When you're in the hot seat and the questioning turns to partnering, here's what to do...

The core competency Procurement and Tendering (T062) is all about construction contracts. All APC candidates are expected understand this side of the business inside out. It's crucial for quantity surveyors in particular, as QSs need to pass this at level 3. You need to be up to speed with a range of issues, including any new devlopments and this week we're looking at one issue - Partnering and the type of questions that an APC assessor could potentially ask.

Partnering is quite a topical issue, and one that quantity surveyors deal with regularly and therefore you will be expected to understand and respond in detail.

Level 1

Competency at Level 1 includes ‘demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the main types of procurement. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the tendering and negotiation process involved in procurement’.

Question What experience have you had of Partnering?

Answer You would be expected to have an understanding of what partnering is and how it differs as a form of Procurement to other more traditional methods.

If you have worked on a Partnering scheme then outline the scheme and how it worked from a Partnering perspective.

From a general perspective you should comment on the history of partnering, namely that for too long the construction industry has been divided by factionalism and conflict, which often lead to poor performance, low profit margins, poor morale and dissatisfied clients. The industry had a problem with unpredictability and under-performance alongside poor quality and late and overpriced projects.

In 1998 the Construction Task Force set up by the Government to deal with these issues published its report Rethinking Construction. This gave birth to the Movement for Innovation (M4I) and a pool of demonstration projects, which in the new spirit of openness, provide a bank of knowledge on good practice and innovation. The Government has followed this up with its own guidance documents produced by the Treasury.

One of the initiatives recommended was a more open and less adversarial approach to construction projects – partnering.

Level 2

Competency at level 2 involves ‘Apply your knowledge to the implementation of the procurement routes selected for your projects and to carrying out tendering and negotiation processes relevant to them’.

As stated in previous articles this means demonstrating a working knowledge.

Question What do you say to a potential client who says “Partnering is just about having a cup of tea around a table – there are no real benefits”

Answer The candidate would be expected to provide an opinion here. Issues that may be considered could be to ensure the client understood the whole concept of partnering and its many benefits. Explain that partnering is not about ‘having a cup of tea around a table’. Partnering is too often confused with longstanding relationships, negotiated contracts, serial working and other “pseudo-partnering” arrangements, all of which lack structure and the objective of true partnering. The essential characteristic of partnering is the commitment of all parties at all levels to make the project a success. There are three fundamental characteristics to partnering:

• Formulised mutual objectives: improved performance and reduced cost.

• The active search for continuous measurable improvement.

• An agreed common approach to problem solving.

Partnering arrangements which include all members of the team (including client, contractor and consultants) provide the necessary solution, but to be successful, it is essential that the partnering process is both properly and thoroughly planned, and more importantly that all partners within any project team are fully committed and trained in this respect.

Question What advantages would your client receive if he were to go down the Partnering route?

Answer There are many advantages to Partnering. In general these are:

• Better cost effectiveness

• Better resolution to problems as they are approached in a less adversarial manner

• Quicker starts on site, due to the Contractor willing to start when costs, prices and programmes are still subjective

• Quicker resolutions to final accounts

• Contractors expertise in construction is utilized

• Reduced fees for the client for project managers, qs's etc as he Contractor will carry out all this work in house. The Client will need a small input from an external team just for auditing purposes

• Partnering was stated as being the way forward as documented in the Latham report.

• There is open book transparency

• Trust

• Better integrated design

• Improved profitability

• Continuous improvement

• Continuity of Work

• Reduced confrontation

Level 3

Competency at level 3 involves ‘Give reasoned advice on the appropriateness of various procurement routes. Manage the tendering and negotiation process and present reports on the outcome’.

Here you should be able to apply your knowledge to practical situations that you have encountered in your working life.

Question You may then get a follow up question to the level 2 question above, along the lines of ‘How do you make this happen, or how do you facilitate this’

Answer To instigate a full blown partnering contract the procedures and objectives are often worked out in a one/two day workshop, where all parties come together at the earliest possible stage, to plan the project. This is the start of the team building exercise and involves the actual personnel to be involved as well as the senior staff. The workshops are often run by professional facilitators and terminate with the drawing up of a project charter. You may want to try and relate this to a specific project you worked on. Once instigated a properly set up and effective partnering contract has many benefits in the terms of time, cost and quality. These are as follows:

• There is a reduced learning curve as optimum performance and productivity can be achieved much earlier in the process, through a combination of familiarity with working practices and participants’ expertise.

• A continuity of personnel and familiar systems of management diminishes the problems of mistakes.

• There is improved identification of risk, and as a result risk allocation and management is enhanced.

• Long-term relationships can be built, and as a result there is greater confidence and reliability.

• There is improved quality and programming. This is due to the fact that an overall strategy is developed giving balance to the client’s priorities. Consequently, there is a balance between the client’s requirements with regard to time, cost and quality.

• The contractual relationship is one of harmony, rather than the adversarial relationship, which is sometimes associated with some of the traditional procurement arrangements.

• Advantage can be taken of continuity and preferred supplier arrangements, so, partnering potentially exists throughout the supply chain.

• Through common mutual objectives, improved performance and reduced cost can be achieved.

• There is continuous measurable improvement