The Power of Collaboration: How finding solutions with a client is more effective than finding solutions for them

The power of collaboration has examples throughout history from music, to politics, to science and engineering, to business, and plenty more in between. There’s no mystery as to why collaboration is so powerful. By pooling experience, skills, philosophies, and backgrounds stakeholders gain access to an inventory of human resource which otherwise remains locked.  

Had Larry Page and Sergey Brin not experimented together with search algorithms, we wouldn’t have Google. Had James Watson and Francis Crick not decided to combine their knowledge to elaborate on the work of Rosalind Franklin, we wouldn’t have such a thorough understanding of the human genome.  

 

The Procurement Paradox  

Great things can happen when we work together, yet this fact seems to have eluded some of those working within dedicated procurement roles. This is particularly anomalous as procurement, by its very nature, depends on close, collaborative working relationships. It is often the case when working relationships are held with non-commercial staff that these relationships can become dictatorial rather than collaborative. It quickly becomes a case of, ‘this is what you need to do, and this is how you’re going to do it.’ 

 It’s an approach laden with pitfalls, some of which we’ll discuss here. 

 

A better, more collaborative approach 

This approach of positioning oneself as the entity ‘calling the shots’ has always been peculiar to us at Barkers, especially when we have seen the results that can be generated by the development of truly symbiotic relationships with our clients. It’s a methodology which exposes various benefits, not least: 

Better working relationships  

True collaboration comes from participants occupying an equal platform where contributions, ideas and experience are equally valued and respected. Too regularly, third party consultants can view an invitation to work with an organisation as an opportunity to assume a holistic management role. 

This is often welcomed to some degree as, after all, it is their experience and ability to direct activity that’s being purchased. However, where a management role is assumed too robustly, conflict can arise between senior employees of the client organisation. By establishing a level relationship from the beginning, potential power struggles are eliminated, and real, productive relationships can flourish.  

Brand protection  

There’s a lot at stake when it comes to significant procurement activity. Reputations, relationships with the community, company history and culture all hang in the balance and there is no party more aware of how all these can be protected than the client.  

In the same way a restoration company would never begin major structural works on a heritage building without consulting historians who understand its place in history, a consultancy should never wade into an organisation and make significant decisions without consulting those that have helped sustain it.  

By maintaining open and frank discussions, procedures and decisions can be implemented that protect the client’s brand. 

Employee insight 

The best ideas can come from the most unlikely of places. Procurement companies that set up office within a client organisation and keep their door shut, miss out on potentially game-changing contributions from employees. 

Though the procurement practitioners may well have the experience and know-how to deliver a quality service, knowledge of the nuances of an organisation that can smooth that delivery can only really come from the staff. It’s therefore vital to ensure lines of communication remain open for all to put forward contributions they believe will be of value.  

In short, the more brain power that can be levelled at a problem, the better.   

A working example 

Sometimes only a real-life example can properly highlight a point of view. A sizeable project Barkers have been recentlyworking on has been with a major organisation within the nuclear industry. As part of a large-scale assignment, the organisation needed to outsource significant works.  

Barkers were initially invited onto the project based on their commitment to a collaborative approach which would respect the heritage of the organisation and the skills and experience of its employees. Together with appointed stakeholders, Barkers have created an infrastructure, including the implementation of an online portal, to ensure procurement activity is both thorough and compliant. 

The project has, so far, enjoyed multiple successes and there can be little doubt that these have been achieved through a genuine commitment to a collaborative approach.