What is BS11000/ISO444001


BS11000/ISO44001: Collaborative Business Relationships is a relatively new standard which is not specific to any industry or business sector. ISO44001 is the international standard will supersede BS11000 (which it is largely based on) by late 2018. It is a framework for helping organisations to prepare for, select and maximise the benefits of strategic relationships. It can be flexibly applied to specific partnerships, large collaborative projects or groups of organisations focussing on common goals (e.g. in the public sector). It was designed over many years and reflects best practice in forging mutually beneficial relationships. It is an integrated framework covering all organisational factors which could impact a strategic alliance and its collective abilities to achieve joint goals. It addresses not only collaborative processes but also the importance of having the right people and right behaviours. It challenges organisations to have an overarching rationale for strategic collaboration with its senior leadership fully committed. It also requires collaboration risks and opportunities to be fully integrated into its corporate planning and resourcing. A more detailed approach can then be developed for specific collaborations, resulting in a Relationship Management Plan for that collaboration.

The key requirements of ISO44001

There are 6 requirement clauses within the standard. The organisation needs to have:

Clause 4: A overarching rationale for the adoption of a collaborative business relationship approach

Clause 5: Leadership at the executive fully committed to collaboration

Clause 6: Collaborative risks and opportunities are fully integrated into an organisation’s plans

Clause 7: The necessary resources and collaborative competencies to ensure collaborative working can be adopted

Clause 8:  An operational staged approach to adopting strategic collaboration. This clause is the fundamental core for building relationships. This approach has 8 stages namely:

  1. Strategic awareness of specific areas for collaboration, their associated benefits and its alignment with the organisation’s goals
  2. Knowledge of the risks of specific strategic collaborations and the key requirements for successful implementation
  3. Internal assessment of the organisation’s capacity and ability to collaborate
  4. A structured process for partner selection
  5. A structured approach to define how the organisations will collaboratively work together
  6. A joint focus for innovation and the creation of mutual added value
  7. A well thought out way for monitoring and sustaining the relationship over time and through different challenges
  8. A mutually agreed set of conditions and way of ‘exiting’ the relationship.

Clause 9: The necessary arrangements in place to measure collaborative performance and an appropriate management review

Clause 10: A methodology to recognise and correct non-conforming practices and to ensure continual improvement

The key stages of Clause 8

The first 4 stages of ISO440001 (Awareness, Knowledge, Internal assessment and Partner Selection) concern the corporate readiness and maturity to enter into strategic partnerships. They are:


Collaborative approaches will cut across every function in an organisation. The initial key is to ensure that an organisation has a clear mandate and strategy to undertake a collaborative engagement. This must be demonstrably aligned with the vision, values and objectives of the business. Collaborative working in any form is not an easy option; it requires investment, resource and frequently changes within an organisation. As such it needs sustained backing and focused direction.


Having identified the potential for collaboration the next stage is to develop specific strategies and risk management that will deliver the required outcomes. What do organisations want to achieve, and do they have the skills, to support the complexities of these integrated approaches. How will they manage knowledge and information flows? What will their customers and markets make of their collaborative approach? Who could they partner with? What would be the impact of withdrawing from collaboration? The exit strategy is often seen as negative although in fact understanding the rules for disengagement focuses the attention on the key issues to make a relationship work. Most importantly what do the specific risks look like? Every relationship is different whether vertical or horizontal; however, the key issues will be common to most. These are the key factors which ISO44001 captures and provide a common and consistent foundation for collaboration.

Internal assessment

Most organisations are very good at defining what they want from others but perhaps less willing to assess their own capability to meet the demands of collaboration. A collaborative relationship is a ‘two-way street’ and to achieve the desired goals it requires commitment on all sides.

This is not just about processes, procedures, systems and contracts (the HARD process issues). It is also a question of the people drivers (the so called SOFT issues) such as leadership, skills and motivation, which will govern the behaviours and approaches at the working level.

Partner selection

Collaborative relationships can be utilised in many different circumstances and finding the right partner should not be left to chance. Too often the selection process is by default or based on long term experience in a traditional relationship. This may not always be the best criteria. An existing supplier for example may not be the best choice when considering a more integrated approach.

In a similar vein, where an existing provider is perhaps a single source option, their

collaborative capability is frequently ignored (as there is no other choice). It is important to understand the differing dynamics of a collaborative approach and assess the strengths and weaknesses whatever the route to selection.

The final 4 stages (Working Together, Value Creation, Staying Together and Exit strategy) concern an organisation’s planned and actual approach to working with strategic partners on not only one business area / project but across a range of areas or projects.  Some of the key requirements (both planned and actual) are:

Working together

Once the partner(s) are selected the focus shifts to ensuring that the relationship is placed on a sound foundation. Establishing the right platform on which to create a collaborative relationship is crucial. Clearly there will need to be an agreed contract however it is important to work jointly on setting out the appropriate governance model that will support collaborative working.

In finalising the contracting arrangement this should where possible incorporate the key requirements and principles for collaboration including the need to address operating practice and the systems to be employed to manage the operations

Value creation

Experience suggests that relationships will tend to plateau over time if not driven to maintain continual improvement and very importantly joint innovation. The relationships which are particularly focused on long term benefit must maintain a relevance to markets and customer needs. A major value from collaborative approaches comes from the ability to share ideas and harness alternative perspectives. Those that look for additional benefit often exceed their original objectives and perform much better overall.

Staying together

Business relationships are likely change over time. This may be because of either internal and external factors or pressures. Even where partners have invested in creating a firm foundation and governance the people involved will develop or move on, which will change the dynamics of the relationship. This is a strong reason for embedding the collaborative practices in the operating model.

In order continuously to achieve performance goals it is crucial to establish a programme that works to maintain a sustainable relationship through ongoing joint management.

Exit strategy

The exit strategy whilst shown as the last stage is a key aspect that should be addressed as part of the initial thinking and carried throughout the whole life cycle of the relationship. The exit strategy should not be confused with contract termination which whilst important addresses another aspect of relationships with suppliers. The strategy should focus on how the parties plan to disengage when necessary and ensure effective business continuity and customer support. This is particularly important in supply chain programmes where services and outsourcing programmes are involved and may for regulatory or competitive reasons require periodic re-tendering. A strong relationship will recognise the value of looking to monitor the changes and ensure that the concerns and needs of each partner are duly addressed. It is important to ensure that whilst one initiative may come to its useful end others may (and should) emerge from successful collaboration.

The implication of terminating an agreement and how this is viewed internally and externally is crucial to the reputation of the parties. Whilst it may be appropriate to cease activity, it is important to understand how this is presented and interpreted will influence the way each party proactively approaches disengagement.


ISO44001/BS11000 Collaborative Business Partnerships


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