07 Sep 2010

Collaboration for successful tendering

Collaborating to win in diverse, and sometimes complicated, defence projects is a difficult task and one that can sometimes seem overwhelming. But once you find the right partners, it can open up a wealth of commercial opportunities for your business. 

The MOD itself encourages collaboration and joint working, with the first edition of the MOD Partnering Handbook published in May 2008. It provides clear guidance to MOD and its industry partners on the application of Joint Working/Partnering policy and procedures within MOD contracts.

The handbook defines partnering as ‘a procurement approach that uses partnering specific terms and conditions to enable the successful delivery of joint objectives’.

The very essence of partnering is collaboration, and the phrase ‘joint objectives’ in the handbook definition is key. All partners in a project must have a clear set of goals and individual responsibilities before the project begins. Otherwise, if something goes wrong somewhere down the line, you can end up with the ‘Wasn’t me! Not my fault!’ excuse being brought to the table.

A de-risking study should be done beforehand, with assessment effort resulting in both sides fully understanding the risks and complexities of the task ahead.

If you need a little guidance, Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 11000 is an eight-phased model providing a recognised framework, guidance and auditable process that organisations can adopt, without major investment, to improve collaborative relationships.

Looking at some recent successful defence projects, the collaboration has taken the form of an ‘alliance’ arrangement.

For instance, defence contractors Supacat and Babcock established an industry alliance to deliver around 110 Jackal 2 vehicles to the MOD, a new and improved version of the patrol vehicle to satisfy a UOR for UK troops in Afghanistan.

The alliance is underpinned by a commercial arrangement that sees all costs and risks shared, and fees divided equitably, for optimised risk and reward management and alignment of both parties to common project objectives.

What this kind of arrangement therefore means is that if something goes wrong, or is delayed, or costs over run, then it is the alliance’s problem, not any single partner’s difficulty. This way, risk and benefit are shared equally across the alliance.

Another good example of an alliance arrangement is the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, established to undertake the mammoth contract for the new Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carriers. The ACA has four members, three of which are industrial; Babcock, BAE Systems and Thales. The fourth, the UK Ministry of Defence, has a dual role, acting as a member of the Alliance as well as the customer.

This particular project of course involves a huge supply chain, with £1.2 billion worth of sub-contracts for work on the QE Class in place with companies across most regions in the UK. But at the project’s core is the ACA, sharing responsibility, reward and overall objectives, with every member working together to achieve maximum results for the customer.

While these are good examples, UK industry is simply not doing enough to adopt these principles. Instead, many organisations languish in a culture of mistrust, secrecy and a need to protect their ideas. But if you don’t share your ideas, no-one will know about them; and if no-one knows, no-one can help you pull them forward into something that is going to win you business and, best of all, turn those ideas into profit.

Like soldiers on the battlefield, industry can be a far more effective force standing alongside each other. We gain more by working with other companies as part of a team than by acting alone.

Look out the Partnering Handbook, and let us know what you think. If you have any good examples of partnering, collaboration and joint working, hit the comment button below and let us hear about them.