Thursday, August 23, 2007


Professor Dr. George S. Birrell
University Malaya
Professor Emeritus UMIST

This paper was presented at QS National Convention 2003, 18-19 August 2003 at Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.


Currently, quantity surveying is a protected oligopoly in societies which use and support the services of this profession. Thus quantity surveyors have vested interests in maintaining the status quo, but hopefully with some elasticity.

To evolve to the future from this situation, quantity surveying can either (1) drop its oligopolistic protection and be a competitive service business related to the broad scope of the construction industry and other industries or (2) only add new services, skills and ventures, adjacent to and non destructive to its protected status quo.

This paper is neither a piece of detailed research on the past nor a list of suggested new fields for quantity surveyors. This paper is aimed at providing a stimulant to and possible frameworks for considering future “add on” services to quantity surveying, and how such a future strategy may be created. It may be that one single idea or one concept presented in the paper may stimulate an individual quantity surveyor or a partner in a quantity surveying firm to do something about their own future.

While the majority of the paper may be primarily directed at the evolution of quantity surveying firms, such firms comprise the changing marketplace for individual quantity surveyors. Individuals are the resources which carry out the work for the firms. Complementary to this is the perception that quantity surveying firms in the future can only provide services to their customers which can be carried out by available individual quantity surveyors.

After considering (a) basic ideas of strategic choices and, (b) current supply of services of quantity surveyors and some services which maybe possible in the future, this paper mainly comprises two parts, (c) considering evolutions stimulated from the current situation of competition in and around quantity surveyors and (d) sources capable of creating changes in quantity surveying organizations and individuals towards adjacent markets services potentially available to quantity surveyors.

Some of these potential market niches may lie outside or straddle the oligopolistic boundary constraints which exist today and benefit quantity surveyors. However, these boundaries, in themselves, may be elastic.
If evolutions take place to new activities and markets, a major attitude change may be forced on the quantity surveying organization by rational reasoning or by the new circumstances in that, then, it will be unwise to consider it to be a quantity surveying firm. The new allocation of staff, capital and profits may mean that quantity surveying is only one subsidiary of a conglomerate professional services organization.


Usually, a person cannot do everything simultaneously or be relatively good at everything at one point of time in their life. Organizations may be able to equip themselves to provide all such services simultaneously but then must be willing to carry the cost of all types of expertise, each of which will be underutilized at periods in the future time spectrum. Nonetheless, more beneficial life, pecuniarily and or socially, may be achieved over the long run of time by providing services that are in greatest demand at each period in time over such a series of periods in time.
Basically, strategic choice is (a) choosing to do certain things and (b) choosing not to do other things and these may be tempered by considering future time as short term and long term. Better still, the long run future can be considered as being made up of a series of short periods.
The worst case scenario for a strategy is the default choices of keeping doing what you have been doing (or even doing nothing) by choosing no change, with or without thinking and/or research on what would be considered to be best to do. Even if one wishes not to think about the future, there is a high probability that the environment and situation in which one currently exists and works will change over time, either slowly or quickly. So, the probability is high that even if one is currently benefiting from being compatible with the present environment, that such a positive relationship will decline as the present moves to the future.

Thinking about the future is of primary importance and can be considered as prevoyance i.e. considering the environment or situation or market place in the future, equipping the person or organization with the skills and services needed to best serve each of these series of markets at different times (and maybe places). Also, an organization has to decide which of current skills and services and indeed employees and partners should be released from current use to free up liquid resources to buy in those skills and people needed to match the future needs of each of the future series of market places. Listing such strategic choices is not part of this paper. Choices made by the organization or individual arise after they have considered the potentials of evolving from where they stand at present, and the future marketplace and their own desires.


What can a quantity surveyor do today? Also, what other services which are adjacent to what is the current norm for quantity surveyors, could quantity surveyors add to their current services?

Current Services

As this is a cloudy and mixed area of services it will be considered in the context of
(i) core skills and
(ii) add on skills and the latter has little to do with
(iii) potential add on skills and services.

