you are able.
The final account of out-turn cost should always be accurate with a high percentage of certainty.
- They meet the team weekly – with a structured agenda and minutes to maintain progress (and then monthly for a formal report).
Project decisions must be made as and when they arise. You cannot hope to visit a project once a month and get all that you need. Weekly effective meetings keep your finger on the pulse of the project delivery and allow you to help in a meaningful way at the right time.
- They ensure that everybody gets paid what they are due and when they are due.
Contract payments are absolute and not like general invoicing. Make the process slick and fool proof.
- They face difficult issue head on and in an impartial manner.
There will always be disagreements, misunderstandings and misinterpretations but they are not personal.
Therefore, it is best to get the issues on the table and deal with them. This must be done in a way that builds trust and a strong team ethos for future testing times that might follow.
- They know the contract processes and follow them – and get others to do the same.
Failure to do so would be like going on a hike and not being able to use a compass or map read. Doing this fairly and properly sets the tone for the project.
- They actively seek opportunities that will make project delivery easier for any party.
If you can find a way that makes it easier for one of the contracting parties, then share it! It shows that you are all on the same side in terms of the objectives whilst not compromising the commercial or contractual positions that we must hold.
- They capture lessons learnt – and advise their colleagues to help other projects.
Your list of variations is your colleagues list of lessons learnt that will help them avoid repeating the same mistakes.
- They create a working environment for all parties to perform.
This can be a health and safety culture, a constructive attitude and a consistent approach.
There is much to be said about a project environment which guarantees from the outset the likelihood of delivering the project objectives.
Great contract administrators bring a steady discipline to the project that is infectious. The result being that everyone ups their game and sees the benefit of doing things as you go.