Greg Bradley, Head of UK Business Advisory at Arcadis, suggests 2015 was a good year with growth in a number of areas. “Demand for infrastructure advisory support, in aviation, high-speed rail and highways, has been consistently strong. Facing major cost-reduction challenges, and other agendas such as decentralisation, public sector demand has been more uneven, but still positive. Major programmes in utilities are coming on stream, though perhaps a little slower than we would have anticipated, owing to regulatory requirements. Overall, we’ve seen strong growth.
“However, we’ve also seen the scale of client expectations growing too.” Clients were understandably demanding in the aftermath of 2008 global financial crisis. Greg suggests however that as the economy returns to growth, client needs have, if anything, become more complex. They now want more than ever in terms of quality, skills and value for money. Global demands also present their own challenges.
“The UK enjoys a strong reputation as a centre of consulting excellence, but Arcadis is a global business, so we receive demands from clients worldwide and also from other parts of our business. We are often asked to provide input on best practice for asset management, operational excellence, programme support and supply-chain management.”
Greg expects growth to continue in 2016, with local government’s city agendas potentially strengthening public sector demand. “Local authorities and cities are addressing funding challenges by creating new revenue streams through investing in assets and forming partnerships with other providers, including utilities, telecoms and energy suppliers. We expect more of this kind of initiative, and a continued pull for advisory support to integrate public and private sector knowledge, and bring together investors, asset managers, and service providers.”
Greg believes that consulting must rise to the challenges of economic growth. “At a micro level, this is about focusing on outcomes. We continue to resist the downward pressure of commoditisation. Instead, in response to clients’ complex needs, we are providing integrated propositions focused on core business goals.” Part of this is about R&D and development of capability. Indeed, Greg contends that consulting is smarter than it has ever been, with a greater range of propositions. “We’re also attracting very high quality talent, particularly graduates, often with great Digital skills and a fresh perspective on the art of the possible. This is helping us bring creativity and new ideas to help solve our clients’ most complex challenges, and also enables us to have a vibrant and dynamic working environment for our teams.”
At the macro level, Greg believes that consultants, especially working in the infrastructure value chain, have lots to offer. “We need to integrate our global insights and package them up for government and industry stakeholders. Arcadis’s Global Built Asset Wealth Index report shows a direct correlation between investment in built assets and GDP. The UK has fallen behind, but the creation of the National Infrastructure Commission, and the integration of Infrastructure UK with the Major Projects Authority signals a step-change in approach and a fantastic opportunity to deliver the next generation of infrastructure and growth for the UK.”