(i) Core Skills and Services

These are skills and services such as preparing a bill of quantities from drawings, writing a construction contract, writing a clear and competent specification, advising a client on an array of bids for a project, making up interim payments during construction, advising a client on and handling change orders and claims and settling final accounts for projects. There may be other interspersed and surrounding skills and services but it is reasonably safe to consider that the above services are seen by society as to be expected to be provided competently from anyone called a quantity surveyor.

(ii) Recently Added Skills and Services

These can encompass the subjects learned by young people attending universities for a variety of degree programs which may include the name of quantity surveying along with the names of project management, organization theory, economics of this and that, scheduling techniques, dispute resolution and settlement, human management, writing design briefs / programs, value engineering, feasibility studies, cash flow and risk analyses etc. as well as other topics which are more central to other surveying professionals and adjacent professions and other concepts derived from a variety of niches. The provision of such education may be in the array of needs of a construction industry and its clients or the pecadillos of lecturers and university administrators attempting to draw in students to their programs with “ the latest things”.

In considering core services and recently added services for the purpose of selecting a future market for beneficial employment , focus should be on services for which clients and customers are willing to pay . When looking for future submarkets it is not good enough to consider that having a more fully educated person available, creates a new niche market. There is little potential employment by customers for a fuller set of skills (if they can actually be executed as skills rather than a person simply knowing about their contents) or if there are other existing (non surveying) professions better equipped to provide such services and which will be strong competition to attempted advances by quantity surveyors into such areas of service. There must be clients willing to pay for the services for it to be a market. Also, there must be validity that the service being provided and paid for is really worth while for the client for him to continue to pay for that service.

(iii) Future Potential Services
As quantity surveyors are in the construction industry or more specifically, the “services involved in the wise procurement for clients of projects for the future built environment “, there are other potential services both up stream towards the project client and downstream towards the actual construction processes and its management by contractors from the normal market of quantity surveyors.

Upstream Towards Project Client

The subjects mentioned under (ii) above, cover most of the ingredients needed to participate in the upstream field, usually encompassed under the group name of project management but this is a sub market into which only some quantity surveyors have ventured and with unknown results towards the goal of pecuniary and / or social success. It may be that by providing project management services on a project, gathers in the quantity surveying contract which makes the profits. To provide project management services thoroughly, independent of quantity surveying and at a high quality on array of different specific sub services needed on an array of simultaneous projects is a very difficult task due to the need to employ many specific skills each at a high quality level. This is very different from hiring a quantity surveyor who can also do a bit of this and that or by a quantity surveyor bringing in a specialist for that service when it is needed on a project. A major constraint here is paying an expert’s salary while waiting for a project on which his services are really needed.

An always existing threat to this potential sub market for quantity surveyors is the ever present reality now and in the future, of project teams being of “an hoc nature”, which is the fundamental norm for teams contracted to provide projects. It is the nature and demands of the project that should dictate what team of experts is chosen to provide the required end product. On some projects this can lead to some unscrupulous selling of services which are really superfluous to the needs of the project or having, for example, a risk analysis expert taking off quantities or vica versa while waiting for his type of work to come along (and his expertise declining because it is not being used all the time).

Maybe, being an employment agency for construction industry professionals is the core expertise needed to form the array of experts which are needed to staff projects indeed, it might be that tapping the potential to provide this service which selects the array of needed experts differentiated and separated from the providing the actual services, that could lead to a new future on going new service of benefit to clients.
Furthermore, it could be that the processes of (a) providing and managing the flows of finance, (b) legal, contractual advice and (c) information handling could be new market areas for quantity surveyors and these are addressed more fully below when describing Sources of Changes For Quantity Surveyors.

Downstream Towards Construction Work

The potential of completely new areas of services and work for quantity surveyors could be by moving towards the actual management of construction work (as a completely separate field of services from the concept of advising the client on or participating in the project procurement). This would require the quantity surveyor to be able to perform services currently inside the activities of construction contractors and that potential encompasses main contractors and trade sub contractors. This area of services tends to be rather foreign to quantity surveyors who tend not to go deeper into the construction process than the unit price in the Bill of Quantities.

