DIS | Department of Information Systems

DIS General Counsel Attends Harvard Training Program

Department of Information Systems (DIS) General Counsel Anthony Black spent a week in June at Harvard Law School as a participant in its Harvard Negotiation Institute (HNI). The program consisted of lectures, facilitated discussions, skills-based exercises, negotiation simulations and two personalized coaching sessions aimed at equipping attendees with skills to maximize his position at the bargaining table and generate better deals.

Black was among 79 other lawyers, judges, leaders of nongovernmental organizations, executives and other professionals from an international roster of attendees. A group negotiation exercise on the first day teamed Black with another U.S. attorney, an attorney from Mexico and two other professional counterparts from France and Switzerland. In subsequent one-on-one negotiating exercises, Black was paired with an individual from Germany and an individual from Brazil.

“The seminar provided an excellent framework to analyze and prepare for any negotiation,” Black said. “The hands on exercises helped me learn how to analyze, anticipate and prioritize the things I was trying to accomplish and to be able to delineate between mandatory versus discretionary needs.”

Black said he intends to leverage the skills learned at the HNI seminar to create a more level playing field in contract negotiations with the approximately 450 vendors doing business with DIS.

“We work with some very sophisticated vendors with an international footprint,” Black said. “I want to help make sure the terms of the contracts being negotiated are as favorable to the state as possible.”

With DIS responsible for oversight of IT contracts of $100,000 or more, Black said it was important to learn the core concepts of formal negotiation approaches and how to use them to strengthen DIS’ and the state’s position to reach a successful outcome that achieves the desired goals in a manner fair to all parties.

“The experience validated that being prepared is one of the most important elements of successful negotiation,” Black said. “The more prepared you are, the more comfortable you are in reaching an agreement that is most acceptable to the parties.”

Black said, in the near future, he hopes to share some key best practices with other employees who play a critical role in contract negotiations on behalf of DIS.

HNI is affiliated with Harvard’s Program on Negotiation (PON), a university consortium dedicated to developing the theory and practice of negotiation and dispute resolution. PON was founded in 1983 as a special research project at Harvard Law School. PON includes faculty, students and staff from Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University.