A year ago, following a tender process, the new partnership ProRail IT Partners came into existence. This is not just any collaboration, but a form where knowledge, expertise and experience are openly shared. A year after its start, it is time to evaluate with the five partners.

The four companies working with ProRail in ProRail IT Partners (PITP) are - in no particular order - InTraffic (part of ICT Group), Ordina (Sopra Steria), CGI and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). The collaboration as ProRail IT Partners replaced the SBOP (Software Management and Development Partner) contracts that expired early last year after ten years.

Because these contracts expired and because ProRail felt a great need for another form of partnership, it was decided to change direction. A new form of cooperation - partnership - was included in the tender process. The new form of cooperation was further developed and then implemented with the partners who emerged as the best from the call for tenders. A collaboration with a minimum of mutual competition, but with great time savings, where quality and the general interest - the continuity and improvement of ProRail's services - come first.

"We see that ICT in a broad sense and applications in particular are an increasingly important part of planning and running trains without problems," kicks off ICT manager Paul van Asten on behalf of ProRail. 

"About twelve years ago we therefore went to the so-called SBOP construction. But working with separate mini-competitions within the framework agreement, combined with the large and complex ICT landscape we have to deal with at ProRail, did not work as well as it should. That is why we decided to take a different approach when renewing the framework agreement, in which cooperation and securing knowledge, expertise and quality are central."

With this in mind, ProRail went in search of four partners with whom the rail operator could cooperate on an equal basis, in the interest of the end product. "Besides keeping train traffic on the right track, we have a big task towards the near future," Van Asten states. "The rail industry faces the challenge of supporting the growth of the Netherlands in passenger and freight transport over the railroad. To get that done on our already full network, ICT plays a crucial role. For that, we need the necessary knowledge and expertise, which we will then deploy unrestrained and in optimal cooperation. That was therefore the idea behind PITP ."

All partners within PITP have their own plot of work, but must coordinate with each other. "Sharing information with each other is indeed very important," Van Asten confirms. We invest in PITP together. We can, because we have agreed that we will do this together for at least 10 years."

The start

The first year of PITP was dominated by the transition phase. All ICT projects and applications were moved to the new parcels, with the partner who was awarded that part. That meant that some applications had to be transferred to another partner. Henk Woolschot of TCS about this phase: "We were the newcomers, because the other three parties were already working together within the SBOP contract. Because we were new, creating trust initially played a big role. Moreover, I had to explain to my own organization that in my team I would be working very closely with colleagues from normally competing parties. So trust had to be nurtured with the constituency as well. A process that was easier and faster than I had thought possible."

"I think it's incredibly cool and interesting to witness," says Client Director Eric Slobben of Ordina. "You have to realize, we are sitting here with four parties together who consider themselves competitors elsewhere in the market. And now I'm working with them as true colleagues. That's very special."

Bob Brands, Business Unit Manager at InTraffic, laughs. "Funny when you see it now and you think back to how it was: we were sitting around the table with ProRail as competitors. And we literally held our cards to our chests. We do that differently now. And I think we can get even better at it."

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