Mainly, quantity surveyors tend not to participate in the actual decision making and management of the many activities performed, well or poorly, repeatedly or infrequently, by contractors. Perhaps those activities which are performed poorly and/or infrequently by contractors could be sought as new market niches to be provided by quantity surveyors who are capable and knowledgeable in such activities within the contractors side of the industry. This potential could be reinforced by contractors desiring to “out source” such activities that require continuous expertise in various niches which they find expensive to staff continuously or carry out infrequently. Given that there could be sufficient volume of work, such niches of service opportunity in each of many contractors organizations, could provide a critical mass of potential for future evolutions of quantity surveyors.

The potential of quantity surveyors providing (i) construction scheduling and control services, (ii) labor and equipment cost budgeting, monitoring and control reporting, (iii) the buying and expediting of materials in the supply chain flows from innumerable suppliers, wholesalers and retailers to innumerable trade contractors, as well as the more obvious (iv) handling of change orders and claims on behalf of contractors may be some new services to be considered by quantity surveyors who consider themselves to be aggressive agents of change and exploiters of entrepreneurial potential.

Negatives and Positives, Both Upstream and Downstream

In generally considering the negatives of quantity surveyor moving both up stream and down stream there are potential obstacles. For the upstream, there is the potential of losing core quantity surveying work by becoming competition to the project clients and managers from whom comes their current quantity surveying work. For the downstream, there could be loss of core quantity surveying work from conflict of interest by the same quantity surveyor firm, simultaneously working on both sides of the contractual interface on the same project. Such irreconcilable conflicts have caused considerable problems in finance houses which provide company share purchase advice simultaneously with providing financial, merchant banking and accounting services to the subject companies.

However, on the positive side, there are opportunities of developing critical mass areas of expertise, which, if it can be translated into process efficiencies by the service being provided to a large number of client and contractor clients, could become major new source of business and profit or loss for quantity surveyors.


In evolving from a competitive current market or markets towards a future market or markets requires that you stay alive currently and while evolving forwards.
The nature of any current, ongoing marketplace is best presented by Diagram A below. While this model in expressed as competition to your company or your personal, individual future, these things others are doing can be considered as potentials for your organization or yourself. The essence of entrepreneurship is not inventiveness or newness in themselves, it is the profitable exploitation of new ideas and rebundling of old ideas, once they have been recognized, regardless of who created them or how you found them.

                                          Diagram A

In it, there is centered (a) the immediate competitors which must be faced day after day, albeit continuously changing incrementally. These are the known, direct competing quantity surveying firms which face each other in each town and market, (b) the ever changing nature, desires and evolutions of your customers in this current, competitive marketplace. Furthermore, there has to be considered (c) who could be potential new entrants to your marketplace as competition in what you are doing today. Sometimes new entrants to your marketplace begin by being only peripheral and marginal competitors in specific niche services but which may increase their penetration of your existing market. These future potential threats from new entrants is augmented by (d) the potential of substitute services and products to those which your supply today. These may be not only direct competitive substitutes to your services, but include indirect competition by providing new bundles of services which include a one or small number of services currently provided by quantity surveyors. Such new bundling of services may cause customers to move their source of quantity surveying services to other professional discipline firms which begin to offer their basic services plus those or some of these of currently offered by quantity surveyors.

Then, there is the other major component of your business to be considered, (e) the suppliers of the services you provide. These are the people employ and to provide your services. For quantity surveying firms these are core, current employees and potential employees as well as potential future employees who will be brought into your firm and the professional firms with whom you compete. These people carry the skills and services the professional firms can offer to old and new clients, now and in the future.

(a) Jockeying For Position Among Current Competitors

It is very probable that partners in quantity surveying practices are very fully aware of what their current direct competitors are doing and maybe (by industrial espionage) have ideas of what their current, direct competing quantity surveying professionals wish to do in the future and are evolving towards in the future. If firms do not know such information they would be wise to start trying to find out such information. This can lead to a fuller, wiser, better knowledge base of future potentials for your own company.

