Lessons from Consortium working

Chloe Lewis

An introduction to my experience

At the beginning of this year, I started a new project working with a new client and taking on a new role for a large transformation programme. I have worked alongside other consultancies on previous programmes in the past, but this was a first for me, working within a partnership from the offset.

Part of my role has involved acting as the co-ordinator between the consortium team members. To be able to understand their different ways of working and help lay the foundations for a new project culture, which would work for all those involved to achieve our joint goal on time.

Kicking off such a complex programme (remotely I might add) has certainly been challenging, however, I feel it has been balanced with several opportunities, from both a personal and project delivery perspective.

What is consortium working?

Consortium working has become a cornerstone for large scale implementation programmes and offers many benefits to the client. Bringing together two or more companies to work together on a project offers the opportunity to bring in a diverse mix of specialists to lead on their retrospective business areas and to deliver the project to the highest possible standard. Therefore, reducing the risk of issues leading into Business-As-Usual. To achieve this, the consortia need to encourage long-term collaborations between partners and clients to understand the vision and support one another.

New opportunities

  • Networking; building working relationships, from different backgrounds and expertise that may result in further business opportunities in the future.
  • New experiences; sharing best practices and learning from each other’s expertise.
  • Pooling resources; sharing business contacts and tools amongst consortium members.
  • Offers greater support; during the decision-making and escalations process, using each other as a sounding board can be more effective.

Challenges so far

  • Roles can get confusing; getting up to speed quickly to understand who is responsible/accountable can be challenging.
  • Ownership of tasks can be blurred; avoiding duplicated efforts and getting to know your consortia counterpart is essential.
  • Planning can be challenging; with different working styles and expectations it is important to align up front with requirements/dependencies.
  • There will not always be a consensus to ways of working/expectations.
  • Establishing common understanding of ways of working; how you and your partners manage complex projects to this scale. It may take time getting to know one another’s styles in practice.

The added complexity of doing it all remotely

  • No face-to-face interactions; less opportunity to build a rapport with the consortium team members and client. Missing the ‘water cooler’ conversations.
  • Maintaining momentum in relationship/comms across all parties involved; as a programme team as a whole.
  • Relying on the technology; being consistent with different technology tools and preferences e.g. Teams vs Zoom and being entirely dependent on their reliability.

So, I’ve certainly learnt a lot, and my top five tips to myself for next time (or for anyone else joining a new consortium), are:

  1. Regular contact with all consortium members is key. Weekly meetings and where required daily calls ensure information is shared and, crucial relationships develop within the team.
  2. Invest a significant amount of time up front to understand who’s going to do what and who wants what out of it. This will help everyone do what they need to do efficiently and help co-ordinate the team’s efforts.
  3. Implement project mobilisation sessions which clearly describe what the project phases mean to you and manage expectations of what you will deliver.
  4. Make time for feedback sessions and agree how partner/client feedback discussions translate to being communicated to all.
  5. Ensure internal comms are established, particularly for working remotely it’s important to keep the consortia informed about what the programme are doing to the whole community.

There will be many examples of consortia out there, each of different sizes and with their own learnings, in the last six months I am incredibly proud of the way we have worked with one another and believe we are able to demonstrate what a truly collaborative effort can achieve having just completed the first phase of the programme on time! It hasn’t always been easy working to the demands of the project whilst also aligning to different working styles and expectations, but I believe we’ve found our groove and I am looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Sysdoc and consortium working.

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