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Commercial awareness

Commercial awareness is not an innate attribute, but an attitude you can acquire. Through studying we hope to encourage your curiosity about the place you work in and how you and the organisation could be more successful.
No organisation operates in a vacuum and survival is only ensured while it continues to deliver value and remains relevant to target markets and audiences. You will review different organisations and find out how they foster commercial awareness.
Success or failure often hinges upon the ability to be effective and efficient. This course will provide you with techniques to increase your commercial awareness.

Standalone study only

You will not be awarded credits for studying this course. It is available for standalone study only and cannot be counted towards an OU qualification.

Short course

Short course code
This is a non-credit bearing course.
Study method
Distance Learning
Short course cost
See Registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

Being commercially aware means understanding what your organisation exists to do, and the context it operates within. It means having a good understanding of your organisation, how it works, who its customers are, how it adds value to them and what influences your success and the overall performance of the organisation.

Every organisation is subject to internal and external factors that mean reacting to change and developing strategies to respond to them are a key activity for managers. This course will help you to address the ongoing process of adapting and responding to the external environment while adjusting to what happens inside your organisation. You will consider how in today’s complex organisations it is not acceptable to “do your own thing” without understanding the consequences elsewhere. It is not simply a matter of understanding your role, but how you fit into the big picture. Commercial awareness is not simply about acquiring a body of knowledge but rather a continuous dynamic process of recognising what affects your business now, and how it could be affected in the future. This means understanding customers and stakeholders, the work of colleagues, partners and competitors and how your role relates to them.

All organisations need to remain relevant to deliver value to their markets, customers or publics and this means a process of keeping abreast of how to continually deliver products and services that are at least as good as they can get elsewhere, if not better.

Many professionals deliver value by advising, teaching or training individuals, companies and other organisations. They may charge fees in return for relevant and reliable advice and customers expect them to have current, up to date knowledge as well as being able to demonstrate in depth understanding of their clients’ business. Anyone trying to develop effective customer and client relationships should also seek to understand how they are affected by changes in regulation, law, policy and so on to ensure adherence or compliance. Failure to do so could mean damage to reputation or worse. Commercial awareness in this context is therefore a key attribute of being a competent professional.

In this course we encourage you to apply knowledge and information to your workplace. By being curious, asking questions and seeking answers about how your own and other organisations work, knowing more about customers and competitors, what your colleagues do and how your role fits with theirs, you will already be well along the road to becoming more commercially aware. Having developed this mindset, you will learn techniques to ensure that you retain vital commercial awareness in future roles you have and equip yourself to progress in the world of work.

The course features the distinctive strengths of The Open University (OU) from its years of expertise in work-based learning:

  • The convenience of accessing its clearly presented and sequenced materials, activities and support whenever suits you and wherever you have access to the dedicated website – if you prefer, you can print key materials to work on them offline.
  • The support of an expert learning adviser who can clarify study materials, answer questions and help you relate the course to your specific needs.
  • A work-based activity helping you to connect the course to your individual and organisational context and needs. A learning adviser will review your work-based activity and provide personal feedback.
  • Certification of completion from the OU for those who complete the course. You can use this to demonstrate your continuing professional development (CPD) activity to your employer and/or professional body. (NB The course does not carry academic credit points.)

You will learn

After completing this course you should be able to:
  • articulate the mission and purpose of your organisation and factors that are critical to its success
  • understand how the external environment impacts on your organisation and how this may impact on ways of working to remain effective
  • describe the value chain through the key activities, resources, responsibilities and relationships in your organisation
  • explain how value is created in your own role and how it relates to others throughout the organisation and beyond
  • evaluate how you currently relate to customers (internal and external), competitors and stakeholders, and identify what could be done to relate to them more effectively so as to ensure they are getting value
  • plan ways to increase the commercial awareness of yourself and others.

Professional recognition

Successful completion of the course enables us to recognise your achievement of the course learning by issuing an OU certificate that you can use to document your commitment to continuing professional development in your personal portfolio, or to provide evidence to employers or professional body.

Learner support

Expert, confidential learner support is available when you need it from a learning adviser. Other support is available via the course forum, library, StudentHome website and computing helpdesk.

Work-based activity

The work-based activity for this course has been designed as an integrated ongoing activity that you submit at the end of your study. It will allow you to reflect on your learning and how to use it in your professional work.

Outside the UK

This course has been written primarily for a UK context, but will have relevance to other contexts.

Course length

This course will require around 25 hours to complete.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations, which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Entry requirements

    Although there are no formal academic requirements to study any of our CPD courses, you are expected to have some experience in the field and the course assumes a familiarity with the subject.

    You can register and begin at any time during the life of the course. You can study at your own pace and submit your work-based activity at any date before the final submission date for the course.

    Please note that depending on when you register, you will have at least 6 months to submit your work based activity. Information about your final submission date is available when you register for the course. If you feel 6 months may not be sufficient time for your study and submission, please contact us to discuss your study options, including current final submission date before you register.

    Course length

    This course will require around 25 hours to complete.


    Start End England fee Register
    At anytime Flexible - see Entry requirements for more detail £305.00 Register

    Ways to pay

    Credit/Debit Card – We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron.

    Sponsorship – If this course is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could ask your employer to sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. Your sponsor just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.

    The fee information provided here is valid for short courses starting in the 2021/22 academic year. Fees for short courses starting in the 2022/23 academic year or later may increase in line with the University’s strategic approach to fees.

    What's included

    All learning materials, exercises, study support and the work-based activity are delivered entirely online.

    Computing requirements

    You'll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported, versions of Android and iOS. It's not available on Kindle.

    It's also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook, however, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you'll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

    If you have a disability

    The course is delivered online and makes use of a variety of online resources. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer or the internet you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs. If you are a new learner with the OU, make sure that you look at our website.