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Chapter 16 of The Strategic Alliance Handbook (978-0-5660-8779-0) by Mike Nevin

Alliance Standards and Schemes


There are now a number of alliance standards being developed, both domestically and internationally. Three of the better-known of these standards have been developed and are managed by the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals, the British Collaborative Relationships Standard (BS 11000) managed by the British Standards Institute (BSI), and The Partnering Initiative (TPI) managed by the International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF). Details of each of these schemes can be found below.

Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals: Certification Programme

The ASAP alliance management certification programme offers members the opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of core alliance skills and the management of all forms of collaborative business relationships. The programme features two levels of certification:

  1. Certification of Achievement – Alliance Management (CA-AM) – the basic level of certification for up-and-coming alliance professionals;

  2. Certified Strategic Alliance Professional (CSAP) – the advanced level of certification for seasoned practitioners with a command of the full alliance lifecycle from inception to termination.


Certification has proven valuable for both individuals and the organisations for which they work. Successful alliance managers need to have in-depth knowledge of a wide range of skills, and through certification, they can demonstrate their knowledge of these skills.

In addition, certification represents a level of professional achievement. Becoming certified demonstrates a commitment to the profession. Just as important, Certified Strategic Alliance Professionals are recognised leaders and serve as role models within the alliance management profession.

ASAP’s certifications are increasingly recognised as the standard for alliance managers. The certification process examines competence in three critical areas, as shown in Table 16.1.

Table 16.1 ASAP alliance management competencies

Context skills

Core skills

Company skills

Communications skills

Conflict resolution

Negotiation skills

Financial management

Change management

Project management

Team management

Leadership through influence

Problem solving and decision making

Creating strategic alignment

Value proposition development


Alliance metrics setting

Operating principles

Joint business planning

Alliance negotiations

Organisational alignment

Relationship management


Cultural considerations

Company strategic imperatives

Industry and technical drivers

Organisational and functional structure

Company governance

Company partnering culture

ASAP’s Professional Development Guide provides a definitive compilation of job descriptions and requisite skills and competencies associated with each stage of an alliance professional’s career in any industry. If you are an alliance management professional, explore the Professional Development Guide to find out whether your capabilities match your title and what you need to learn to advance to the next level. Hiring managers need to cross-reference their alliance management position summaries with the Professional Development Guide’s outlines for manager, senior manager, director and vice president-level alliance management positions to ensure the discipline’s most current theories, tools, and methodologies are being applied to their partnerships.1[71]

Institute for Collaborative Working: BS 11000

The Institute for Collaborative Working (ICW; formerly Partnership Sourcing Ltd) was established in 1990 as a joint initiative between the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI; now the Department for Business Innovation and Skills) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). It is totally self-financing, operating as a not-for-profit organisation. The ICW’s continuing role is to help organisations, large and small, in both the public and private sectors, to build and develop effective competitive business relationships based upon a collaborative approach.

Background to BS 11000

The journey to BS 11000 began in 2004, when the ICW started to gather together its knowledge to establish a route map for collaborative working, which resulted in the launch of CRAFT, a unique and integrated approach to building and sustaining more effective business relationships. This coincided with a research project, ‘Future Connections’, highlighting the growth and demand for more complex business operating models moving towards 2020.

Against this backdrop, the ICW was pleased to engage with the BSI to develop a national British standard, initially published as PAS 11000 (2006). The ICW continued its association with the BSI to create a certification scheme, piloted successfully in 2009, then chairing the BSI committee to migrate to BS 11000 whose report was published in 2010.2[72]

Benefits of Working with BS 11000

Collaborative business relationships have been shown to deliver a wide range of benefits, which enhance competitiveness and performance while adding value to organisations of all sizes. The publication of the BS 11000 is a landmark as it is the first national standard in the world. It does not represent a one-size-fits-all solution, but provides a consistent framework which can be scaled and adapted to meet particular business needs.

Collaboration between organisations may take many forms, from loose tactical approaches to longer-term alliances or joint ventures. BS 11000 does not enforce a single rigid approach, and recognises that every relationship has its own unique considerations while harnessing a range of benefits. For those organisations with well-established processes the framework provides a common language that can aid engagement, while for those starting out, the framework creates a road map for the journey.

The Eight-Stage Framework

1. Awareness

Relating effectively with external organisations can be challenging, and can be constrained by internal barriers. It is crucial to ensure that efforts are focused on those relationships where collaboration will deliver real value.

