By Claire West

The world's first standard for collaborative business relationships - known as BS 11000 - was launched at an event at the House of Lords last week.

The standard, developed by BSI with Partnership Sourcing Ltd (PSL) - a self-financing not-for-profit organisation which helps organisations of all sizes, in both the public and private sectors - along with government and procurement professionals, is helping organisations to establish, manage and improve strategic partnering both within and across the public and private sectors.

BS 11000 provides a consistent framework for collaborative partnerships in business which can be scaled and adapted to meet particular business needs. In particular, the standard aims to address business sectors and elements of partnering relevant to small and medium-sized enterprises.

Congratulating PSL for its work in taking collaborative concepts and driving their practical application to place the UK at the forefront on innovative thinking, Lord Strathclyde, the leader of the House of Lords and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, commented: "The significant challenges faced by both government and industry today require innovative approaches in all sectors as we strive to reduce the budget deficit and stimulate growth for the UK. This will require strong cooperation - collaboration even - between industry and Government.

"I understand that other countries, notably the USA, is interested in learning more about this new standard - in an area where, once again, Britain leads the world," he added.

BSI's CEO, Howard Kerr confirmed that, in January, a team from BSI and PSl will be visiting the Pentagon to outline BS 11000 to American Department of Defense officials. Mr Kerr also mentioned that the British Government, along with the Ministry of Defence, agree that a collaborative approach delivers better value for all and so endorse the standard.

PSL's operations director, David Hawkins, explained: "BS 11000 has come about because we recognised the growing trend for collaborative alliances, partnerships, networks and outsourcing programmes whose success rests heavily on the strength of relationships. We also realised that, in most cases, these are organic relationships supported by champions not embedded in the organisations and, so, potentially they are less sustainable.

"We also saw that, left to themselves, highly promising collaborations can fail to build the foundations and, when the going got rough, they cracked. Estimates suggest that up to 80% of such arrangements are deemed to fail," he continued.

"Recognising that collaborative working can add real value, the solution was to develop good practice that could be integrated into operational approaches and validated. In BS 11000 we've merged process and behaviours to be mutually supportive and drive for more sustainable relationships that continually innovate to create value through mutual understanding," he said.

"We're now looking at introducing ways to teach new managers how to manage via collaboration rather than by the old 'command and control' approach that has been taught up to now," he added.

Chris Odam, Supply Chain and Business Services Director at NATS - one of the organisations that, earlier this year, received PAS 11000 certification, the forerunner to BS 11000 - gave three reasons for his organisation's embracing the new standard.

"We had some sound supply relationships in place but we recognised that more would be required if we are to progress, especially in our relationships with similar organisations in Europe," he explained. "In addition, we wanted to develop team skills and we also wanted to develop knowledge and awareness of the value of business collaboration in other areas within NATS."