Business Collaboration Can Achieve Great Things.. If It’s Done Well

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Published on: February 26, 2020

If done well, business collaboration provides benefits such as reduced costs through improved efficiencies, sharing of resources, access to new services and innovative ideas. Together we can achieve more.

However, the reality is that effective business collaboration can be really challenging, and, if not managed effectively, partnerships, joint ventures, or other forms of collaboration can introduce significant additional risks to the businesses, potentially threatening business sustainability.

For example, a big risk could be collaborating with an organisation that could damage your business image and reputation. This is what Lego faced in 2014 and had to end a long term contract with Shell (Selling and distributing the toys at their petrol stations), as the market changed and having a toy company associated with an oil corporation is no longer appropriated.

On the other hand, Apple and Nike have developed a successful collaboration that has been lasting for more than 10 years so far. By focusing on their common user experience and understanding their needs, the two giants have been launching products and services together that are beneficial for both parties.

Did you know?
55% of executives agree that strategic collaboration allows businesses to access new customers and enter new markets? In comparison, around 45% of executives believe that the biggest challenge is to keep partnerships alive and rewarding for all parties.

A new ISO Standard was published in 2017, which helps organisations implement a flexible and robust system of establishing, managing and even ending collaborative relationships involving two or more businesses.

ISO 44001:2017 Collaborative Business Relationship Management Systems

The Standard provides the overall components of a management system for business relationships as well as operational process requirements.

It follows the same overall structure as other ISO management system standards (known as the High-Level Structure), making it easier for anyone using multiple management system Standards.

Relationship between corporate and operational systems

The Standard features an eight-stage life cycle model to ensure sustainable relations:

  1. Operational awareness – Establishing the organisation’s propensity for collaboration;
  2. Knowledge – Evaluating specific collaborative benefits and business case;
  3. Internal assessment – Assessing the organisation’s capability to collaborate;
  4. Partner selection – Establishing an appropriate selection process;
  5. Working together – Establishing a joint governance model for collaboration;
  6. Value creation – Establishing a joint process for continual improvement;
  7. Staying together – Managing, monitoring and measuring the relationship over time;
  8. Exit strategy activation – Establishing a joint approach to disengagement and/or the future.

Where did it come from?

2006: Started life as PAS 11000 Collaborative business relationships

2010: Became a British Standard, BS 11000

2017: Published as ISO 44001, following the same clause structure as the other ISO Management System Standards


To help organisations globally, large and small in both public and private sectors, to build and develop effective collaborative business relationships to increase their competitive edge.


The Standard can be applied to manage relationships on several different levels, for example:

  • A single application (eg. one operating division, a single project, merger, acquisition).
  • An individual business relationship (eg. a joint venture, partnership, alliance, one-to-one relationship).
  • Multiple identified relationships (eg. consortia, networks, end-to-end supply chains).
  • Every external business relationship for all identified relationship types in an organisation.
Multidimensional relationships

How it works

ISO 44001 helps organisations implement a robust, yet flexible, system of effectively establishing, managing and eventually ending collaborative working relationships involving two or more businesses.

The Standard outlines collaborative relationship management practices that help to ensure that businesses of all sizes get the maximum value from working with others to achieve a common goal or outcome.

At a high level, the implementation flow for ISO 44001 looks like this:

High-level implementation flow for ISO 44001

The Role of the “Senior Executive Responsible” (SER)

The Standard requires that the organisation appoints a “Senior Executive Responsible” (SER) for the development and implementation of the collaborative business relationship management process with defined responsibility, authority and accountability for ensuring that the policies, processes, culture and behaviour required by the Standard are established, implemented and maintained.

The SER is responsible for ensuring performance evaluation and continual improvement in the activities covered by the collaborative business relationship management system, and for identifying and defining the key individuals and their roles involved in collaborative initiatives (also ensuring they have the appropriate skills to support a collaborative approach).

The SER provides executive leadership throughout the lifecycle of the collaboration and facilitates the effective deployment of the collaborative business relationship process. The SER may assign this responsibility through their management structure as appropriate to ensure effective deployment in the areas of operation.

The Standard follows an eight-stage life-cycle process, as demonstrated in the following diagram:

8 stages of 44001

The Standard also calls for the development of Relationship Management Plans (RMPs), which will function at two levels in the organisation, as shown in the following diagram:

RMP Hierarchy

The Corporate RMP establishes the business objectives and key processes to be adopted by the organisation to develop, establish and set up collaborative ventures and opportunities, including governance models, management roles and responsibilities, risk management and partner selection strategy.

Specific RMPs provide a record of the pre-engagement development and background information for operating team members and establishes a working platform for joint relationship management through the life of the collaboration. The RMP at this level ensures that relationship management is effectively communicated and understood at all levels of the organisation, is aligned to the corporate and business objectives, and is integrated into execution and delivery for all stakeholders. It is maintained as a separate document for any specific relationship, program, project or contract, where it is intended to evolve over the lifetime of the collaborative venture.

Note that RMPs can be a single document or a set of documents.

There needs to be alignment of the Corporate Relationship Management Plan, and the entire management system, with the business strategy vision and mission.

Annex D of the standard defines a Relationship maturity matrix which can be used to determine your organisation’s current maturity profile:

Relationship maturity matrix


Accredited Certification is not available to this Standard just yet.

The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) established a pilot assessment program in August 2019 for the accreditation of ISO 44001 certification with six certification bodies.

UKAS is progressing the pilot accreditation and if the pilot results are positive, then accreditation will be granted to the successful certification bodies around the middle of 2020.

Once accredited by UKAS, the certification bodies are able to deliver their accredited certification products to a global market.

We’ll monitor the situation and keep our readers posted on this via our ISO 44001 LinkedIn Group – Join here to stay informed.

In the meantime…

While we’re waiting for the ability to apply for and achieve accredited certification to the Standard, there’s plenty of work to get on with.

Last year a guidance Standard was published: ISO 44002:2019 Collaborative business relationship management systems – Guidelines on the implementation of ISO 44001. The new standard provides in-depth knowledge and understanding of the requirements in ISO 44001 to help organizations implement it most effectively.

ISO 44002 offers specific guidance for establishing, developing and managing third-party relationships using the eight-stage life cycle detailed in ISO 44001. This supporting information enables organisations to successfully integrate the ISO 44001 business collaboration framework into their existing management systems, processes and procedures, to optimise the benefits of working together.

Follow the high-level implementation flow (above) to get started. Once you’ve established your business case, governance structure and responsibilities for implementation, it would be a good time for a Gap Analysis against the specific requirements of the Standard.

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About the author

Managing Director at ISO Certification Experts

Erica is the Managing Director of ISO Certification Experts and ICExperts Academy. She has been helping businesses with their ISO Certification needs for over 20 years. Erica is also a Certified trainer, implementer and auditor for the ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001 and ISO 27001 standards. Erica primarily heads up the day-to-day operations of the businesses, and is also a current member of the Standards Australia Committees: QR-008 Quality Systems and ISO 9001 Quality Management Brand Integrity.

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