The Draft ISO 11000 (Part 3): Potential Challenges and Improvement Areas

1st February 2016 – Posted by Stephen Bruce at 1:59pm

Earlier this month, the draft version of the ISO 11000 “Collaborative business relationship management” standard was released on the BSI site for comments ahead of anticipated publication later this year.

In this series of articles, we’re sharing observations from our participation in the feedback and review process, and we looked last time at what has improved and what has helpfully been introduced.

We finished by drawing attention to the restructuring of the presentation of leadership, and – as we now consider the potential challenges and opportunities for improvement there might be with the standard – it’s worth emphasising that this is significantly because the Annex SL structure has a dedicated section on leadership (rather than necessarily reflecting a seismic shift in the importance of leadership).

Why?  Because this leads us neatly on to some of the ambiguities and “tensions” inherent in the new ISO draft between this new structure and the existing 8 stage framework of BS 11000:

  • For those familiar with BS 11000, it will no doubt be a positive that the core of it is retained at the heart of the ISO version (see Section 8 “Operation”), even if there have been some additions, some removals and some changes as flagged above: this familiarity will no doubt help the transition for many.
  • Equally, the opportunity to populate sections of the new structure that didn’t exist in BS 11000 standard means that some content has been extracted from this flow and relocated both before and after this core, most particularly with:
    • Section 5 on “Leadership”.
    • Section 9 on “Performance evaluation”.
  • On the one hand, it’s no bad thing to give some aspects more prominence in the Annex SL structure – especially “Performance evaluation” (see below) – but it does then mean there can be an awkward mixture of:
    • Moving content around, whilst trying to preserve the flow and integrity of the 8 stage framework of BS 11000.
    • Duplication and cross-referencing, which impacts readability.
    • Trying to work out whether things in their own section now are genuinely more important than they were or whether they were required by the Annex SL structure.
  • Even for those familiar with both BS 11000 and Annex SL, these things present implementation challenges.

And this finally leads us on to further consideration of the potential opportunities for improvement within ISO 11000, including those that are consistent with BS 11000.

It may well be that some or all of these will be addressed through comments received (we’re certainly making our representations) and/or the development of Part 2 (which we assume will follow, just as it did with BS 11000) – we’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, though, whilst it’s good that there’s a stronger upfront emphasis on performance evaluation (due to the new Section 9), the existing gap still exists, i.e.:

  • There’s plenty said on developing capability, and some said on the process of performance evaluation, but no useful guidance and tools for exactly what should be evaluated in assessing and improving performance at different stages of maturity.
  • The assumption seems to be that developing capability and process will inexorably lead to improved measured performance (which, to be fair, is a ubiquitous source of ‘waste’, so is far from unique to BS/ISO 11000).

On a related note, the BS 11000 clauses on value have been truncated (compare BS 11000 8 with ISO 11000 8.7) – this was helpful insofar as there were some largely redundant clauses before, but an opportunity has been missed to beef-up the creation and measurement of value.  After all, one of the recurring questions in the collaborative working domain is “how do we demonstrate value through tangible benefits?” and ISO 11000 appears no closer than BS 11000 to answering it.

Also, based on BS 11000 experience, many organisations approaching the standard will want clear guidance on where to start, what matters most, etc, and although there is an implementation assessment checklist that’s provided as an annex to the standard, there are issues remaining:

  • It’s copied and pasted from BS 11000, with only a few deletions and cross-references updated, but the flow and structure of ISO 11000 is different, which makes it confusing.
  • There are gaps, and the only sequence/flow is the structure of Section 8 of the standard, which suggests that the only implementation path is to pursue the standard in order and in toto.
  • Also, whilst the standard remains aimed at “…private and public organizations of all sizes from large multinational corporations and Government organizations, to non-profit organizations and micro/small businesses” and whilst it sets out that compliance can be achieved at the level of a single application, individual relationship, multiple relationships or organisation-wide, little guidance is given to the implications of these distinctions in practice.

Finally, there’s still more work to do on RMPs: whilst it’s helpful to acknowledge the distinction between RMPs at different “levels” (see e.g. ISO 11000 7.5.4 and ISO 11000 8.5.8), there are still lots of questions that aren’t fully answered, e.g.:

  • Should plans at each level cover all the stages in equal depth?
  • Can plans “inherit” content from “higher” level plans, either as a starting point or wholesale?
  • How should organisations harmonise their plans into a joint RMP?

If these questions can be clearly addressed, the RMP process can be the relationship-driving force it could be, and not risk becoming a bureaucratic documentation “burden” alongside the business of doing “real work”.

So, plenty to consider as we wait and see what the final version will look like… but that’s only our view; what do you think?