From the prime contractors to the big consultancy firms, from the gig economy to Artificial Intelligence – never before has there been such imminent competition within the professional engineering services market.
What had been our sector’s golden egg - applying engineering principles and data to design, construction, and maintenance - is no longer unique.
You only have to look at the provision of asset management services by physical works contractors to see where this is going. They are investing hugely in big data models for predictive maintenance and renewals, and in some cases, giving that knowledge back to clients for free.
Our clients’ problemset is also changing. Their key challenges are not always technical, but related to stakeholders, regulatory, processes, internal competency, change management, the measurement of outcomes, the definition of value, or lack of money.
How we redefine engineering professional services will be steered by seeing our clients’ problems from a broader perspective, including from community, cultural, social, environmental and economic standpoints.
Now is the time to redefine our relationships with our clients and start to futureproof our businesses.
1. Stop selling time and start selling products or programmes
With the commoditisation of technical services and the emergence of AI, selling time has limited future potential. Review the services you provide clients to see where demand could allow you to productise your services. Your product may be a workshop, experience, toolkit or healthcheck, or a programme integrating all of these.
The benefits are:
Creates a repeatable and consistent experience that can be scaled across multiple clients
Makes packaging, marketing and selling for new clients easier – this is a tried and tested experience with established results
Makes training and upskilling of staff easier
Opens up possiblities to digitise and more easily reach a global audience.
2. Ask ‘What value do we really add?’
At the heart of this is: how well do we really know the big challenges for our clients? If we solely focus on the technical issues and fail to appreciate the broader context, then we can quickly be precluded from the strategic, value-add discussion and the opportunity to be a true trusted advisor.
3. Apply the broader perspective
We all see client organisations, especially Government agencies, trying to cope with problems outside the engineering realm: bureaucracy and process, external accountability, stakeholder pressure, and in some cases, a lack of internal capability to deliver engineering projects.
Involve non-engineers in the analysis and development of solutions for clients
Partner with businesses that offer non-technical services
Build non-technical capability and competency within your engineers – invest in soft skills such as communication, leadership, customer empathy, or innovation.
Offer non-traditional engineering services – stakeholder management, outcomes measurement, change management, communications.
Conversely, can you extend your offering to include physical works or partnerships with contractors?
4. Use your data for knowledge
Established professional services providers have so much data on their clients they should be using this to create models for clients to predict the future of their assets and business. Even if it means investing in new tools and staff – the return is worth it.