A collaborative approach | Macro

A collaborative approach

A collaborative approach

Collaborative contracting helps build lasting, successful relationships with clients which results in improved service delivery. It should therefore be a fundamental way of doing business.

Collaborative contracting is a process that measures what is important to stakeholders and focuses on continuous improvement - a strategy for excellence. It is a discipline that continually focuses both the client and contractor on what is important in order to achieve success.

Even if clients don’t specifically request a formal collaborative contracting programme, service providers should seek to at least implement a cooperative philosophy and practice.

Historically, client-contractor relationships have been tactical in nature, with a short-term relationship focus on annual outputs. In that traditional environment, the client and the contractor tend to operate in an adversarial manner, believing that the only way to achieve success in the contract is at the other’s expense.

With the move to longer term strategic contracting, both parties need to be motivated to work in a more collaborative mode. For this to work successfully, a mutual commitment should be in place as to how the two will interact during the contract, with the primary goal being to facilitate improved performance. This involves both parties sharing relevant information with each other, with regards to both the risks and the rewards.

People are the key factors in any relationship and an organisation will only be effective if participants are valued, mutually respected, supportive and bring genuine goodwill and a desire to progress. Collaborative contracting therefore requires that both parties communicate well on all levels and understand each other’s organisational goals and issues.

How to create a collaborative contract
Initially, it’s advisable to conduct a series of workshops with representatives from both organisations at operational and strategic levels, in order to ensure that both parties are involved from the start. Common goals will need to be listed, guaranteeing the client that their assets are maintained at the highest possible level, in the most efficient manner, while simultaneously underwriting ‘best value for money’. Generic common goals might include: long-term improvement of asset condition and service delivery, end user satisfaction, key equipment life-cycle and planning, and innovations to specific assets or outsourced services.

The outcome of these sessions would then assist in establishing the framework and parameters for subsequent meetings between two tiers - operational and strategic - with subsequent monthly meetings at a strategic level and weekly meetings at the operational level.

Key to success
To be successful, collaborative relationships need commitment, trust and transparency. Both parties need to devote the necessary time to continuously attend meetings and workshops as necessary, to review progress. They should recognise that they are in a business venture and that they jointly need to have an overview of the contract, as a board, for the life of the contract. Performance measurement should be continued throughout the contract, and it is vital that the relationship has a common direction of future.

It is also imperative that traditional contracting be replaced with a ‘one team’ relationship mechanism that facilitates joint decision-making. This will help focus the whole team on triple bottom line outcomes, reduce the risk of disputes and create a better ‘ownership’ of the process. It will also improve timelines (through less time being spent on adversarial activities), reduce financial risk and foster cultural change with an increasing awareness of alternative delivery solutions.

Proven outcomes
Through the use of collaborative performance-based contracts with contractors and specialist providers, we have successfully removed inefficiencies associated with the more traditional mode of contracting. By understanding the partner and constantly evolving the contract, a significant cost-saving is generated.

Service levels for catering, for example, can be achieved by refining the service offering, increasing the quality of the food whilst reducing the cost due to less waste being created in the operation.

Introducing a central helpdesk can measure work order requests and thereby improve the response times of suppliers. This can also result in a number of underlying issues being resolved, once again reducing the reactive workload on the on-site team.

By fully endorsing the philosophy of collaborative contracting, you can create successful long-term contracts and relationships which ultimately lead to improved service delivery.

By Ross Abbate, deputy managing director, Macro

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A version of this blog appeared on i-FM