(b) Customers Future Needs and Desires

Needs are what the customer should receive as services to benefit themselves. Desires are the services the customers wish to receive or think they should receive to benefit themselves. To quite an extent the difference between these may come from the degree of professional and business knowledge available in senior staff within the clients organization regarding what overall services they need. Some clients may be very good at only buying the services they need. Other clients may, for a variety of reasons including ignorance or even “gold bricking”, buy some services which they do not need. Furthermore, the aspiration of staff members in the clients organization as to their own future, may influence the package of services they hire from consultants.

Here there should be consideration of clients as either (i) public / government clients or (ii) private clients. Also, there could be clients which are (iii) quasi government, that is a mixture of public and private features which could be a more complex client to serve than one which is pure government or purely private.

Perhaps more importantly, it can be wise to measure clients on the degree to which potential customers have in house knowledge of the services they wish to receive. Probably government clients seek services towards core services whereas private clients , especially developers , are more likely to have a variety of degrees of in house knowledge compared to government clients and so form different clients.

(i) Public / Government Clients

Clearly there are many levels of government from national / central government by varying degree of size and responsibility which commission services on huge development projects and studies as well as small ones towards very local government and/or specialized agencies which may deal with only one type of building project or buildings only in a restricted geographic area. It can be very important for a service provider’s success potential to fully know and understand the governments’ processes and paperwork as well as (and sometimes more important than) be able to provide at a high quantity the required professional services required of the consultant.

(ii) Private Clients

Usually private clients differ considerably among themselves by size of and type project they require but also and probably more importantly, by each clients different levels of knowledge and in house expertise of (i) quantity surveying, (ii) upstream project procurement and (iii) downstream management of construction. The clients degree of knowledge and capability on the above poses different demands on the set of services required from their consultants.

For construction ignorant clients, satisfaction from consultants may be satisfied by provision of all the basic core services expected of a quantity surveyor, unless the end product building, the site and/or the nature of the current construction market or combination of these with cost and time constraints, create a complex project. Then, under the guise of basic service will be required an array of very complex sub services from consultants.

For construction knowledgeable clients there can be at least three types of service groupings. The client has knowledge but (a) does not have in house staff with knowledge, to carry out the services needed for particular projects, such as a client who knows the questions to ask and wants the answers from the consultants, (b) has knowledgeable staff to receive sophisticated services along with the basic service to satisfy the needs of the project and (c) wants to mix the work of his staff and the consultants staff on this project to try to provide superb project results and/or sharpen the capabilities of his staff.

What these different types of clients want as services in the future will have a considerable effect on what will make existing quantity surveying firms succeed or fail in the future. These are client variables that quantity surveyors should seek out from market research and then adjust their in house capabilities to provide such services and reduce the provision of services and capabilities which will diminish their volume of work and profit in the future.

Furthermore, quantity surveying firms have to make a decision of providing services to only one type of client or different types of clients. The latter choice requires added overhead cost of administrators in the (quantity surveying) firm. To provide services to all types of clients simultaneously requires added sophisticated management expertise. Even if such management expertise is in the brain of a quantity surveyor, his time will have to be spent on such clever administrative work rather than on quantity surveying.

(c) Potential New Entrants

It is probable that the market for new entrants to the market will firstly be for services to private clients due to governments more conservative use of professional services.

It is probably more difficult for entrants to enter a professional service market than to move into more commercial end product type businesses where end product utility, quality and price are dominant features for attracting new customers or opening a new market.

In a more global sense, new entrants could come to Malaysian quantity surveying from other existing quantity surveyors markets and vica versa. If the economy in Malaysia is better than in Singapore and Hong Kong or elsewhere, then quantity surveyors from those markets may move into Malaysia (with local new partners). Perhaps such firm with different approaches from local firms can be successful in the Malaysian market which will diminish the market share to existing firms. Maybe, such movements could be made across local districts within Malaysia by Malaysian quantity surveyors or that different niche services within quantity surveying are bought out by aggressive firms as new markets for themselves in competition with other local or general service quantity surveying firms.