2. Knowledge

Creating effective collaboration requires strategies that are focused on the business objectives and recognise the risks associated with greater integration, including knowledge management and business continuity, underpinned by an exit strategy to identify key concerns.

3. Internal assessment

Understanding the strength and weaknesses of your own organisation is essential if collaboration is to be successful. This includes processes, skills and experience compatible with the desired outcomes.

4. Partner selection

Finding the right partner is also essential, but is frequently is based on assumptions that long-standing traditional relationships can simply be adapted. Often this is not the case, so it is important to understand the profiles of the partners you are looking for and how you will evaluate their capabilities to collaborate.

5. Working together

Establishing joint governance for collaborative programmes and integrating this with effective contracting arrangements requires careful attention, taking into consideration the joint objectives and those of the individual partners, and ensuring that the incentives and measurement will support collaborative behaviours.

6. Value creation

The key to maintaining a strong relationship is to ensure that it remains current and drives innovation to bring additional value to the partners through joint continual improvement programmes.

7. Staying together

Joint management is crucial if relationships are to mature and support staff and the business environment. Effective performance and behaviours should be monitored, along with issues and disputes, which will be inevitable, but can strengthen relationships if handled effectively.

8. Exit strategy

Maintaining a joint exit strategy is important to keep the partners focused. At the same time, having clear rules for disengagement will frequently improve engagement throughout the life of the relationship and into the future.

The standards lifecycle model is structured into three phases (Strategic, Engagement and Management) with the objective of creating a robust platform to maximise the benefits of collaborative working by supporting the culture and behaviours necessary to optimise integration.

Case Study 34: Network Rail UK – the Value of BS 11000

‘BS 11000 gives us the strategic framework to develop, with our key suppliers, the policies and processes, the culture and behaviours required to establish successful collaborative relations and to drive continual improvement. Maintaining collaborative business relations can only lead to benefits for Network Rail and its suppliers, for the rail industry and for Britain.’

Simon Kirby, Managing Director, Network Rail Infrastructure Projects

Why Certification?

Network Rail is the first organisation within the rail sector to implement and gain certification to the Collaborative Business Relationships standard, BS 11000. The company adopted the standard as a framework for developing the policies and processes, culture and behaviours required to drive continual improvement with key suppliers.

One of the core incentives for the adoption of the standard was Sir Roy McNulty’s Rail Value for Money study, published in May 2011, which identified greater collaboration between organisations in the industry as one of the means for delivering greater value for passengers and tax payers (see Table 16.2).

Table 16.2 Needs/benefits analysis of BS 11000

Customer needs

Customer benefits

Respond to the rail industry challenge to deliver greater value for money

Redefine the partnering approach with the supply chain to improve levels of performance, introduce greater levels of innovation and deliver cost efficiencies

Deliver a significant and growing capital works programme in a safer, quicker and more efficient manner, providing better value for money for the fare-paying passenger and the tax payer

Contracts and businesses aligned with BS 11000, resulting in a new environment for doing business and reducing costs

Simplified contractual relationships using best practice for collaboration, leading to increased competency and a common language across the supply base

Creation of a blueprint for moving forward through step-by-step projects – BS 11000 encourages an ongoing mentality, a ‘lifecycle standard’ in which processes continue to evolve


In order to identify the corporate changes required to enable the principles of BS 11000 to be put into practice, Network Rail recruited the services of BSI and the ICW, one of the members of BSI’s Associate Consultant Programme. The project began with an initial gap analysis workshop to compare the requirements of the standard with existing processes in place. This exposed the corporate changes that needed to be addressed, which in turn generated the Relationship Management Plan (RMP).

Different plans were developed for four different pilot projects since they were at varying stages of development. Since the suppliers had unique needs and aspirations, plans had to be developed for each supplier, and in turn, the suppliers had their own RMPs. One of the fundamental principles behind the collaborative initiative is for clients and suppliers to understand each other’s aspirations at a corporate level.

Implementation was not without challenges. The major one was convincing the rail industry that ‘Network Rail meant it’ as a result of a historical legacy of the rail industry being considered ‘uncollaborative’. Where collaboration had previously existed within the industry, it was considered ad hoc and deployed in the wrong places. The organisation also had a major education task to demonstrate to the industry that the standard would in fact help deliver tangible business benefits.

