“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Henry Ford.
It can be argued that the great achievements in human history have come from working together, and the great disasters from working apart.
As the construction industry moves more towards collaboration through sharing data, integrating work programmes and the concept known as BIM, some are looking to define the framework for coming together, keeping together and working together.
Could a British Standard, BS 11000, hold the answer?
While the motor industry continues to innovate in manufacturing, as Henry Ford did, the world has moved on and one of the biggest changes has been the Internet.
This year, well-known Internet auction firm eBay announced a ‘tie-up’ with physical catalogue merchant Argos, that would allow selected purchases on eBay to be picked up in Argos stores.
A recent news article reports “the move may help eBay challenge Amazon’s Locker delivery”, but of course it’s likely that reacting to competitors is not the only benefit that will be realised if this becomes a successful collaborative business relationship.
Nestled between ‘Working together’ and ‘Staying together’ in the British Standard is perhaps the most important outcome: ‘Value Creation’. By communicating and sharing data, parties can uncover additional benefits whether that’s a reduction in cost, combined purchasing power in the supply, new opportunities or efficiencies.
Perhaps traditionally construction trades, in particular, have been a little precious over their day-to-day work and perhaps a defined framework is what is needed to change that.
Another business relationship that has been in the news recently is that of Ocado the grocery delivery company and Waitrose the grocer.
In the early days, with Ocado a new company, the collaboration seemed to bring added value to both parties. However recently the relationship seems outwardly tense, I think best summed up by a line from a Telegraph article:
‘Ocado hit back, saying that Waitrose was uncomfortable with the fact Ocado was now a “grown-up” business’.
Perhaps the lesson here is that things change and collaborative business relationships are sometimes forged for a specific purpose.
MATURITY and EXIT STRATEGIES
This is something that is provided for in the BS 11000 framework with the Relationship Maturity Matrix and Exit Strategy clauses, particularly relevant for the short-mid term projects involved in construction.
Considering these early on ensures that the relationship continues to deliver the benefits intended, and when the project is over, both parties can disengage without leaving any loose ends.
There is a big emphasis on collaboration in BIM and for it to work properly all parties need to share a common strategy.
A quick browse through the BSI’s website shows that some fairly large contractors have already implementing BS 11000 through to certification and while certification isn’t necessary and there are other frameworks, it’s time to start thinking about a structured approach to Collaborative Business Relationships for successful projects.