Furthermore, maybe if  Malaysian quantity surveying is currently more prosperous than Hong Kong and Singapore, now may be the most profitable time for Malaysian quantity surveyors to try to wholly or partially take over quantity surveying firm in these localities by using their own higher valued shares as purchasing currency. Of course, this depends on the consideration that these other markets will return to larger volumes of business and profitability.

(d) Potential Substitute Services

New markets for substitute services by quantity surveyors could include various services for contractors who carry out projects by design / build for clients. Such clients may chose to do so without the services of professional quantity surveyors and here the contractor is circumnavigating the need for the client to have or provide professional quantity surveying services. However, the contractor may consider such services or documentation to be useful or that cost planning of the design process could be beneficial to their projects.

Another substitute service could be that a Malaysian quantity surveying firm follows the examples of engineering and architectural firms, computers software firms banks and insurance companies by moving all its basic preparatory and back office work such as taking off work to a subsidiary company based in India where staff costs may be considerably less while skill levels are at least equal to those of local services.

Also there is the global negative consideration for quantity surveying firms that for the whole of the construction industry in the United States there are neither quantity surveyors nor Bills of Quantities involved in the contracting and construction of building projects. However this negative / problem situation could be seen as an opportunity by quantity surveyors adapting to provide quantity take offs for each trade contractor bidding for a position on each project team of contractors for each project about to be contracted in the construction market place. Also, quantity surveyors may wish to provide services discussed above, and below to contractors.

(e) Suppliers of Quantity Surveying Services

These suppliers are future employees, both quantity surveyors and other professionals.
This involves considering what array of skills are available among the whole array of individual quantity surveyors in the marketplace. These should include new services available in the heads of individuals but which are not yet provided to clients by quantity surveying firms. Also, the individual services provided by other professions adjacent to the building procurement processes should be brought into this segment of consideration. What is needed to be created is a long list of individual services provided by all of these professional quantity surveyors and other professions who serve construction projects. Then that list professional services can be examined to form more efficient groups or batches of services provision than exists currently.

It is futile to allow consideration of the future to be limited by existing boundaries that a lawyer provides a to d, an accountant provides e to k and a quantity surveyor provides l to q and so on through all the current professions and businesses. A through review of all service needs of projects should be done as a precursor to considering repackaging all services for clients, contractors and projects, either into new groupings or individually.

This consideration has to be made both in the positive and negative. Positive in the sense that the capabilities already available in quantity surveying firms can be provided to clients and the capabilities which do not exist in such firms but are needed by clients can be added to be provided to clients. Of course there can evolve the negative potential for the quantity surveying firms in that if young people coming out of quantity surveying education are capable of providing new, fringe services to quantity surveying but are incapable or partially incapable of competently and properly providing quantity surveying core services such as taking off quantities there will be no future potential services of providing clients with Bills of Quantities. Complementary to this is that the services these fresh entrants to the profession can provide as an array of services, will shape the range of future services of quantity surveying.


Sources of change in quantity surveying, as in any area of human activity, will tend to come from a few individual people in the group or species. There can be a concept of “individual Darwinism” and organizational Darwinism" in which the individual or organization adjusts what it does to achieve what is seen will be a future gain. Such entities adapt and evolve from where they are now to something else in the future, as probably each seeks more gain or more security or a more interesting life. Such changes by individuals will make incremental changes on the group activities. Some changes will succeed and some will fail in the short run. If the party desiring to evolve towards what they see as their future, has an open mind and keeps trying to evolve to the future they have greater chances of being successfully alive in that future than it they stand still in an even changing environment. Even if they try but fail, but keep trying, probably they will be in a better position in the future than doing nothing now.
Now, organizations (even with the same professional skills and services) are made up of different types of people. So the search for the sources of change are in people either as individuals seeking to better their lives (in their own eyes) or as individuals in the groups and sub groups which make up organizations. Also, interactions between people could spark an idea in one of them. Maybe, something in this paper may spark some movement in someone now or in the future.

