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Raising the Standard

7th July 2014

A new industry standard - BS 11000 – has loomed into view. Industry standards are not always the most fascinating of topics – indeed I may have already lost half my audience - but this is one standard that really could have a substantial, positive, impact on our industry, not just in terms of processes, but in facilitating real behavioural change.

According to the official notes BS 11000 focuses on “collaborative business relationships” and will show “...you how to eliminate the known pitfalls of poor communication”. It also “...defines roles and responsibilities and supports collaborative decision-making – making your partnerships all the more valuable to your business”.

Collaborative decision making?  In an industry that pretty much invented tea-cup (sorry, mug) throwing as an art form? Well, yes. The key is that the old project models of client, contractor, designer etc evolved some time ago. So much of our work is through joint ventures, partnerships etc that a standard such as BS 11000 will be vital in providing a formal set of common goals that will result in better and more profitable outcomes for all.

When you also consider that national clients such as the Highways Agency and Network Rail are now looking towards “alliancing” models of delivery, with incentives on individual projects linked to overall programme delivery, then BS 11000 appears even more timely and necessary.

Perhaps most importantly, however, it will also play an integral part in providing a collaborative framework for all construction projects, ensuring that real, equal, partnerships will become standard practice on any ‘one off’ job.

Collaboration can be viewed as an outcome focussed approach, much like what is expected from good programme management.

 

The difference is that collaboration lends itself better to multi-supplier frameworks where everyone’s interests are more aligned, something that traditional frameworks have failed to achieve in the past.

For example, early stage collaboration between designers and the people that will be responsible for operating, maintaining and using the asset brings multiple benefits to the asset lifecycle. The designer’s solution can be checked and tested with the end users, operators and maintainers as it is developed to ensure that they feel that it adequately meets the client’s requirements. This enables the developing design to be assessed from the point of view of operation and maintenance against the stated clients requirements (and indeed these requirements can themselves be tested and challenged if needed) to deliver an asset which is of the right quality for the end users.

In an industry as complex as ours, ‘creative differences’ will always be part of the territory. This new standard, however, could finally ensure that every project is a true collaboration where everyone wins.

Cameron Cromwell is managing director – infrastructure at Capita

This article first appeared in Construction News

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