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Collaboration: why it is here to stay?

We’ve all experienced the impact of working together and what that can entail; long meetings, adopting new practices and having to adjust to and talk through different viewpoints. Occasionally working alongside another company on a combined project can seem more of a hardship rather than a partnership.

Looking at how to work in a combined effort can at times seem daunting. But when a joint effort works and comes together to produce something magic (how can ‘Walk this way’, the collaborative genius of Run DMC and Aerosmith, or ‘Under Pressure’ by Bowie & Queen be denied?) the best results are often more than the sum of the parts.

In our day-to-day roles and lives we consistently work together collaboratively. Stretching this beyond our known comfort zones and everyday thinking shouldn’t be seen as an issue or met with little enthusiasm. Taking collaboration one step further and seeing the possibilities that it can create and open up, can only enrich the thinking behind any road safety or highways initiative.

Government backed collaboration

Funding and budget will never cease to be an issue for companies involved in the highways sector. Thankfully collaborative working between private and public sectors has been acknowledged and backed by the Government, meaning that such partnerships are becoming the norm and seen as a resource and means to obtain funding.

Collaboration has long been a part of the Government’s and Highways England’s approach. Recognising and awarding companies for their collaboration has become a category itself in the Highways England awards, with this year’s finalists for the Supply Chain Collaboration award already announced.

By awarding companies that have proven collaborative working and projects it demonstrates and reinforces Highways England message and mindset on collaborative working and how all parties can prosper because of it.

To enable further collaboration, Highways England has its very own dedicated page and system of collaboration on the website. What they call the ‘Collaborative Planning System’ encompasses details for companies on how to ensure a smooth, collaborative partnership and what it can actually mean in regard to delivering the best results and customer service.

The thinking behind the Collaborative Planning System is to allow companies to see the benefits of collaborative working, including less waste, improved processes, better delivery times and naturally lower costs. On the Highways England page there are systems and processes listed that companies could take to help achieve these, without making the process convoluted or off-putting.

Maintaining and building relationships

Off-putting seems to be the running theme when starting collaborative working practices, as one of the main hurdles can simply come down to the fact that people believe partnerships are too complex or simply won’t work before even engaging. But as has been proven time and again, good partnerships are based on a combined effort from all sides. With a well-thought out strategy and by recognising each other’s strengths and weaknesses it is easy to support where necessary and achieve the ultimate end goal.

Part of Transport Scotland’s strategy is to work in partnership with other bodies. An example of which is that they have just started work on the new Connecting Woodside project in Glasgow. To create more public spaces, pedestrian crossings and bike facilities in order to regenerate the area. Together with the Scottish Government, Glasgow City Council and Sustrans, the collaborative partnership has been designed to ultimately encourage more active travel.

Similar to Highways England, Transport Scotland has built up a strong relationship with its supply chain including Clearview Intelligence through the years, working together to create numerous solutions that have been successfully applied to Scotland’s roads and highways. This includes both in road solutions and software development such as on the Clearview Insight® platform that has seen crowdsourced and INRIX journey time data collected into one report for the first time.

Collaboration is key for SMEs

Working collaborations don’t just have to be with the main highways partners either, collaborations can benefit companies all along the supply chain, reaching out to other important suppliers and installers as Clearview has achieved with our route safety solutions.

Clearview’s own success in this collaborative practice of working further demonstrates a fundamental benefit for SME’s in the industry. The SME market itself presents a huge opportunity to collaborate and deliver the best services and solutions to our roads.

Such companies can offer some of the most logical, well-thought out and valuable results to our highways, but can be easily overlooked due to the nature of the company’s positioning. Putting these companies together can also trigger, as mentioned above, that precious funding that SME’s need to get their solutions onto the market.

Getting results as a team

The benefits of working with others as an SME has proven to be of great value at Clearview Intelligence and enabled us to help address pain points on the roads. Clearview’s SolarLite Active Road stud, which we won an award for in ‘Improving Customers’ Journeys category’ at the annual Highways England Awards in 2019, came from a working partnership with WJ and Highways England.

Highways England saw the need to upgrade the original retro-reflective road studs and installed more than 5,000 of our solar powered studs along a potentially dangerous 10 kilometre stretch of the A38 in Derbyshire, on both carriageways.

The need for better lighting at night along this stretch was pertinent and with our LED’s producing up to 900m of visibility, Highways England, WJ and Clearview joined forces to make sure that this product helped change a potentially dangerous stretch of road into a much safer road.

An agile approach

Collaboration can also see advantages in learning through and off others, which is one of the reasons we adopted an agile working ethos for our software development. It means that Clearview understand the importance of collaborative working and quickly acting on feedback to optimise our solutions and adapt our software or hardware where applicable, for our clients and partners.

Working collaboratively has seen great advancements in understanding our partner’s and customer’s needs. The Insight journey time monitoring system has been the perfect tool for this, where Clearview has been able to adjust it to suit both the highways and parking market.

Changing the way in which we think

Naturally there can be pros and cons with collaboration. Perhaps the latter can be pinned down to mainly being the thought of it, with possible cynicism to a new approach, change and teaming up. Keeping people in the know, making sure everyone is in agreement, with a shared objective, and managing probabilities help to ease such issues.

It does seem that time has proven the benefits of co-operative working far outweigh the cons, especially when you consider what can be achieved with making our roads safer. Added to this is the fact that expenditure can be less, efficiency far greater and overall better results can ultimately be achieved.

Collaboration in the highways sector will continue to dominate working methods, therefore learning best practices to work together is a prudent way forward for a safer future.

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