Last reviewed 18 September 2018

Mike Sopp looks at the importance of a structured, systematic approach to collaborative relationships and examines how International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 44001 can help establish this.


Facilities-related functions within an organisation will require working relationships with third-party organisations that provide goods and services through various procurement and contractual arrangements.

Organisations have long recognised that close, constructive working relationships are good for business. However, with increasingly complex business operating models within facilities management environments, there is now a growing recognition that a structured, systematic approach to collaborative relationships is even better for business.

Based upon the foundation of the original British Standard, 2017 saw the publication of the first international standard on collaborative business relationships.

Drivers and benefits

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, collaboration is “the action of working with someone to produce something”.

The basics of collaboration should form part of any facilities management supply chain relationship but the need to collaborate may not always form part of any formal contractual arrangement.

With increasing complexity in supply chains and internal business operating models the impact of good collaborative working on business has been subject to scrutiny. For example, in 2006 the National Audit Office looked at the impact of collaborative working on construction projects with the conclusion that:

  • strong collaborative relationships go hand in hand with good project performance

  • successful collaborative working tailors best practice to specific project circumstances

  • measuring relationships can help underpin effective collaborative working.

More recently, in late 2015, the Institute for Collaborative Working (ICW) published a report, Benefits Realisation from Collaborative Working, that summarised the findings of a research project into collaborative working.

The report dispelled the myth that the key driver for collaboration was cost-reduction based upon increased efficiency. Rather, it found that the driver for collaborative working was a more open and committed approach that “fostered greater confidence on both sides resulting in more productive engagements” and “more constructive problem-solving which in turn reduces perceived levels of risk”. In summary, benefits of collaborative work were found to be:

  • improved business and operational performance

  • increased business winning

  • enhanced risk management

  • innovation and efficiencies

  • increased client confidence and repeat business.

The report also found that one of the main challenges to collaborative working was the ability to create a collaborative culture “that fosters behaviours, incentives, systems and procedures around collaboration”.

Formal relationships

According to the ICW “collaboration between individuals is relatively common but transitioning this to collaboration between organisations is more complex” with no suitable framework available to achieve this.

It was therefore concluded that a formal approach to managing business relationships from a collaboration perspective was required.

In 2006, the British Standards Institution (BSI) published PAS 11000 which subsequently became BS 11000:2010 Collaborative Business Relationships. A Framework Specification.

On its publication, the BSI stated that BS 11000 “provides a framework for collaborative business relationships, to help companies develop and manage their interactions with other organisations for maximum benefit to all”.

The BSI stated that having a formal framework to manage collaborative working relationships can bring a number of benefits, including:

  • partner integration by creating a neutral platform for establishing effective collaborative programmes for mutual benefit

  • establishing the foundations for partnering by providing a common foundation and language for relationships

  • improved partner selection by providing a basis for benchmarking the collaborative capability of organisations

  • improved risk management confidence and consistency by developing more effective joint risk management programmes

  • enhanced focus with the integration of collaborative working within operational procedures, processes and systems

  • baseline for improvement to support resource development and training as enhanced skills and interchangeability of personnel.

With ever increasing global marketplaces and supply chains, the need for a global standard was recognised. This resulted in the publication of ISO 44001:2017 Collaborative Business Relationship Management Systems — Requirements and Framework.

This standard now sets the benchmark for any organisation wishing to adopt a formal collaborative business relationship framework.

Management framework

As with other ISO management system standards, ISO 44001 follows the High Level Structure. In essence, Clauses 1 through to 7 detail the various supporting elements such as context of organisation, leadership requirements, planning and resourcing. Clauses 9 and 10 then detail performance evaluation and improvement.

At the heart of the framework is Clause 8 which relates to the actual operation of a collaborative relationship utilising an eight-stage approach as follows.

  • Stage 1: Operational Awareness which considers matters such as the identification of objectives and values, development of competencies and behaviours, etc.

  • Stage 2: Knowledge which considers the development of the business case, identification of partners, knowledge management, etc.

  • Stage 3: Internal Assessment which looks at the internal enablers such as capabilities, strengths, weaknesses and partner selection criteria.

  • Stage 4: Partner Selection which details partner selection, development of engagement and negotiation, etc.

  • Stage 5: Working Together which considers governance, operational leadership, joint management arrangements, processes (eg resolution process) and measurement of performance arrangements.

  • Stage 6: Value Creation which considers innovation and the utilisation of learning from experience.

  • Stage 7: Staying Together which looks at how to sustain the collaborative working framework.

  • Stage 8: Exit Strategy Activation which considers the initiation of disengagement, business continuity and future opportunities.

In support of BS 44001, the BSI has also published BS 11000 Collaborative Business Relationship Management Systems. Part 2: Guide to Implementing BS ISO 44001.

It is worth noting that this document highlights the framework “can be integrated into an organisation’s established operations, activities, processes and procedures, to optimise the benefits of collaboration between organisations” thereby not creating additional administrative or bureaucratic burdens.

BS 11000 also highlights that there are common themes throughout the framework that are essential to the success of any collaborative working system.

As an example, in relation to competence and behaviours the standard notes that it is critical that all those that are required to collaborate with others are able to demonstrate behaviours that promote effective collaborative working and engender trust. Clearly these are very much individual characteristics that can influence the whole success of the collaborative working system.

In terms of actual competencies, ISO 44001 provides a list which includes business and organisational competencies. However, in terms of collaborative competencies, this is said to include the ability to lead through influence, coaching and mentoring as well as good cultural awareness.

The standard also notes that collaborative behaviours would include:

  • information sharing, constructive questioning, open and honest feedback

  • communicating effectively, consistently, openly, honestly and in a responsive manner

  • negotiating with the joint objectives in mind

  • learning from and sharing experiences

  • understanding and supporting others in the achievement of their own goals

  • balancing risk and reward when considering innovation and future opportunities

  • showing respect and consideration for all partners including consideration of impacts of actions upon others

  • aiming to create mutual understanding but hold people accountable for unacceptable behaviours.

Clearly, the implementation of a collaborative working relationship can be daunting and it may be the case that a number of elements that are required may already be implemented outside a framework.

ISO 44001 suggests the completion of a simple maturity level exercise to determine current levels of application. In doing so, the standard contains a useful table with four levels of maturity, these being limited application, low level, medium level and high level maturity.


There is growing evidence to suggest the use of a formal collaborative business relationship framework that can bring benefits to an organisation.

Collaborative working can cover many types of facilities management contracts, including partnerships, partnering and alliances.

From a facilities management perspective, the British Institute of Facilities Management recommends that collaborative working terms and conditions should be added to any Invitation to Tender (ITT) and form of Agreement.

The key to the application of a collaborative working system is that all parties in the framework show commitment and adhere to the principles of good collaborative working.

Further information

The following are available from the British Standards Institution website.

  • BS ISO 44001 Collaborative Business Relationship Management Systems — Requirements and Framework

  • BS 11000 Collaborative Business Relationship Management Systems. Part 2: Guide to Implementing BS ISO 44001

The following are available from the Institute for Collaborative Working website.

  • Benefits Realisation from Collaborative Working

  • Insight Into ISO 44001

The following is available from the British Institute of Facilities Management website.

  • Collaboration in FM: Integrated Supply Chain Management