BS11000- A charter to improve infrastructure delivery?

Many people will have heard of BS11000, the world’s first standard for business to business relationship management. Published in October 2010 at the trough of the construction recession it has gradually gained traction in the defence, rail and construction sectors.

But why make the effort to gain accreditation under the standard? Make no mistake, collaboration as a leadership and management task is hard work and for most people and organisations will require a degree of change to embed new skills and behaviours. 

The answer for infrastructure is that if implemented well, the benefits are manifest.  Business cases can be transformed. In the case of London Underground’s Bank Station Upgrade project a new collaborative procurement process - Innovative Contractor Engagement led to a radically improved scheme design at lower cost and reduced risk.

"Infrastructure clients are now using collaborative skills and behaviours as differentiators. For the supply chain to remain competitive it must respond to this new challenge."

It should also be noted that enlightened clients are now starting to include collaboration in invitations to tender. During the procurement of the multi-function framework for the Southern Zone, Network Rail asked detailed questions on collaboration which in total amounted to a significant element of the score for a potential contractor. However written evidence was not sufficient. In this case, the collaborative credentials of the organisation and its proposed delivery team were tested and validated through semi-structured interviews and innovative ‘scenarios’.  

These two recent examples clearly demonstrate that infrastructure clients are now using collaborative skills and behaviours as differentiators. For the supply chain to remain competitive it must respond to this new challenge. Although not a panacea, the journey to gaining the BS11000 credential can act as a change agent for many organisations.

The standard outlines a specification for a framework to manage the whole lifecycle of a relationship from start to finish. It recognises that there are potentially four types of relationship for any particular business; firstly with the customer, secondly internally (important in JV situations or where two divisions are working together), thirdly with other stakeholders (e.g. regulators) and finally of course the supply chain.

Each of these relationships is treated equally but the standard does recognise that many collaborative scenarios can be complex in terms of relationships often best characterised as networks.

The standard recognises three phases:

Strategic – Phase 1

In the strategic phase three stages must be addressed. Stages 1 to 3 are awareness, knowledge and internal assessment. In the case of infrastructure projects this would include an evaluation of collaborative skills and intention of the industry as well as a self-assessment of capability.

Phase 2 Engagement

This phase also has three stages. Here the focus is on partner selection, working together and value creation. Partner selection looks at the criteria and process for starting a new relationship or validating an existing one. The working together stage identifies how the partnership or relationship will be managed. The last identifies how the relationship will create value.

Phase 3 Management

 The final phase has two stages. The first, staying together, is concerned with delivering the objectives of the relationship. The second and final stage is exit strategy. Here the standard is looking for a plan of how the relationships will be ended in an orderly way once the objectives have been achieved.

The core document required by the standard is a Relationship Management Plan (RMP) which links together all of the elements described above. This document can operate at corporate level or be focused on a single collaborative project.

If you want to find out more, debate and to share your thoughts join the LinkedIn group, Collaboration and BS11000 

Tim Fitch is director of Invennt, a management consultancy specialising in construction