Andrew Hemsley - Whatever you may think of it, clients are using PPC2000, which makes the role of partnering adviser crucial to a project's success
The Association of Consultant Architects seems to have set the cat among the pigeons with the publication of PPC2000, the new and radical contract for use in partnering relationships.

A debate has been raging over the contract, most of which has focused on whether it will work legally, but it is now time to move on. Clients are using PPC2000. Indeed, they are asking for it to be adopted even when some of their advisers or professional indemnity insurers are less than enthusiastic.

What is needed now is a debate about how best to make the contract work in practice. One key area that needs to be explored is the new role of partnering adviser.

For those not familiar with PPC2000, the partnering adviser is described in the explanatory notes as "an individual with relevant experience who can guide the partnering process, document the relationships, commitments and expectations of partnering team members and who can provide an additional facility for problem resolution".

So this is a key role. But what exactly is the partnering adviser, what does he or she do and who is best qualified to take the role? The starting point must be the responsibilities set out in the contract for the partnering adviser. Put simply, these are:

  • Reviewing specialist subcontractors' contracts for consistency with the main partnering documentation when the specialist joins the project after the signing of the main partnering agreement
  • The preparation of a partnering charter – the document that sets out the goals of the team and documents the agreed partnering aims
  • Putting together ancillary agreements to add specialists to the partnering team, to start the preconstruction process or to start work on site
  • Providing "fair and constructive" advice on the partnering process, the development of relationships and the operation of the contract
  • Assisting in the solving of problems and disputes.

    The role can be neatly separated into two distinct types of advice. First, contract and legal advice, writing ancillary contracts to the main partnering agreement and assisting with disputes.

    It is essential to have someone involved who has seen partnering in action before

    Second, and more important, the provision of strategic partnering advice to help navigate the best way through the partnering process.

    PPC2000 is not a teach-yourself guide to partnering. This is not a criticism for two reasons. It would not be appropriate to try to describe the detail of the partnering processes in the contract. Nor would it be right to set out a standard approach that tried to shoehorn all projects together. Instead, the team must determine its own way of working. It is therefore essential to have someone involved who has seen partnering in action before.

    Among the most critical issues in PPC2000 are the establishment of key performance indicators and a continuous improvement process. When you hear people come out with that hackneyed old line, "we have been partnering for years – we have worked for Bloggs and Co since 1946", that is not real partnering. Key performance indicators and continuous improvement are the things that change the working relationship from a cuddly imprecise one to one founded on logic where performance is capable of measurement.

    Although these issues are not contractually the responsibility of the partnering adviser, they will be key to developing these processes. Indeed, they will be leading it if you have chosen the right adviser.

    The key to the success of a partnering project, certainly when the client and team are new to partnering, is having someone involved who will champion partnering and who can bring enthusiasm, drive and knowledge of partnering to the project.