Industry trade association British Water says it is encouraged by results of its latest water company performance survey, but that improvements can still be made. The annual survey asks contractors, consultants and suppliers to rate their clients’ performance in 10 areas, including professionalism, contractual approach and communication.
Views of individuals working in the industry are sought rather than a corporate standpoint, with the results allowing each water company to see how they compare with others. This year’s results indicate that relationships between suppliers and water companies have improved in the last 12 months.
Closer collaboration with suppliers will be key to water companies meeting their tough regulatory targets over the next five years and British Water has urged water companies to engage and collaborate with their supply chain early as the 2020-2025 investment period, AMP7, approaches.
British Water’s UK director Paul Mullord said: “Normally when we get towards the end of an AMP, the survey results drop, but this year has bucked that trend and we’ve seen an encouraging improvement across all areas. We had responses from 400 individuals, which also shows a good level of engagement.
“If there is a lesson, it’s that companies need to work with their supply chain better, be honest with them and trust their expertise. This year’s results could be an indicator that we are starting to see a shift.
“Generally speaking, the companies that do the best are the ones that are easy to work with and are honest, open and approachable.”
British Water’s desire for closer collaboration is shared by regulator Ofwat, as stated in its report Emerging Strategy: Driving Transformational Innovation
Echoing this at British Water’s Building Collaboration conference in July, Ofwat’s senior director of strategy and planning John Russell said: “The supply chain is crucial in ensuring the sector delivers the outcomes we all want to see and collaboration is key.”
Mullord said: “We’re very pleased Ofwat agrees companies should work closer together. We know that every five years companies are challenged by the regulator to do better and work more efficiently, so they have to find different ways of working.
“Companies that work more collaboratively with their suppliers and who listen to and value their expertise have a much better chance of getting the results they want.”
Although survey scores increased in all categories, the lowest scoring area was procurement. Mullord said when tendering, procurement teams should put more focus on the desired outcome rather than on cost or a specific solution.
“A lot of companies tend to go with an option based on price which is understandable, but they can be missing an opportunity to try something new and innovative. More flexibility among water companies during the procurement process, with a bigger focus on outcome, would benefit everyone. Companies need to understand their suppliers’ expertise and give them the chance to develop a solution.”
Once projects are live, early contractor involvement can also smooth the way for a better working relationship and potentially a more successful scheme, Mullord added.
“Any fundamental changes in writing the contract and planning the project can only be made early on in the process - and it comes back to respecting your suppliers’ judgement and really wanting to include them in the whole process.
“As we look towards AMP7, we’re keen to see a business cultural change towards more inclusion and collaboration. This will give water companies the best chance of meeting their 2020-2025 Ofwat targets. We know there is a willingness and desire among our members and we’re confident we will see even more change.”
The British Water Survey of Water Company Performance was first undertaken in early 2003 in response to companies asking for feedback on how they were viewed by the industry supply chain and how they were seen to compare with others.