Collaborative Business Relationships and BS 11000: An Overview

Background to BS 11000

What is BS 11000?

Is it applicable to my organisation?

Why implement the framework specification?

An overview of the requirements

Strategic components

Engagement components

Management components

Getting started



Organisations have long recognised that close, constructive working relationships are good for business. Many more are now realising that a structured, systematic approach to defining benefits, processes and competencies that will support delivery of such collaborative relationships is even better for their business. 

This article provides practical advice and guidance for anyone seeking to gain a better understanding of BS 11000-1:2010 with a view to obtaining certification for their organisation against the specification’s requirements. Please also consider reading our complementary article - “Implementing a management system that supports collaborative business relationships – a Consultant’s Viewpoint”. 

The author of this LRQA Guidance article is Margo Logie who is one of the technical leads for BS 11000 and has been a Lead Assessor with LRQA since April 1999, assessing companies against numerous British and International standards. 

Background to BS 11000 

Businesses have always recognised that working constructively with customers and suppliers rather than in aggressive, combative ways is good for revenue and profit. However over the past decade or so with the ever increasing need to protect markets and profits, the benefits of strong business relationships have become even more widely acknowledged. 

Research over the last twenty-five years pointed to the fact that there would be demand for more complex business operating models which is proving to be true. Additionally, public sector finance cuts over recent years have resulted in organisations seeking to deliver projects and services in ways that maximise their resources. These facts begin to show why collaborative business relationships have become so important. 

The Institute for Collaborative Working (ICW), recognised how a structured approach can support effective business relationships, and was the driving force behind the development of BS 11000, which was published in 2010. 

The specification is designed to be applicable to organisations of any size or structure. 

What is BS 11000? 

The framework document comes in two parts. BS 11000-1: 2010 Collaborative business relationships – Part 1: A framework specification, defines the ‘standard’ against which organisations can be assessed and certification gained. 

‘BS 11000-2:2011 Collaborative business relationships – Part 2: Guide to implementing BS 11000-1’, is, as it says, a guidance document to support organisations seeking to implement the framework specification; structured in terms of ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’. 

Its overall aim is to help organisation establish and improve collaborative relationship working. 

Is it applicable to my organisation? 

The writers of the specification are keen to stress in its introduction that, the approach and application of BS 11000 will vary due to the diversity, complexity and size of the organisations implementing it, and that it is not designed as a ‘one size fits all’ standard. The variety in the nature of collaborative relationships, from internal divisions to multi-party consortiums, means that consistency within a framework is sought, with application tailored to the specific requirements of the organisation involved. 

Is your business looking to, or already working with another party to deliver defined objectives and outcomes? Are you also looking to approach the management of the project, initiative, contract or service with the other party/parties in a structured manager? If the answer to both is ‘yes’ then BS 11000 is not only applicable but could be of real benefit. 

Why implement the framework specification? 

There are two simple considerations here: will implementation give my organisation tangible benefits and secondly, is this going to help me sell the idea to top management? 

BS 11000 has a strong emphasis on value and improvement. It can help all involved to meet mutual goals, boost performance and more effectively share knowledge, skills and resources. Effective collaborative relationships mean you gain increased efficiency in the transparency, and understanding of governance processes in partnership dealings. This leads to better cost and risk management, as well as levels of innovation not normally achieved in typical client-supplier relationships. 

But it’s not just us who are saying that there are benefits. 

The National Audit Office (NAO) undertook research to examine how organisations have been able to realise improvements in the successful delivery of projects by working in collaborative partnerships. Its aim was to help share the experiences of those in other industries with those working in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to promote the benefits of working collaboratively and highlight how adopting this approach, for the delivery of major defence projects by the MoD and its industry partners, could also realise these benefits. 

The resulting summary report, published in November 2006 arrived at three key conclusions: 

• 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. 

These key points accord with the ethos and requirements of the specification. 

More information about collaborative relationships can be found by clicking on this link National Audit Office (NAO) (you will be taken to an external NAO site). 

Early adopters of the specification have come from a variety of industries such as: Construction, Defence, Facilities Management and Business Process Outsourcers in the service sector. Network Rail and Capita are among those who cite benefits including the alignment of risk management and consistency in approach to processes, which early proponents also state has led to resource and cost savings. 

Two organisations that LRQA worked with soon after BS 11000 was published were BAM Nuttall and Turner Facilities Management. Both considered that the exercise of working through the specification allowed them to enhance existing processes and, having gained certification, felt it demonstrated, to existing and potential customers that working in partnership for mutual benefit is not just intent, but a day to day reality. 

An overview of the requirements 

The specification is designed to be relevant whether it’s applied to a single unit or relationship or to a multi-faceted supply chain. Implementation is designed to complement an organisation’s existing governance and contracting processes. 

The framework has eight stages, defined within three phases. 

