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An overview of BS11000 Stage 4 : Partner Selection

BS11000, the British Standard for Collaborative Business Relationships is the first of its type in the world to formalise how organisations approach mutual relationships and this Blog (4/8) is part of a series where we look at each individual stage of the Standard in a little more depth.

BS11000 Stage 4 : Partner Selection

Gosh, it’s getting exciting now …. Having successfully completed the initial Strategic Phase we are now getting into the ‘nuts and bolts’ of BS11000, the Engagement Phase and most importantly, moving forward to establish the partnership(s) that will compliment your organisation.

4-saltandpeppershakers-260x300During the previous Stage (Internal Assessment), we already identified the necessary criteria for collaboration and this should have informed which businesses have the necessary credentials to consider working with. The temptation is that we simply formalise existing relationships but will this bring anything new to your relationship; will add value or innovation ? Ideally, your potential partner should have complementary skills but in fact more importantly, have something that you don’t do or can’t do as effectively and this should be reciprocal. The common ground provides real potential for sharing efficiencies and the other areas will help your businesses develop understanding and new skills if necessary. It is essential that you don’t ignore the selection criteria that you have previously determined as this was the basis of your original logic of the type of partnership your business will benefit from.

You should have a list of businesses by now or at least be assessing your options but in order to move forward, you will need to evaluate the options. Does your potential partner actually do what they say they do? Some businesses are excellent at selling themselves but once you scratch beneath the surface, they might not be quite what you expect.

There needs to be a systematic approach to choosing your partner, so that you have an auditable trail that allows you to assess possible candidates on an equal basis to provide real comparators. This should be captured in a Partner Selection Action Plan and this should not only look at the evaluation criteria but more importantly what benefits joining forces will bring. This should also be a short, medium and long-term strategy for the relationship.

Once you have identified your possible partner, it is important to get internal approval from your Senior Exec Responsible (SER) [remember them ?] – can you imagine going through the assessment process and closing an agreement to find out that the Head Honcho had a bad experience with them at a previous company ? It’s easier to get approval upfront before you start making the approaches. Obviously, one of the criteria must be that they are also interested in forming a strategic relationship with you too and don’t take this for granted. If they are as forward-thinking as you consider, they may already committed their allegiance elsewhere. This equally needs to be tactfully dealt with as arrangements don’t last for ever, so don’t burn your bridges.

Assuming that the Big Cheese likes your proposal, the important step is to draft Joint Objectives for the collaboration, which will get both organisations thinking in the same terms and focussing on what they specifically need to do to make the objectives happen. These should initially be set at a strategic level and then filter down to more focussed areas as the relationship later develops …. but we are getting ahead of ourselves – we still need to finalise the Agreement which will involve an element of negotiation and this process in itself will provide an insight into the culture of your future partner. The Negotiation Strategy will need to engender a platform for a collaborative relationship whilst formalising roles and responsibilities and set out how value will be generated and shared. It is important that it is a mutual agreement and not the case that it is drafted unilaterally and put in front of your new partner simply to sign. Part of your negotiation must also address the conclusion of your relationship and the possibility that this occurs earlier than hoped for. The initial Exit Strategy will need to be developed specifically for each agreement, with clearly identified triggers that bring the formal relationship to a close (hopefully at the natural conclusion of a very successful Partnership).

After you have all been down the pub to celebrate your new partnership and have shaken off those fuzzy heads, you then need to update your Relationship Management Plan to reflect your new found agreement and in doing so, will pretty much have concluded your Stage 4 actions. Simples.

The next Stage, starts to focus on really making the relationship work as intended, to create joint value and give you an edge over your peers and for those interested, this will be specifically dealt with in the next Blog Stage 5 – Working Together, so watch out for that over the next couple of weeks.

The text above sets out in very general terms the process for Stage 4 of BS11000 – ‘Partner Selection’ and for ease of reference, listed below are the high level aspects that are necessary to satisfy compliance against the Standard :

  • Nominate potential collaborative partners and establish internal agreement for the collaborative  approach
  • Ensure partner selection process incorporates defined partner selection criteria
  • Establish partner selection action plans
  • Undertake appraisal of the common objectives of the collaborative organization
  • Establish a negotiation strategy and instigate this based on the business strategy, objectives and  partner evaluation
  • Select collaborative partner(s) and negotiate
  • Update Exit Strategy
  • Update Relationship Management Plan

Much of compliance against BS11000 is being able to evidence the points above and it is simpler to instil the importance of this during each stage rather than retrospectively; so encourage your implementation team to keep the progressive file structure up to date.  Documentation should be formally controlled.

In a brief Blog such as this, it is not possible to set out all of the requirements to ensure compliance against Stage 4 BS11000, so for those considering embarking on this journey, please refer also to Clause 6 of the Standard, along with Annex A for further guidance, or alternatively drop me a line .

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Collaborative working and BS11000

Again, I hope you found this of use.

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Tim Fitch

Tim Fitch has extensive civil engineering leadership experience, gained particularly in the geotechnical and rail sectors, where he has helped niche businesses become market leaders, and quadrupled turnover in Taylor Woodrow’s rail division.

With a strong background in business development, Tim spearheaded growth at Vinci’s civil engineering division, deploying customer relationship and pipeline management techniques to grow the company’s work in the transport and energy sectors.

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