Understanding Requirements – the magic wand of project success

I hear myself saying this quite a lot, “If I had a magic wand and could fix one thing in industry to improve project performance, it would be this. If customers could understand their own requirements better, encapsulate them in the contract better, if suppliers could understand them better and communicate them to the project team better, then the world would be a better place!” In our experience, misalignment between the customer and supplier on the project or contract requirements is the single biggest cause of tension in working relationships and therefore has the biggest impact on project performance.

Not many of us actually have a magic wand. So what can we do? True collaborative engagement is important. At the start of the project (ideally before) and throughout the project, the customer and the supplier must build a way of working that allows them to have open and honest discussions about the nature of the requirement, the customer’s expectations and the supplier’s vision for delivery. The joint team must get themselves aligned and stay aligned throughout. This must also include the respective contract teams. The contract must reflect the understood customer wants and needs. If not, it’s another source of misalignment and needs to be fixed. Many of our SCRIA FrameworkTM interventions result in this type of work – enabling alignment between the customer and supplier teams so that the wants, the needs, the expectations, the solution, the ways of working together and ultimately the contract all end up reflecting the same thing – meeting the requirement.

Customer Focus – it’s all in the mind(-set)

We’ve been doing a lot of “customer focus” work recently. One major aerospace and defence prime contractor wants to understand its customers better so we are delivering training on their main customer’s strategy, organisation, processes, constraints, behaviours and culture. Another major service provider wants to be “more customer focussed”. Again, we are providing training and consultancy on how the company can develop more customer focussed strategies. A third customer wants to work more effectively with its customers so we are facilitating “working together” SCRIA FrameworkTM workshops.

This is all well and good. Any company needs to get the right customer understanding, put the right customer focussed strategies in place and develop the practicalities of how to work together. Quite often though, we find that one thing is a bit harder to change – the mind-set of the people, the teams, the whole organisation in thinking “customer” rather than “supplier”. True customer focus needs a shift of thinking from “why we can’t meet the requirement” to “how can we”. From “our solution is” to “their need is”. From what we value to what the customer values. Sigma’s customer focussed training, consultancy and facilitation enables our client to change what they offer, in terms of strategies, processes and organisation – but also focusses on how they deliver it with a customer focussed mind-set.

Sigma supporting MBDA – a great company to work for!

Sigma is proud to work with MBDA who have been voted one of the Sunday Times Best Big Companies to Work For. MBDA were the only defence company in the list, and the highest rated engineering company. Sigma has worked with MBDA for many years and has recently been supporting MBDA’s Learning and Development programme which received a special award, recognising MBDA’s commitment to developing skills and knowledge across the business

ScotRail Alliance wins Training Award

The ScotRail Alliance have won the 2017 Rail Industry Awards for the collaborative training section. The award recognised the unique design and innovative delivery of the training programme to embed Collaborative Working and BS11000 principles in the joint Abellio / Network Rail teams. In particular, the award recognised the tailored approach developed by Sigma to help jointly improve business performance through collaborative working. The award was won from a short list of successful programmes from other organisations such as BAE Systems, Network Rail and London Underground.

Sigma has been working with Abellio and ScotRail since 2014, initially supporting the implementation of BS11000 and subsequently working with the ScotRail franchise to embed collaborative working across the enterprise.

Sigma wins Training Award from MBDA

Sigma is delighted to have been recognised as part of the MBDA team to win an award in the annual MBDA Business Awards. Sigma supports MBDA in delivering part of the “My Reputation, Our Reputation” programme. The programme aims to enhance understanding within MBDA’s customer facing community of the customer environment and to equip them with the the right skills and behaviours to build more effective relationships with their customers and thus enhance their reputation.

Sigma worked with the MBDA delivery team to help scope the programme, design the material and deliver part of the 3-module programme. The “My Reputation, Our Reputation” programme was successful in achieving  a ‘Contribution to the Business’ award in MBDA’s annual recognition scheme.

To date, over 200 of MBDA’s key staff have been through the programme. One delegate commented, “The whole course of 3 modules was excellent.  Whoever constructed the package needs a pat-on-the-back”.

Sigma supports the NHS Change Programme

Sigma has supported the development of the Competitive Dialogue Procurement process by way of advice and facilitation for the East Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (ESCCG) for a new outcomes-based contract.

