What does it take to make it as a commercial manager in infrastructure? Richard Graham FRICS, leader of the new RICS distance learning course in Infrastructure Commercial Management gives us his view on the skills and attributes that students will need in order to succeed in the sector.

Working on vast projects that bring together extreme complexity with long lifecycles and multiple stakeholders, infrastructure commercial management is a demanding, but highly rewarding, career choice.

So what are the personal skills that will really help on that journey?

Leadership

The infrastructure commercial manager is a senior role at the head of teams of people. Leadership qualities will shine through if the commercial manager has the necessary knowledge and a talent for sharing it.

"Soft skills"

The experience brought to any project has to be credible and it has to come with "soft" skills too — a personal element vital for leading teams in infrastructure.

Those same soft skills are vital for building trust. The successful commercial manager will have to display openness and a sense of transparency.

Negotiation

Research has shown that negotiation skills are vital for practitioners in infrastructure; they will frequently need to be able to strike deals with others. Credibility combined with transparency for building trust are good skills to bring to the table, as is the ability to manage risks and agree what’s deliverable.

Astute & decisive

A balance of technical skills and personal attributes will be necessary, given that the successful commercial manager will be able to make critical decisions on affordability; and they will need to be astute when it comes to engaging with clients, with stakeholders and with people at other points in the supply chain.

There is a module of the RICS Infrastructure Commercial Management distance learning course dedicated to tendering and procurement for very good reason; so much of the success and failure of infrastructure projects is down to issues of good or bad contract procurement.

Awareness

All the separate parties to a contract can win if it’s done right, or they can lose if it’s done badly. Crucially, commercial managers must be aware of the technicalities of different procurement methods, as well as appreciative of the importance of relationships, of stakeholders’ different objectives and how these can all be aligned to mutual benefit.

That is not to say that the task of a commercial manager is all about building great friendships — far from it. Positive relationships are the aim, but not necessarily in an informal sense; it can be a tough world out there, after all.

Experience

What is vital is a good, well informed appreciation of what’s important for professionals at other points in the supply chain. For this, knowledge built from experience at all levels is a very useful attribute. If the client-supplier relationship is what it’s all about in infrastructure, then an appreciation of both sides is key.

To book your place on the RICS distance learning course in Infrastructure Commercial Management.

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