Public-private relationships : an exploration of strategic collaboration

  • Rowan Macdonald

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The normative meaning of collaboration implies all things good, and many organisations claim that they are working collaboratively with others to achieve the attendant benefits. This thesis assesses 'strategic' collaboration in the Australian Government‘s ICT outsourcing programme to explore the wider research topic on whether the public sector is seeking beneficial outcomes in its relationship with the private sector, above those obtained through traditional government procurement practices. Based on the limited study, the thesis concluded that strategic collaboration was being sought, at least as portrayed in the Australian Government ICT outsourcing environment, and on this basis, the findings support the wider position that the public sector is seeking benefits above those achieved through government procurement practices. In this thesis, 'organisational relationships' are distinguished from the underlying 'structural (contractual) arrangement, and it is argued that all outcomes from organisational relationships are collaborative, varying in their achievement of 'tactical' through to 'strategic' outcomes. Traditional government procurement practices and principles such as competitive tendering and value for money, are only regarded as achieving tactical outcomes since they are procedurally based, and their scope and benefits are one-sided. The thesis analyses relationship outcomes using an empirically developed public-private relationship model, and against a benchmark of strategic collaboration, defined as a voluntary amalgamation of organisations for mutual opportunity creation. The findings have implications for researchers on collaboration, and for the public and private sector practitioners who manage these relationships on a daily basis. Of most significance to both groups are the contributions of: a differentiation between an 'organisational relationship' and the underlying 'structural arrangement'; a description of the collaborative outcomes of organisational relationships, ranging from tactical to strategic; an empirically developed public-private relationship model; and a generic relationship framework. Researchers on collaboration will particularly benefit from the generic relationship framework developed in the thesis, as it provides a robust foundation from which to base research on collaboration in specific sectors—as this thesis did into collaboration in public-private ICT outsourcing. The framework departs from the traditional view of describing a relationship only at a high level, and instead, explores the detail of the 'constructs of the relationship'. This is a more robust approach since the impact of individual elements of the relationship can be investigated, which leads to a more thorough understanding of the interaction between the organisations. The framework also establishes the notion of a two-dimensional model encompassing the relationship constructs, but also the relationship outcomes—recognising that collaboration is not a single outcome. For those practitioners who manage the day-to-day public-private relationships in the Australian Government ICT outsourcing environment, this thesis provides practical guidance on an approach to progressing and managing the relationships. It informs the practitioners on seven specific areas of a relationship where focus is best directed. Furthermore, it also describes what the performance characteristics of the participating organisations would need to be, to meet particular levels of collaborative outcome.
    Date of Award2011
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJohn Halligan (Supervisor) & Chris Sadleir (Supervisor)

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