• The first phase is ‘strategic’, made up of three stages: ‘Awareness’, ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Internal Assessment’. In very broad terms, this phase is designed to ensure that the organisation understands collaborative relationships and has policies and processes in place to identify the potential for them. 

• The second is ‘Engagement’, which also contains three stages: ‘Partner Selection’, ‘Working Together’ and ‘Value Creation’. This phase concentrates on opportunities and relationships to ensure that their selection and start up is well structured. 

• The final phase is ‘Management’ which incorporates the ‘Staying Together’ and ‘Exit Strategy’ stages. The focus here is on optimising performance throughout the complete lifecycle of the relationship. 

Strategic components 

Stage 1 ‘Awareness’ (clause 3 of the specification): 

• This looks at the strategic policy, the appointment of a ‘Senior Executive Responsible’ (SER) ie. top management’s commitment and involvement, and the processes needed to incorporate collaborative working within the organisation as a value adding approach. 

Stage 2 ‘Knowledge’ (clause 4 of the specification): 

• The focus here is on ensuring that an organisation develops a structure that facilitates the identification of opportunities and processes to allow these to be defined and analysed. 

Stage 3 ‘Internal Assessment’ (clause 5 of the specification): 

• The intent is to ensure that an organisation evaluates its capabilities, maturity and abilities to successfully engage in a collaborative relationship and has mechanisms in place to act upon the output. 

Engagement components 

Stage 4 ‘Partner Selection’ (clause 6 of the specification) 

• A structured approach to the identification, evaluation and selection of potential partners is the focus of this stage. 

Stage 5 ‘Working Together’ (clause 7 of the specification) 

• This focuses on ensuring appropriate governance and operational structures are in place to facilitate the delivery of joint objectives and improvement once the partnership is formed. 

Stage 6 ‘Value Creation’ (clause 8 of the specification) 

• This stage addresses the processes required to ensure that synergy is achieved and improvements realised. 

Management components

Stage 7 ‘Staying Together’ (clause 9 of the specification) 

• The focus here is on the need for monitoring and measurement to ensure that the relationship is maintained at the most effective level of performance. 

Stage 8 ‘Exit Strategy’ (clause 10 of the specification) 

• This stage addresses the need for a strategy and, if required, processes for disengagement, as and when appropriate. 

Getting started 

Firstly, get hold of a copy of the specification and related guidelines for the BS 11000 Collaborative Business Relationship Framework. These can be bought from our webstore at (please note this is an external link – click here for terms and conditions). 

Also take time to read our complementary article “Implementing a management system that supports collaborative business relationships – a Consultant’s Viewpoint” for the consultant’s perspective. 

Other than actually seeing what the specification says, the starting points need to be: obtaining management commitment and then reviewing the stages within the “Strategic” phase to see what policies, processes and records already exist and what you need to consider setting up and implementing. 

‘BS 11000-2: 2011 Collaborative business relationships - Part 2 Guide to implementing BS 11000-1’, provides examples of SWOT and PESTLE tables while both parts of BS 11000 contain examples of Relationship Maturity Matrices that could prove useful tools when considering, ‘Where are we now?’. 

It is not the intent of the specification that the eight stages will be followed in sequential order but rather that some will be undertaken concurrently. This is particularly likely for the ‘Strategic’ phase. Some elements could well be recurring, so reviews and evaluations will, in all probability, affect different stages at different times. 

The Relationship Management Plan (RMP) is a key document(s) that is referenced throughout BS 11000. Considering how best to define it is something to think through at an early stage. For example, should it be one or a series of documents, a roadmap/signpost document or an evolving record for each relationship? 

The scope of application could well affect the structure and format of the RMP, so this too is something to consider early on. Do you want a system that is applicable across the whole organisation for any type of relationship, or would application be more appropriate to a single relationship, such as a joint venture or with a key client? 


Certification is an external validation of your management system, to ensure that it meets the requirements of BS 11000-1. Not all certification bodies are the same and that is certainly true when it comes to certifying against BS 11000. 

LRQA is unique amongst our peers, in that we can undertake a BS 11000 certification assessment against any scope of activities appropriate to the organisation, which means that it does not need to be limited to a single relationship or project. 

We can certify taking a staged approach which is usually most appropriate if the scope covers one specific relationship. This could see an organisation gaining certification against the ‘Strategic’ phase of the specification before moving onto certification against all the requirement as the relationship develops. Alternatively a more traditional two-stage approach covering the full specification can be arranged. This is more likely to be effective if the scope relates to all potential relationships managed by an organisation. 

For information on gaining BS 11000 certification with LRQA, visit our BS 11000 information page. 

To learn more about LRQA products and services, contact our business advisors on 0800 783 2179. 

LRQA also provides a number of engaging and informative courses, in respect of developing implementing, auditing, managing and improving your management system. Visit Management Systems Training to learn more.