Virgin Care has been named as the successful partner and Sigma will continue to work with the ESCCG and Virgin Care to develop a Joint Collaborative Working Agreement which will be entirely outcomes-based with minimal transactional contract management involvement. This is a truly transformational approach to integrating the health services in East Staffordshire for the frail and elderly patients, deploying Virgin Care’s expertise for the Improving Lives Programme.

The details of the Improving Lives Programme were announced in April 2015:

East Staffordshire CCG announces Virgin Care as partner for Improving Lives programme

East Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has announced Virgin Care as its partner for a seven-year Improving Lives programme.

The innovative Improving Lives programme has been designed with patients and clinicians to give people with long-term health conditions and frail, elderly residents of East Staffordshire more control over their own care. Local people are set to benefit from earlier support, more choice and better integrated care.

The programme follows extensive conversations with local people and clinicians last year where it was evident doctors and local people want services that make life simpler for patients and carers:

  •  Self-help support – better access to education as well as self-help groups to enable shared support and information sharing.
  • Join up NHS care – clinicians working together with more patients in control of their care using new technologies such as tele-care to enable self-care and remote monitoring of health conditions such as diabetes.
  • Wider choice of high quality services – bringing seven day access to support through a single call for example.

Dr Charles Pidsley, Chair of East Staffordshire CCG, said: “We are delighted to be working with Virgin Care to put the Improving Lives programme into practice. We are confident they will bring about the changes needed to improve care to local people, particularly those with long term health problems.”

The Improving Lives programme will run for seven years from 2016. Virgin Care will manage the programme, coordinating across service providers to deliver agreed outcomes and services as appropriate. East Staffordshire CCG will monitor the contract and both organisations will continue the dialogue with local people and clinicians to deliver the improvements promised.

Dr Neil Goulbourne, Head of Innovation at Virgin Care said: “We are delighted to have been chosen to partner with East Staffordshire CCG to deliver the Improving Lives programme. We’ve enjoyed working with the CCG and local people to design improvements to these services and we’re looking forward to continuing to work with patients, staff and carers to build the services with them that they need and want.”



Developing Practitioners to implement BS11000

Imagine the scenario – you receive an invitation to tender (ITT) and the requirement is complex and the T&Cs offer little or no positive incentive to share risks with most of the risk passed down to the supplier.  The customer’s commercial structure drives towards “traditional or cooperative” behaviours rather than “collaborative”.  However, the evaluation criteria awards 30% of the bid scores to “collaborative working” referencing BS11000 and requesting that bidders should provide evidence of their certification or compliance with BS11000.  This scenario is not fictitious and is becoming commonplace.

Our discussions with customers and suppliers show that there is confusion about what BS11000 certification actually means to the business, how it is obtained and how a bidder’s certification applies to the procurement in hand.  Aligning a relationship to BS11000 demands reciprocal levels of activity and commitment by the procuring organisation to operate in a similar collaborative way, it is not something the supplier does alone.

There is an emerging need for organisations to establish a cadre of experienced BS11000 practitioners who are experienced and knowledgeable in the requirements of BS11000 and who can provide advice, training and coaching for procurement and bidding teams on its application.

Based upon the case studies and lessons learned from the organisations we have supported in achieving BS11000 certification, Sigma is running in-depth BS11000 Implementer Practitioner Workshops tailored to the clients’ business systems and practices.  The course is run over 3 days culminating in a “Practitioner’s Evaluation Day” involving individual presentations, an examination, 1-2-1 coaching and a review of Relationship Management Plans and other documentation from an Auditor’s perspective.   The course includes:

  • An in-depth understanding of BS11000,  its clauses and their application to the organisation’s business processes.
  • Responsibilities of Senior Executives Responsible (SERs) and Senior Management Team (SMT) members in implementing and managing relationships in accordance with the requirements of the Standard.
  • Provision of advice, guidance and coaching in the preparation and completion of activities to support Procurement, Bid, Project delivery and Audit requirements to enable BS11000 certification to be sustained.
  • How to develop the right collaborative business structures for specific relationships and projects, and preparing collaborative teams to work in accordance with the principles of BS11000.
  • An understanding of how the external auditors will interpret the requirements of the Standard in terms of BS11000 compliance.

For further information contact Bill Taylor – bill.taylor@dev.thinksigma.co.uk



Thales achieve BS11000 for Rail Traffic Management Systems

Thales Rail has become Sigma”s latest client to achieve BS11000 certification. Sigma supported Thales through the entire certification process which Thales have undertaken to ensure that the benefits of collaborative working are embedded within the business. Solera is regulated by the Government of the Netherlands Antilles (Curacao).Thales have said:

“I am writing to express our sincere thanks for the significant level of support and guidance you provided TTSL in achieving our certification to BS11000 for our Rail Traffic Management Systems Projects.

