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When IACCM announced the three winners – as well as finalists - of the IACCM Contracting Excellence Award during the IACCM EURO conference in Dublin in May, the qualities needed to be an award winner became clear.

Gary Crag, Nexen Energy ULC, Canada, receiving the Category 1 award for social benefit from Tim Cummins and Sally Hughes, CEO and COO of IACCM.

The three winning entries were:
IACCM’s Excellence in Contract Management Award recognizes the personal initiative of an individual practitioner who has shown outstanding leadership or endeavour in managing contracts fairly and openly. We look for professionals who can demonstrate success in creating an atmosphere of openness, cooperation, trust, honesty, commitment and mutual understanding among team members and between contracting parties.1

Category 1: Social Benefit

Highlighting the extent to which good contracting can make a difference to society as a whole. Last year’s winner undertook a program to rid West Africa of polio; this year, our winner’s efforts have enhanced social inclusion and the potential for economic advancement for the native tribes in Canada.

Winner: Gary Crag, Senior Manager, SCM, Nexen Energy ULC, Alberta, Canada. 

Category 2: Public Sector Innovation and Reform

Focused on the important role that contracts and commercial staff are playing in delivering commercial reform in the public sector, addressing the challenges of reconciling public expectations of constant improvement in services with demands for increased value for money.

Winners:   Lesley Palumbo, Watford Borough Council (UK)
Mark Mills, Portsmouth Water (UK) 

Category 3: Corporate Transformation

Acknowledges the difference that individual leadership can make in driving corporate transformation and value through improved commercial and contract process and organization.

Winner: Reinhard Plaza-Bartsch, Vodafone (Luxembourg) 

Award winners tell the stories behind their success: 

Gary Crag, Nexen Energy ULC, Canada
Winner of the Category 1 Award for Social Benefit 

Senior Manager, Supply Chain Management, Gary’s team needed to develop a simplified contracting process for work outsourced to local and Aboriginal contractors in the communities where Nexen Energy ULC, a CNOOC Limited Company operates:

“We integrated a contracting process into a template Contract Management System. The new documents focus completely on user understanding and include a guide to reporting and project management to reduce administrative burden. These practical guides to action should result in fewer process errors as well as ‘doing the right thing.’

I was fortunate to be invited to speak at the IACCM Europe Conference in Copenhagen in 2014. There I attended two workshops, one facilitated by Helena Haapio and Stefania Passera and the second by Robert Waller on visualization and simplification of complex documents. These sessions inspired me to try and make a difference when I returned to Canada. 

I prepared a business case and received funding to initiate a project to simplify a document set for our local and Aboriginal contractors and suppliers. Funding was granted and with the help of external consultants (Robert and Jenny Waller, and Helena Haapio)2 and my former colleague Sandi Morriseau we developed a document set that could be easily understood and digested by small to medium sized firms that might be less sophisticated than the big multi-nationals we normally dealt with. 

As well as simplifying the language, the major innovation was to simplify the RFP package into a user-friendly guide format, making it much easier for contractors to deliver the work in the way we needed.

Getting the buy in of all of stakeholders within the organization was the biggest challenge. The stakeholders’ legal team was the hardest to convince as they were very reluctant to move from the ‘iron clad’ contract terms and conditions that had served the company well for so many years. Eventually they were convinced that for the smaller dollar (in relative terms) and non-high risk contracts, a simplified set of terms and conditions could accompany our new RFP package. 

We now have a very user-friendly and easily understood document set that we believe sets us apart from our competition and is a real differentiator when dealing with local communities in our areas of operation. In fact, simple documents are strategically important, not just nice to have – for ‘social license’ reasons we need to work successfully with smaller local firms.”

Lesley Palumbo






Joint winner of the award for Public Sector Innovation and Reform

Head of Corporate Strategy and Client Services at Watford Borough Council, Watford, UK, Lesley was tasked to find a way to improve contract and relationship management across the two councils of Watford and Three Rivers. 

“Having been a housing professional by background, not a contract management practitioner, I had a lot to learn and wanted to take as many people as possible with me on an improvement journey towards a centre of excellence. I set up the Contract Management Forum (CMF) – a network of officers with a variety of roles covering all aspects of the commissioning and contracting cycle, including some for whom the administration of contracts was only a relatively small proportion of their overall job. 

“An initial workshop focussed on how we could work more efficiently and effectively. In this open forum, key issues, tensions and problems were identified that it was felt could be resolved or supported through the CMF. As an outcome of that workshop a steering group was set up, which I chaired, to develop a work programme and identify the actions needed to implement good practice; support shared learning and provide tools and networks to support all those involved at whatever level.

“The steering group was made up of the shared post of Procurement Manager, a co-ordinator and representatives from both councils, and through it we developed:

  • A supporting infrastructure for the network, including the steering group, task groups, forum meetings, workshops and seminars
  • A toolkit of resources, methodology and processes.
  • Learning opportunities at low or minimal cost for all involved officers.
  • We also undertook training audits and developed a learning delivery plan.

This led to delivery of:

  • A better understanding of contract management across the organisations and the emergence of champions from within the network
  • Improved ways of working and shared learning opportunities
  • Cost savings and procurement efficiencies
  • A focus and emphasis on working in partnership and strategically with contractors, and importantly
  • A recognition of the social value achievable in good contracting relationships.

This was a ‘win win’ for the councils; the contractors and importantly the communities we serve, with many positive examples of partner organisations delivering value over and above the contractual requirements.”

Mark Mills, Portsmouth Water, UK







Joint winner of the award for Public Sector Innovation and Reform

“Our submission was the transformation of our contract management strategy, for the refurbishment and renewal of our watertreatment work assets and distribution network. I led a team that developed and implemented an ambitious new approach to delivering our contracts and establishing a much more open, trusting and creative way of working, not only with our contractors but also with our internal and external stakeholders. It is fantastic to be recognised for the work we’ve been doing here, myself and my team, in championing excellence in contract management.”

Reinhard Plaza-Bartsch, Vodafone






 Winner of the Corporate Transformation category award

Group Head of Commercial Contract Management, Vodafone, Reinhard describes their journey towards world class contract management, and how it has raised the profile of his function within the organization:

“In our submission we share our approach in driving our business transformation, the challenges we faced and how we overcame them in building a globally connected platform, which now fostering collaboration between procurement, business stakeholders and all of our external partners. We also describe how we defined our target operating framework, its impact on processes and people, and how we approached all those changes across teams within the organization, complemented by deployment of the underlying technology which really has been the key enabler in a data-driven approach.

I feel truly honoured to be recognized by IACCM for the work we’re doing, the effort and dedication we’ve invested and the opportunity to tell our story.”3


  • External consultants Robert and Jenny Waller, and Helena Haapio have been among the pioneers of contract simplification, and the project has been the subject of an academic article in the Journal of Strategic Contracting and Negotiation (Vol 2 (1): 48-68). 
  • How Vodafone is Building the Future of Commercial Contract Management

IACCM Webinar February 2017


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