• University of Southampton
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Contract Management: Building Relationships in Business

Learn about contract management and business relationships in a course backed by UK government & World Commerce & Contracting

92,956 enrolled on this course

Contract Management: Building Relationships in Business

Investigate the world of business contracts

Struggling to understand business contracts at work? Try our free 3-week online course to understand contract management processes, gain the confidence to develop new contracts and build successful business relationships.

Contracts are fundamental to business activities and relationships are fundamental to all contracts. Learn all about the intricacies of contract management today.

Manage contracts successfully

Over three weeks, you will realise the importance, complexity and challenges of designing and delivering good contracts. You will learn how your objectives and those of your customer/client can be achieved in an effective way to minimise possible threats or failures.

Understand the nuances of business relationships

In this course, we’ll explore relationship fundamentals and complexities that relate to business contracts.

This will involve asking what can go right or wrong in relationships; examining the rules that govern public and private sector procurement, and asking how you can make the right decisions for your customers and clients.

We will look at the complex supply chains and networks that are a feature of many contracts, learning how to manage interdependencies and the needs of multiple stakeholders.

Discover more about business contracts with real-life examples

The final part of the course will bring the above ideas together, using an example scenario (the challenge of building your own house) to put theory into practice.

You can find out how this course helped the career of Laylo, a Contracts Manager at ZTE Investment Foreigner Enterprise, in her learner story.

(Course image: derivative work based on silhouettes © Nevena Radonja/Shutterstock.)


  • Week 1

    Commercial relationships

    • Introduction

      Douglas Macbeth (University of Southampton) & Tim Cummins (President, WorldCC) welcome you to the course and introduce you to the topics you will cover. This week's theme is Commercial Relationships.

    • Commercial relationships: things that go wrong or right

      In this section, we introduce you to pitfalls to avoid in contracting and you will be able to begin to relate these to the stages of the commercial relationship lifecycle.

    • How can rules and regulation affect behaviour

      You will be introduced to rules that govern business, trade and public procurement and we will debate the roles of regulation and their effects on behaviour.

    • Understanding what customers really want

      We will be discussing the importance of understanding customers and designing a business case and subsequent delivery and support system around their needs.

    • Live webinar discussion

      Look out for our live panel discussion this week. Ask our panelists questions about the webinar topic.

    • Summary activities

      In this final section we summarise the main points covered this week and encourage you to reflect on what you've learned and what aspects you will put into practice.

  • Week 2


    • Welcome to week 2

      This week’s theme is Connectivity and we’ll be exploring the complex relationships between customers and suppliers, stakeholder management, how to achieve Win-Win negotiations and risk management.

    • Connectivity

      No man or woman is an island. Contracts exist in chains and networks. We look at managing interdependency and business relationships.

    • Successful stakeholder management

      Failing to engage stakeholders is a top ten pitfall in contract management. You will be undertaking a simple stakeholder analysis, receiving feedback on your own ideas and giving feedback to others about their ideas.

    • The role of negotiation

      By understanding both our own business objectives as well as those of our suppliers and customers, we are in the best position to make Win-Win negotiations a reality.

    • Managing risk

      All activity is subject to some risk, and business and the world of contract management is not immune. We need to identify and manage ‘unknown unknowns’: those things we do not know that we do not know.

    • Live webinar discussion

      Look out for our live panel discussion this week. Ask our panelists questions about the webinar topic.

    • Summary activities

      In this final section we summarise the main points covered this week and encourage you to reflect on what you've learned and what aspects you will put into practice.

  • Week 3

    Innovation and change

    • Welcome to week 3

      This week's theme is Innovation and Change and we'll be looking at coping with the unexpected, taking advantage of new opportunities and avoiding barriers to change.

    • Judgement, innovation and change

      By challenging assumptions and looking at different perspectives we can both exercise judgement and initiate innovation that will lead to change. We examine what innovation is and how it can be fostered.

    • The future of contract management?

      Much is changing in the world of contract management: the importance of the contract manager role is being increasingly recognised. We will be discussing the top 10 attributes of successful contracts & the new skill sets required.

    • Webinar discussion

      This week's webinar is a recording: was Brexit a good negotiation? With discussion of lessons learnt. Tell us if you agree!

    • Summary activities

      In this section we post the results of the week 2 poll, summarise the main points covered this week and encourage you to reflect on what you've learned and what aspects you will put into practice.

    • Thank you and goodbye for the time being

      Thank you and goodbye from the Contract Management course team. We also share with you other ways in which you can continue to learn with our organisations.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explore what can go right or wrong in relationships
  • Debate how the rules and regulations that govern public and private sector procurement can affect behaviour
  • Identify ways you can ensure that what you buy (or sell) is what you and your customer / client really needs
  • Engage in a stakeholder analysis activity by sharing your own ideas and providing feedback on others
  • Explore your supplier relationships and compare what your fellow learners are doing more or less of than in your own organisation
  • Reflect on what actions you will now take to learn more about the course topics and take the lessons forward into your workplace

Who is the course for?

This free online course is designed for anyone who wants to better understand what is involved in commercial business relationships, and the process of managing contractual agreements.

It is suitable for those working in the public, private and third sectors.

What do people say about this course?

"After completing the Contract Management course, I am more knowledgeable, my opinions are respected and I am better equipped to implement procedures. I have improved as a manager."

"Coming from a humble background, where the access for such rich information is limited. It was like learning in a classroom filled in with people from diverse backgrounds, discussing, reading other learners comments...etc makes one think beyond one's limits. Take a bow to all the people who very involved in putting up this knowledgeable course. Feels good to have participated in this course. And feels even better that i'm going to continue my journey of learning through IACCM’s Contract and Commercial Management (CCM) Learning and Certification Program. Wish to see many of you there as well. Special thanks to two gentlemen Mr. Douglas and Mr. Tim"

Who will you learn with?

Lead Educator
Professor of Purchasing and Supply Management. Using theory and practice to make business better is what excites me.

Tim Cummins is a Professor at the University of Leeds School of Law and founder and President of World Commerce & Contracting, a global, non-profit professional association

Who developed the course?

University of Southampton

Southampton is a place for ambitious people keen to stretch their intellectual abilities and help change the world.

World Commerce and Contracting

World Commerce & Contracting is a not-for-profit association dedicated to helping its global members achieve high performing and trusted trading relationships.

Endorsers and supporters

endorsed by

Crown Commercial Service

funded by


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