Your knowledge of BS11000, coupled with your tactful and patient guidance was significant. It not only enabled us to develop and apply new processes and shape our existing procedures, but also helped steer the development of the Relationship Management Plans for our pilot project. I also would like to acknowledge your efforts to train and coach our SERs and key executives to ensure they achieved the required level of awareness and knowledge to meet the BS11000 requirements and develop the relationship.

Successful collaborative working is fundamental for the TTSL business and for our work in the rail sector, and we now look forward to rolling out this programme across the organisation and achieving the real benefits that can be achieved from successful collaborative programmes.

We would certainly be pleased to recommend any business thinking of implementing BS11000 to engage with you to help them through the journey.” – Thales Senior Programme Manager

Building Commercial Capability through world class training

Sigma has been delivering commercial training for a number of years and has expanded its portfolio to cover a wide range of topics relevant to today”s commercial challenges. Recent courses that Sigma has delivered include:  Contracting for Availability, Commercial Business Winning, Commercial Management throughout the business lifecycle, Contract Management and Commercial Governance. Sigma”s approach combines best practice tutorials with interactive scenarios which provide opportunities for delegates to put their learning into practice in realistic situations. The real-world experience of Sigma”s training consultants provides a depth to the discussions that takes delegates” thinking to the next level.

Feedback from recent courses suggests that the approach is hitting the spot and ensuring that our clients continue to build their commercial capabilities to address the challenges of today”s business environment.

Recent feedback includes:

“The best course I’ve ever attended.  At the beginning I understood nothing. I felt that I was in the wrong place! Later WOW, I felt enlightened. Thank you for your great delivery” – Commercial Business Winning – Business Development Leader

“Exceeded my expectations. Everyone should go on this course – other functions to promote wider understanding and seniors to ensure we implement changes” – Commercial Governance – Senior Commercial Officer

“This was the best course I’ve been on in 25 years of corporate training. It”s really opened my eyes to see things from a different perspective” – Commercial Management through the lifecycle – Senior Finance Officer

AWE and Babcock sign Long Term Collaborative Agreement

We are delighted that AWE and Babcock have signed their long term collaborative agreement and we wish them an enduring and successful partnership.  Sigma has been instrumental in supporting both organisations to develop a new and different way of working, culminating in the One Team; one leader, one message, one approach.  The news release below explains the development so far and the expectation to create further opportunities in agile and flexible working arrangements:

The signing of the new contract

The signing of the new contract

Last week AWE plc and Babcock officially declared the next stage in their positive partnership. A joint team has developed an approach in order to introduce a new way of working and to use ‘best practice’ in a new form of contract.  The framework contract has been sanctioned by AWE plc and Babcock Boards, as has the next package for the decommissioning of a major AWE facility. Work can now start to realise the benefits for both parties.


The project was chosen for this approach as they have worked together to uphold an excellent safety record (300,000 hours without a lost time accident) and delivered on time and to budget. This contract will see Babcock and AWE plc working together for another nine years, until 2022. Having an extended contract will result in savings for AWE plc and Babcock, in turn, will have a sustainable base for their business to retain and grow resources from which both companies will benefit.

The One Team senior managers

The atoledo One Team senior managers

John Barratt, Key Account Director for Babcock, said “The old contract was short term, with no long term stability. The potential for innovation and investment in waste reduction techniques and processes was minimal. The new arrangements will encourage improvement and help to ensure that any waste is cut out.” Babcock has proved to be an excellent business partner on this project and the One Team approach has worked well. But this is only one part of the collaborative working story; the extended contract provides a new chapter to maximise efficiency. The joint team will have a single management structure and will work to introduce innovative approaches to the tasks they undertake. This will allow for continual improvement with all the risks and opportunities shared across the teams. 22 opportunities for improvement have been identified so far and seven are already underway.

Geoff Druce, Head of Environmental Operations, said: “This is great news for both Babcock and AWE, we can work together to provide significant benefits over the life of the programme and demonstrate to MOD that two of their Tier 1 contractors can work together for the benefit of all. Under the new framework, AWE can deploy Babcock’s capability elsewhere when required and encourage other AWE and Babcock projects to work in the same collaborative way”.