New Standard In Collaboration

27 February 2012

Costain is closing in on obtaining a new quality standard, as it approaches the final stage of the certification process.

British Standard 11000 (BS 11000) is designed to acknowledge expertise in Collaborative Business Relationships. A new standard, having only been announced in autumn 2010, only a few companies have so far qualified for it.

Costain hopes to be the first to do so in the construction and engineering sector, says Business Improvement Director, Tony Blanch, who, together with Business Improvement Manager, David Sanders, is handling the project.

“It’s all about how you work collaboratively, both upwards with customers and downwards through the supply chain or in joint ventures.”

To achieve BS 11000 certification a company has to demonstrate that, rather than simply starting to work with another organisation that it firstly assesses itself and determines what type of other organisation it wants to work with.

This, says Tony, involves considering more than purely technical attributes but also the ‘culture’ of a potential partner, to see if it will be a good ‘fit’. A gap analysis is then undertaken, to determine whether there are any areas in which the two companies’ attributes do not join up and if those gaps can be bridged.

“It’s a case of carefully selecting a partner,” explains Tony, "rather than simply thinking, ‘We need to work with someone, who can we work with?’”

As well as carefully considering the factors necessary to achieve a good link, an important facet of BS 11000 is also planning an exit strategy from the partnership.

He likens the connection between two companies who agree to partner each other to “a dimmer switch, not an on-off switch. You decide how much information you want to share; do you give your partner access to your own intranet, for example?”

BSi assessors carried out the Stage 1 assessment for Costain’s BS 11000 application in late January, which showed that Costain’s approach meets the standard. The second and final stage of assessment will take place in April, when demonstrable evidence of collaboration working will be presented, after which certification will hopefully be granted.

Costain decided to undertake BS 11000 partly because of its increasing network of relationships with major clients and supply partners and partly because it was realised that the new standard chimed closely with the Choosing Costain strategy. “It’s almost a no-brainer, so why not have external verification?”

“As the primary purpose of the standard is for the partners to add value to each other’s operations,” says David, “it supports perfectly our ambitions of continually delivering enhanced value for our customers.”