Judith Turner, EMS Technical Manager examines the advantages that collaborative working can provide organisations.
Collaborative working is not a new concept. One advantage of this strategy is that it can provide a focus – or platform – for implementing an integrated management system, as well as the other advantages of collaboration.
What is collaborative working?
Many businesses have always recognised that working constructively with customers and suppliers - rather than in aggressive, combative ways - is good for revenue and profit. It can also be used to support social responsibility goals as well as marketing activities involving charitable and voluntary sector interactions.
Collaborative working, traditionally, implied physical proximity of stakeholders or joint delivery of products or services. However, as we have all learnt, there are now virtual ways of doing business and, progressively, ways of sharing data storage and retrieval e.g., ‘Cloud’ based systems. These virtual and, often, simpler ways of developing opportunities for regular and closer contacts can make collaborative working an organic development rather a specific task.
Integrated Management Systems (IMSs), typically, are where an organisation already has more than one risk-based management system, such as quality (ISO 9001) and information security (ISO 27001) and decides to integrate these together into one common process-driven approach to working. There may be three or more such management systems integrated and the common thread will be a risk-based approach to continual improvement which removes the individual sector / product / process silos, allowing the inherent duplications of controls and responsibilities to be minimised.
BS 11000 as an enabler for IMS
BS 11000 provides a framework for collaborative working in organisations of all sizes. It can be used as an enabler for achieving an IMS in those organisations with complex internal structures (e.g. associated and sister companies) and/or where significant levels of service are outsourced or delivered through partnership or other alliances, as well as between external stakeholders.
BS 11000 won’t directly enable an IMS. What it can do, however, is to provide a relationship framework between stakeholders to work collaboratively. This can mean that the elements of process, compliance and more profitable ways of working can be reviewed not just for better collaboration but for better delivery.
Better delivery can mean more integrated identification of risk. The relationship framework can cascade down into integrated and mutually tested processes, dispensing with separate procedures and instructions for quality, safety and data security amongst other risks.
The other important driver of BS 11000 is how relationships and collaboration need to be actioned at all levels of management. Strategic managers can sit down together (or perhaps just ‘virtually') and agree goals of how collaborative working will extend the profitability of their respective organisations. BS 11000 can also be used to focus on how improved joint ways of working will lead to business process integration within the individual organisations. It enables knowledge and expertise to be harnessed and facilitates the delivery of projects on time and within budget and hence provides a competitive advantage. And can provide a vehicle to calibrate - or match - the risk appetite of all the participants on the project or partnership being delivered.
BS 11000 is worth considering as a standalone product in its own right, delivering projects either with external or internal partners and managing risk throughout all phases of the partnership from selection to exit. As a driver for implementing an IMS, it can deliver yet another positive outcome.
BS 11000 forms a working platform for both self-assessment and benchmarking and external certification and LRQA will be pleased to discuss these opportunities further with you.