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Collaborative Relationships

15 December 2006

BSIs new PAS 11000 will formalise a consistent approach to 'collaborative relationship management' and provide a foundation for benchmarking organisations internally and externally and a mutual 'eroute map' for would be partners

EFFECTIVE RELATIONSHIPS ARE THE KEY to success and it is no easy task in finding the right provider to fit a company's culture and requirements while developing a collaborative environment. Maintaining that relationship through the ups and downs takes effort and focus.

The launch of PAS 11000 at the House of Lords on November 21st heralds the start of an innovative programme to transform and formalise a consistent approach to collaborative relationship management. It will establish the foundation for benchmarking organisations both internally, to raise the skill base, and externally to support evaluation of potential partners. It then provides a platform on which to optimise collaboration for mutual benefit.

Collaborative relationships in the context of this standard have been viewed as multidimensional, which is particularly relevant to the nature of FM operations. Recognising the importance of these relationships across operations is seen as a key step. The overall process has been established to provide a framework that will allow organisations to incorporate their existing best practice approaches. It also recognises the diversity, complexity and size of organisations and allows its application to vary within the overall framework depending on each organisation's own needs. This is particularly important when considering the potential of collaboration between organisations of differing sizes, such as large multinationals dealing with smaller organisations.

The Publicly Available Specification (PAS) is a framework specification which captures best practice from a broad spectrum of organisations, both in the private and public sector. Establishing best practice by harnessing the benefits for the business community is the backbone of the BSI's activities, and the PAS development process ensures that a significant amount of consensus is reached between stakeholders. Building on the knowledge network of Partnership Sourcing Limited (PSL), a joint DTI/CBI initiative, and its pioneering CRAFT methodology, PAS 11000 provides guidance and an auditable platform, which most companies can adopt without major investment.

"This is a significant step forward in terms of raising the recognition of relationship management" says, PSL's CEO Les Pyle. "The market place has become more complex and effective collaboration is the key to many of the challenges and risks faced by business today."

"Partnering for Profit is not a new concept", says Frank Post, marketing director of BSI. "Recent years have seen a sharp rise in outsourcing. However, standardising an approach will improve the competitiveness and efficiency of business." The PAS framework is based on an eight-phase model, which enables organisations to focus their efforts from concept to disengagement:
... Awareness: understanding where relationship management fits with your business objectives
... Knowledge: understanding how others have progressed and developing your approach
... Internal assessment: evaluating how your own organisation is positioned to collaborate
... Partner selection: finding the right partner relationship to complement your objectives
... Working relationship: building a joint approach focused on mutual benefit
... Additional value creation: developing additional value from the relationship
... Staying together: ensuring that you measure and maintain maximum benefit
... Exit strategy: recognizing the changes both internal and external and preparing for disengagement

Although focused on collaborative business relationships in the context of a FM-type contract, the principles and practices are equally relevant to any relationship based upon honesty and trust. This standard provides a focus into the key collaboration issues and then provides a logical route through the process from its conception throughout its life.

At the heart of any successful relationship are people and this standard addresses the collaborative team at every level. The process of developing an effective approach to behaviour starts with the need to raise awareness. The relationship iceberg (overleaf) provides a graphic example of the difference between the formal and informal interactions. Most organisations will be able to appreciate the process issues that govern the formal relationship between organisations. For many groups developing collaborative approaches there is a need to integrate these with a programme focuses on the relationship development process.

What will be apparent to those in the FM world is that whilst every effort can be made to bring organisations together through formal procedures and processes by compliance, it will be the informal people issues that will define success. The rationale is that knowledge sharing and joint responsibility becomes an issue of interpretation by those involved. Therefore, how each individual views the challenges will be reflective of their effort and commitment, which will significantly influence the way they respond to others.

Outsourcing has become a key part of the business armory in its quest to maintain competitiveness and develop alternative business models particularly in the world of FM. This approach may take many different forms from outsourcing of internal support activities, through to external integration of business processes aimed at creating new business propositions through the extended enterprise concept.

The growth in outsourcing as a means of focusing resources and extending capabilities was initially seen as an effective tool in reducing costs. However, as a result many organizations also identified gaps in their existing business processes that may have been papered over through internal collaboration. Effective collaboration or partnering approaches allow organisations to develop a more open structure in the trading relationship and to maintain the visibility and flexibility necessary to meet today’s challenges and exploit the potential of FM outsourcing more effectively.

Understanding what the clear focuses in moving forward are will set the benchmark in establishing opportunities, capabilities and knowledge necessary to deliver success. This standard will provide a common language and approach that will speed the transition from conflict based contracts to integrated collaboration.

Collaboration is a way of doing business more effectively. It is not a cumbersome add-on extra. Partners develop, for their mutual benefit, a shared view of the overall business upon which they are engaged, working alongside one another in a flexible way (as if each were a part of the same organisation) in order to meet jointly defined strategic business objectives and to achieve key deliverables.

Collaboration requires effort if it is to be done properly. The rewards can be great but it is not always the most cost-effective or appropriate approach. Some contracts simply do not provide sufficient scope for the innovative flexible approach, which is fundamental to partnering. For example a traditional, specification-driven, short-term year contract would provide less scope for collaboration to be beneficial than, a 5 year (or longer) renewable full FM service contract.

Collaboration is about achieving best value for money. It is only appropriate where the delivery is ‘output-based’. In other words it describes what is to be achieved and not how it is to be done. This leaves maximum scope for the supplier to take an innovative approach to service provision in order to achieve best value. This is particularly important in the FM field, especially in the context of multi-activity contracts.

It is important not to stumble blindly into a partnering relationship. A decision to do so should be properly informed and should take account of initiatives and developments not just within the FM field but globally. It is vital that the relationship and its goals fit within the overall corporate strategy set out by an organization’s management team. PAS 11000 encompasses the principle ingredients for a collaborative relationship and this provides a mutual route map for would be partners. Successful partners need to share a similar outlook on business. They should have aligned objectives and understand each other’s cultures and values because of their individual strengths and weaknesses that will be more effective working together than apart.

For potential providers the standard will establish a benchmark for capabilities and for promoting collaborative approaches. For customers it will define expectations. PAS 11000 provides a baseline for skills development and also defines the primary requirements that should be auditable in terms of validation or eventual accreditation, which is currently under review. It recognises that organisations may have a variety of approaches so it is focused as a framework not a definitive process.

FM managers and teams will find this framework standard a valuable tool in developing and managing effective relationships towards value management. The greater the level of interdependence the more opportunity there is to harness joint knowledge and skills to mutually develop and build collaborative programmes. Nevertheless this is still a relatively new concept and there are many FM suppliers and purchasers of FM services for whom collaboration is a step in the dark. Creating a recognised national standard is an important step forward to more effective and efficient performance.

“For potential providers the standard will establish a benchmark for capabilities and for promoting collaborative approaches. For customers it will define expectations.”

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