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Adapt to succeed in the construction engineering consultancy market

It has been tough times over the last five years for all consultants. Clients want more for less and the challenge is to prove that you can deliver value, by finding efficiencies and cutting cost, time and resource without compromising quality.

But rather than seeing this as a setback I believe this has really helped our industry lift its game.

Thinking creatively and finding the most innovative solutions is at the heart of consultancy. As we go forward I believe the market will become even more competitive and only those who are willing to adapt will succeed.

Stronger sectors such as commercial and residential property, particularly in London and the South-east where confidence in development is high, are already highly competitive and will become more so.

Big-ticket drivers

Projects such as HS2, Crossrail 2 and the ongoing need to find solutions to our energy crisis will ensure that rail and the renewable energy markets continue to drive investment in design, associated infrastructure and environmental consultancy. 

“We are likely to also see more acquisitions as companies seek to expand their global presence and skills base”

We’ll see the slower sectors starting to follow suit as well, particularly in the regions where things haven’t quite got back to normal.

There is work coming through on the public sector side as local government begins to recover from the budget cuts. We were proactive when the recession first kicked in and we’re seeing the benefits of that now.

The retail market remains suppressed, even in London, and we do not see this picking up significantly until consumer confidence grows. On the flipside we’re entering a period of infrastructure renaissance that will see an enormous amount of work in water, transport, energy and waste in coming decades.

In terms of where the work is, consultancies are already increasingly looking overseas to bolster their books and we will see more of this.

Both local and global

However, keeping your at home clients happy is crucial and we aim be the ‘best in class’ locally, while also keeping an eye on the global markets. We are confident this strategy will benefit us when the market picks up.

In line with this shift to the international market we are likely to also see more acquisitions as companies seek to expand their global presence and skills base.

As the world is becoming a smaller place the market will also be increasingly pressured by international firms bidding for and winning UK projects. That’s why it’s so important to be part of the world stage, as well as nurture your domestic market. You can’t rely on having all your eggs in one basket.

Finally, by necessity we are also going to see more pure play consultancy, with a shift away from consultancies taking on high risk contract work. This is indeed where WSP is going.

Mark Naysmith is managing director at WSP

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