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Complex Contracting: Management Challenges and Solutions

Journal Title Public Administration Review
Published Date June 19, 2018
Research Type
Authors Trevor Brown


Governments at all levels buy mission-critical goods and services whose attributes and performance requirements are hard to define and produce. Many governments—and the public managers who lead them—lack experience and knowledge about how to contract for complex products. The contract management counsel provided to public managers is thin. Missing is a conceptual managerial framework to guide purchasing the complex products that are often so critical to public organizations' core missions. Drawing on perspectives from across the social sciences, the framework presented in this article provides guidance on how managers can harness the upsides of complex contracting while avoiding its pitfalls. The framework helps identify conditions that increase the likelihood of positive outcomes for the purchasing government and the vendor—the win-win. To illustrate the framework, the article provides examples of successful and failed acquisitions for complex products such as transportation projects, social service systems, and information technology systems.

Complex Contracting: Management Challenges and Solutions
T Brown, M Potoski, DM Van Slyke
Public Administration Review