According to this year’s Deltek Clarity Architecture & Engineering (A&E) Industry Study, it is looking to be a landmark year for the architecture and engineering industry with net revenue growth forecasted to grow to 17.6%. A&E is doing quite well despite the pandemic with the highest net revenue growth in the last ten years at 11.4%. This increase is assisted by A&E’s market position, which is expected to either grow or remain steady in markets across the board. Most notably water/waste/stormwater, transportation, and industries that fall under the “other” category (such as life sciences and senior living) are predicted to see great increases. As a result, firms will not only need to strategically pursue the right projects but will also need to grow and develop a staff to deliver on these projects.
Top Business Development (BD) Challenges
The ever-changing nature of the business world is continuing to keep firms on their toes with new challenges. Unlike the previous year, a majority of firms (78%) have identified that finding and retaining qualified staff has been a struggle for them. This is coupled with other mass-reported problems such as staffing shortages and difficulty retaining employees. Staffing challenges have a direct impact on business development, not only lacking adequate staff to conduct business development activities but also not being able to provide the most qualified teams to win and deliver on projects.
Time to nurture client relationships is the top business development challenge for A&E firms according to the report. With favorable market conditions, new opportunities will be plentiful which poses a challenge for firms to keep up with their clients. Time is money and time is also in short supply. With the reporting firms revealing an average work backlog of nearly 9 months, it is clear that companies must find a way to increase productivity. Upskilling business development talent and streamlining the BD process will help to free up time to strategically nurture client relationships.
Other top BD challenges from the study include increased competition and identifying prospects. Firms must differentiate and hone branding across thought leadership and social marketing channels to distinguish themselves in the marketplace. Additionally, with a positive industry outlook this year, firms will need to be more strategic in pursuits that work best for their company’s strengths.
Increased Formal Business Development Process
Of the companies surveyed, 45% have a formal business development process, which is an increase going up from 39% the previous year. Though this means that 55% of firms surveyed still do not have any formal business development process. In these cases, responsibility for business development tasks is most often pushed to the executive team, project managers, and marketing staff. While dedicated business development staff may not be necessary in every case, it is important not to overlook the kind of work they do. Most notably, they tend to client relationship development, proposal development and networking, but they have plenty of other duties as well. Their jobs help to create new business opportunities, and within the last year active client relationships, requests for proposals and networking placed in the top five sources of new opportunities in the surveyed firms.
A Positive Year for Proposals Requires Evaluation
As suggested by the Deltek Clarity study, operating in a market with limited resources but high demand, the go/no go process is significant to evaluate the projects firms will pursue. While the number of firms employing the go/no go process has increased in the last year, there is still a large population who do not utilize it in the slightest. Of the companies who reported, 22% don’t use any kind of go/no go process. Listed below are the top three questions that businesses ask when deciding whether or not to accept a proposal:
- Is it a good fit for the type of work we do?
- Do we have an existing relationship with the client?
- Do we have the staff to deliver the project?
This method of weeding out less profitable projects is more useful than ever, as a significant rise in the number of proposals submitted and the number awarded in firms of all sizes was observed. In-kind, the average win rate of proposals has increased in the last year to 49.2%, the highest it’s been since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The average capture rate is also up from the previous year, now standing at 48.5%.
Marketing Techniques Present and Future
A majority of businesses reported using social media posts for marketing, with only 16% not indicating any use. This was followed by client-specific marketing at 67%, trade shows/exhibits at 56%, email marketing at 54% and thought leadership at 42%. The order of these marketing methods is projected to change, however, with the study offering up that client-specific marketing could overtake social media marketing within the next five years. Thought leadership is predicted to advance to third place among important marketing techniques, with trade shows/exhibits and email marketing falling more and more by the wayside.
Business Development Initiatives
Based on this year’s study, some of the priority business development (BD) initiatives for A&E firms are hiring additional staff, earlier identification of opportunities and requirements and expanding geographically. Since BD has not been spared from staffing challenges, and firms are seeing more proposals, projects, and nurturing opportunities, the focus on obtaining the best-qualified staff is of tantamount importance. Another area that has grown in importance is the geographic expansion of firms requiring yet again additional staff. One more initiative to identify opportunities and their requirements remains top of the list as well. Teams shouldn’t be wasting time and their resources on projects that are not winnable.
Final BD Outlook from Deltek Clarity
The 43rd Deltek A&E Clarity study found that while the world still is not clear about the pandemic, things are looking up for the industry. The top problems of participating firms are not dire, and by focusing on the employee base and current client relationships, these issues can be fixed. This year’s Deltek Clarity report also noted that freeing up time is necessary to clear the obstacles in the way of each business regarding BD. To remedy this, employing the go/no go process and better utilizing the tools provided by Deltek to streamline the BD process is suggested.
How does your company stack up to those that participated in the survey? For a more in-depth look at the data behind the 43rd Deltek A&E Clarity study, use the link below to receive the report for free right now!