Advancing the Profession Through a Common Language
NCMA serves the contract management profession by setting professional standards and practices that bring us together. As part of this role, NCMA established a “Community Through Common Language Initiative” in 2022, which formalized a framework for sharing the initiative’s vision, goals, and how we’ll get there.
A common language in contract management promotes talent mobility and facilitates interaction between academia, government, and indus-try. It is essential to maximize the success of the profession.
Contract management has a common set of professional skills, specified in NCMA’s internationally recognized, Contract Management Standard™ (CMS™) and the Contract Management Body of Knowledge®(CMBOK®). These standards define our profession by the phases, domains, competencies, and job tasks required to be successful. The CMS™ is approved by the American National Standards Institute, giving it a high level of credibility across multiple sectors.
On February 1, 2023, the U.S. Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) made the NCMA CMS™ the foundation of a new contracting training system for all civilian agencies. Similarly, the Department of Defense made the CMS™ the basis of its DoD Contracting Competency Model in April 2020.
However, since contract management is a diverse profession spanning federal government, state and local government, industry, and academ-ia, it is common to use different terminology versus one set of standard terms and definitions that are recognized by all. This creates confusion, results in lost opportunities, and inadvertently reduces the qualified candidate pool. So, NCMA is championing adoption of a common language. The “Community Through Common Language” initiative, lays out NCMA’s vision, mission, goals, and tactics for getting there together.
Why do we need a common language?
1. Words matter to job seekers and
What words would
you use to describe the tasks a
buyer performs during pre-award,
after the planning is done and the
requirement written, when the
next task is to find a seller? Would
you call this “advertising an RFP”
or “review and evaluation?” The
CMS defines this competency as 2.1.2 – Request Offers and lays out the associated Buyer Job Tasks:
184.108.40.206 Execute Solicitation Plan
220.127.116.11 Prepare Solicitations
18.104.22.168.1 Respond to Questions from Potential Offerors
22.214.171.124.2 Incorporate Proposed Contract Terms
126.96.36.199.3 Determine Need for Pre-Offer Review
188.8.131.52 Issue Solicitations
184.108.40.206.1 Determine Need to Publicize Solicitations
220.127.116.11.4 Respond to Seller Communications
18.104.22.168.5 Amend Solicitations
If your current job description says
that you “advertise and evaluate RFPs,”
you may not be considered for jobs with terms such as “execute solicitation
plan” or “pre-offer review.” If you
don’t have the right keywords on your
resume, you may be passed over by
artificial intelligence screening systems
used to identify candidates who have
required skills. Now, imagine that these
tasks and the skills needed to conduct
them are commonly understood as
“requesting offers” by large and small
companies, state and local government,
and federal government agencies. You
would recognize and demonstrate
transferabilty of your current job skills.
Conversely, through this common
language employers would not miss
out on a pool of qualified candidates.
Similarly, imagine that you are a
student taking a course in “preparing
solicitations,” a recognizable skill
in internships and entry-level job
descriptions. A common language
provides more meaningful matching
between job seekers and employers,
2. Workforce mobility builds powerful partnerships.
When professionals are empowered to move across industries and across
the buyer-seller equation they bring
new perspectives to acquisition
teams and develop their careers
within our profession. Rather than
seeing mobility as an attrition risk,
NCMA’s common language initiative
views it as an essential ingredient
for facilitating meaningful
interaction between government
and industry. Imagine a contracting
team at a large organization that
includes former federal contracting
officers or state procurement
officers, or an agency team that
has former industry perspectives
at the table. Equipped with diverse
perspectives, these teams drive
creative solutioning and facilitate
powerful partnerships in support
of our shared missions. “Powerful
Partnerships” is also the theme of
NCMA’s upcoming World Congress
in Nashville, TN, July 23-26, 2023!
3. The next generation must build recognizable skills.
language builds an entry point to
the profession for new professionals.
Students are looking for meaningful
work and well-paying jobs. We
know that this is exactly what
our profession offers and NCMA
is rapidly spreading that message
through regular student outreach
and support to faculty. In March,
NCMA, along with representatives
from NASA, spoke to a group
of Howard University business
students to share the central role
contract managers play in solving
our country’s biggest challenges
and provide an overview of the skills
required. When contract management
curricula are based on the
CMS™ and CMBOK®, students will
graduate ready to become Certified
Contract Management Associates
(CCMA)1 and enter the workforce
with a clear vision of how their
studies connect to job requirements.
They will also have a map for the
experience they will need to develop
through meaningful internships,
coaching, and training.
What’s Next: Common Language Adoption
NCMA defines and champions our
common language, and the community
is leading the way through public
adoption of the CMS™ as our common
language. This can be seen in the
adoption of the CMS by the Department
of Defense and federal civilian agencies
of the CMS as the basis of their contract
management training programs.
Adopting the common language for
your organization or higher education
programming demonstrates your
commitment to our community and to
buyers that your organization is committed
to our shared, internationally
Next steps include:
- Higher education programs
joining their peers2 in aligning their
curricula to the CMS™ to prepare
- Employers adopting the CMS™ as
the basis of their job descriptions
and employee performance metrics
and hiring and training frameworks.
- Training organizations aligning
their courses and events to the
CMS™ competencies and job tasks
to ensure that they are training
the workforce with the naming
convention learners will use to
describe new skills.
Visit ncmahq.org/adopters to make
your commitment to the common
language and provide a path to
certification for the benefit of our
mighty profession! CM
1 The CCMA is accredited by the ANSI National
Accreditation Board (ANAB).
2 As of the print date, three universities had
aligned their curriculums to NCMA’s CMS™,
providing a path to certification: University
of California Irvine, University of Maryland
Global Campus and Webster University IT
Management. See the full press release on NCMA's Higher Education Webpage.