The essence of collaboration: Extending our reach and potential


Advances in Project Management

By Prof Darren Dalcher

Director, National Centre for Project Management
University of Hertfordshire

United Kingdom

It is sometimes said that competition makes us faster, but collaboration makes us better.

The Oxford Dictionary defines collaboration as “the action of working with someone to produce something”.

While collaboration enables two or more parties to work together on a shared purpose in order to attain a particular benefit, implying a good fit with project practice, the various project management bodies of knowledge and IPMA’s newly released Individual Competence Baseline say little about what it is and how it may apply to projects.

Major initiatives and projects often require collaboration across a team, or between different teams and organisations, in order to enhance competitiveness or performance. Collaborating teams are often large, virtual, diverse, specialised and distributed. Collaboration can therefore take place in one of two forms:

  • Synchronous, where the team interacts in real time (often as a co-located team housed to facilitate physical collaborative and joint working in close proximity, or electronically, via online meetings, instant messaging, Skype or other joint working platform)
  • Asynchronous, where interactions are time-shifted, geographically dispersed, or are simply designed to allow a group to collaborate at times that suit individual participants. Shared documents, workspaces and Wiki pages allow such teams to work together. More recent examples include crowdsourcing efforts, combining the best of crowd participation and outsourcing to tackle complex, detailed and demanding assignments by groups of interested participants who are able to divide the work and focus on achieving the wider purpose through this division of labour and expertise

Standardising collaboration

The British Standards Institute has an established standard on Collaborative Business Relationships. BS 11000, which forms the basis of the forthcoming international ISO 11000 standard, notes that in business, as in other walks of life, teamwork can pay real dividends and companies that work together can often achieve much more than they can achieve alone.

The standard advises that collaborative business relationships can take many forms, including: (private or public) strategic business partnerships, supplier relationships, consortia and alliance partnering, shared services, collaborative procurement, divisional relationships and client or customer relationships. In short, many of the arrangement utilised in complex or large projects would qualify as collaboration initiatives.

BS 11000 provides the strategic framework required to establish a successful collaboration and enables organisations to focus their effort through an eight-stage approach covering the following steps:


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Editor’s note: The PMWJ Advances in Project Management series includes articles by authors of program and project management books previously published by Gower in the UK and now by Routledge.  Each month an introduction to the current article is provided by series editor Prof Darren Dalcher, who is also the editor of the Gower/Routledge Advances in Project Management series of books on new and emerging concepts in PM.  To learn more about the book series, go to https://www.routledge.com/Advances-in-Project-Management/book-series/APM. Prof Dalcher’s article is an introduction to the invited paper this month in the PMWJ. 



About the Author

Darren Dalcher, PhD

Series Editor
Director, National Centre for Project Management
University of Hertfordshire, UK

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Darren Dalcher
, Ph.D. HonFAPM, FRSA, FBCS, CITP, FCMI, SFHEA is Professor of Project Management at the University of Hertfordshire, and founder and Director of the National Centre for Project Management (NCPM) in the UK.  He has been named by the Association for Project Management (APM) as one of the top 10 “movers and shapers” in project management in 2008 and was voted Project Magazine’s “Academic of the Year” for his contribution in “integrating and weaving academic work with practice”. Following industrial and consultancy experience in managing IT projects, Professor Dalcher gained his PhD in Software Engineering from King’s College, University of London.  Professor Dalcher has written over 150 papers and book chapters on project management and software engineering. He is Editor-in-Chief of Software Process Improvement and Practice, an international journal focusing on capability, maturity, growth and improvement. He is the editor of the book series, Advances in Project Management, published by Gower Publishing of a new companion series Fundamentals of Project Management.  Heavily involved in a variety of research projects and subjects, Professor Dalcher has built a reputation as leader and innovator in the areas of practice-based education and reflection in project management. He works with many major industrial and commercial organisations and government bodies in the UK and beyond.  He is an Honorary Fellow of the APM, a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, and the Royal Society of Arts, and a Member of the Project Management Institute (PMI), the Academy of Management, the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Association for Computing Machinery. He is a Chartered IT Practitioner. He is a Member of the PMI Advisory Board responsible for the prestigious David I. Cleland project management award and of the APM Professional Development Board.  Prof Dalcher is an academic editorial advisor for the PM World Journal.  He can be contacted at [email protected].

To see other works by Prof Darren Dalcher, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/darren-dalcher/.