First and foremost one thing is certain: our services have become a commodity. There are more companies today than there were 20 years ago. A combination of technology, incentives and career extensions have caused more individuals to branch out of the corporate world and to open small firms. Technology, probably the most significant factor, allows for just about anyone to streamline workflow and processes from anywhere in the world.
Now, the interesting part is that once upon a time, things didn't use to be this way. Because there weren't as many highly technical, specialized and licensed architects / engineers out there--well everyone was getting a piece of the pie. Why put an emphasis on getting clients when they were just walking through your door? Today however, the market is flooded with options--and has caused two notable observations:
- The client retains the negotiating power when he has a plethora of options on who to hire--he or she is in the driver's seat.
- Moreso now than before it is evident that differentiation and performance consistency are crucial at winning clients and retaining a profitable business.
Because of these significant trends, I believe that the AEC industry will need to invest more heavily in the business oriented departments such as Accounting, Human Resources, Operations, Marketing, and Information Technology. The firms that do will see an instant impact within their businesses, how their run, and how they interact with the public and clients. This type of focus (along with the technical departments functioning in sync) will produce financial results worthy of sustainability. It will be these firms that will swallow and acquire the firms that ignore these business differentiated essentials.
Of course though--these are just my thoughts and predictions.