Network Rail has since been working with the Railway Industry Association as well as the BSI and the ICW to provide briefings to the company’s supply chain about BS 11000 and the benefits of this approach.

A number of Network Rail’s strategic partners are currently engaged with BSI in the implementation and assessment phases of the standard, offering opportunities for best practices to be shared throughout the industry.

The main focus of Network Rail’s supply chain arrangements is currently on the use of the alliance, delivery partner and engaging models, which are represented across the following four pilot projects: Crossrail south-east section project (partner Balfour Beatty Rail Ltd); Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace capacity improvement (partner Balfour Beatty Rail Ltd); Hitchin grade separation (partner HOCHTIEF (UK) Construction Ltd), and Reading station civil engineering works (partner BAM Nuttall Ltd). A fifth project, the Edinburgh to Glasgow Improvement Programme, has now been added to the pilot schemes.


Neill Carruthers, Head of Contracting Strategy, Infrastructure Products at Network Rail, said: ‘Perhaps the single biggest benefit of working to BS 11000 that Network Rail has realised is the requirement for greater structure and process in the management of the relationship. The requirement to focus on continual improvement and demonstrating value through the collaboration rather than only meeting the project outputs has helped to create a focus on the effectiveness of the relationship for our project teams and its overall contribution to success.’

Jeremy Candfield, Director General of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), which represents the rail supply industry, said: ‘Getting supply chain relationships right is fundamental to achieving a more efficient railway. RIA has long been supportive of greater collaboration and transformed supply chain behaviours, and there is a natural fit between BS 11000 and our own Value Improvement Programme initiative in reaching those goals.’

The Future

Network Rail’s BS 11000 programme is already being expanded, and other major projects will be added to the initial pilot portfolio. The capital expenditure on these additional projects will increase the overall value of projects working under BS 11000 to almost £3 billion. The next phase of the process will see further training and development within Network Rail as the company investigates the scope for the adoption of BS 11000 within other areas of the business. Kerry Garratt, Product Marketing Manager at BSI, said: ‘We are delighted that Network Rail has implemented BS 11000 so successfully and that the standard is providing them with a framework to enhance and improve the structure and processes within their relationships. We believe the standard is being adopted throughout industry because of the benefits that any organisation can realise through the improved management of their business partnerships.’3[73]

International Business Leaders Forum: The Partnering Initiative

What is the Partnering Initiative?

As a not-for-profit organisation, TPI promotes ongoing learning in all aspects of partnering theory and practice, generating a wide range of free source materials. TPI believes that partnering is essential in creating a sustainable world. TPI has over twenty years’ experience working at the cutting edge of global partnering needs and emerging trends, and a track record of continuously expanding the theory and improving the practice of cross-sector collaborations. TPI’s network comprises seasoned partnership practitioners from across the globe, ensuring a broad range of cultural, industry and sector experience as well as an in-depth understanding of how partnerships function in practice.

TPI understands that one size does not fit all, and adopts a highly individual and adaptable approach. It can broker the valuable connections and experiences that different sectors need. TPI also understands the complexity of partnerships and of organisations. Rather than delivering off-the-shelf services which may not be appropriate, it works in partnership with clients to understand their individual contexts, needs and the most appropriate action to deliver their desired outcomes.

About the TPI Certificate in Partnering Practice

To address the vital challenge of building partnering capacity, IBLF’s The Partnering Initiative has launched ‘Building Skills and Knowledge for Effective Multi-stakeholder Collaboration’, a three-day training programme to develop skills, understanding and knowledge for effective cross-sector partnering.4[74] Offering the option to continue to a Certificate in Partnering Practice, the course balances core knowledge with highly interactive experiential learning through role-play, ‘serious games’ and peer-to-peer exchanges.

Many of today’s societal, environmental, business and humanitarian challenges are so complex and interconnected that they can only be tackled by different sectors working together. Local and multinational multi-stakeholder alliances between governments, businesses, civil society bodies and development agencies enable them to pool their resources and competencies to stimulate innovation, maximise impact and ensure sustainability.

However, effective collaboration between stakeholders with different missions, interests, cultures and even vocabularies is difficult to achieve. It requires common understanding across partners, collective leadership, a collaborative mindset, a key skill set, and both strong relationship management and output-focused project management. With these critical elements in place, partnerships can achieve significant impact. Without them, partnerships are likely to under-perform, or fail altogether.

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