Now, changes in organizations can be by (i) changing the markets it addresses, or (ii) changing the technology it uses or (iii) changing the people in the organization. People in an organization can be changed, by hiring and firing or by them consuming education or accepting suggestions and challenges by others. Individuals can change what each offers in the marketplace by adding (and deducting) skills and services they provide. However, people may have greater difficulty changing their own nature (and that may be impossible). Change does not necessarily create proficiency in the new skills, that should come from continuing subsequent practice.


Diagram B is a double matrix which presents the lower matrix considering people and their characteristics and an upper matrix considering people and current and future opportunities for quantity surveyors. Here various broad skills and services areas are presented next to characteristics in people related to changing the provision of services.
The horizontal common axis to both matrices is types of people regarding the degree to which they are primarily, thinkers or doers. Thinkers are people who enjoy, and may be good at, thinking out what should be objectives and strategic futures and how to reach objectives by creating plans, processes and dissolving bottlenecks in the processes of reaching an objective. Doers are people who enjoy, and may be good at, carrying out relatively thought out routines or programmed processes which can be simple or complex. A much smaller number of people have the capability to both think and do at different times under self control. This third group of people may be more flexible and useful to an organization but they may also tend to be more independent as individuals and thus require more management care and tolerance by the organization than for the other two types of people.

It may be that more thinkers are needed prior to and during the deciding to make changes and that doers are needed to make the changes and carry out the activities after the changes have been made. Perhaps consultants should be brought in to augment the existing in house thinkers ( if any exist in the organization).

            Diagram B Double Matrices Portfolio of Peoples Strengths

The Lower Matrix

Considering the lower matrix which deals with the nature of people, the vertical axis is made up of two major parts, the company person or the samurai. The crucial variable here in the focus of allegiance of the person. The company person gives his allegiance to the employer whereas the samurai gives his allegiance to the profession or skill peer group to whom he or she belongs. In somewhat simple terms, the company person will seek their future life by doing whatever they are asked to do by the employer whereas the samurai seeks recognition from the peer group and sells that expert service or services to an employer.

If the current or future market place is dynamic and changing then the organization should staff itself with a preponderance of samurai, maybe with most on short and medium term contracts. This is more beneficial to the organization because the array of skills presented to the market place can provide more exquisite matching to market need, and high quality in each of the services it provides. Also, the players are more easily changeable. Employers can benefit greatly in a changing situations by employing samurai but may have to change and adjust their activities to accommodate or even follow the samurai towards the future.

In times of long run stability in the market place an organization should or can be made up of mainly company people because only small changes are expected in the marketplace and regularly repeatable services will be required in series over time. Sub parts of the company person can be that they are primarily skilled in the profession of quantity surveying or in more general management or with business acumen. In company people there may be more generalists and “jacks of all trades”.

Sub parts of the samurai can be that they are primarily skilled in an existing or new specific skill in quantity surveying or a new market skill and service towards which the organization wishes to move and grow and create a new market. Alternatively, the samurai may be an expert in entrepreneurship or be a sociological organizational change agent. The former sees or looks for potential changes which can create a new market by thinking about what services existing or new customers may benefit. The latter sees or looks for potential beneficial changes in rearranging or regrouping people in the organization which can more efficiently provide the existing (or new services) or enable new linkages among existing people to release the creation of more innovative, efficient, forward looking processes to match needs of customers in the future market place. These two sub parts of the samurai concept are active elements of change in a organization either by themselves or as attractors for people in the organization or by stimulating creative conflict, deliberately or by accident.

The above highlights the polarity that organizations need a preponderance of steady managers to keep the organization moving efficiently through calm markets and need a preponderance of samurai, entrepreneurs and change agents to carry and adjust and evolve the organization through difficult, turbulent and dynamically changing environments.

Use Of The Lower Axis

The interplay between the thinking/doing axis and the company person/samurai axis (each with their sub parts) provides a matrix on which to both (a) analyze the existing people in an organization and (b) synthesize the mix of people which will be needed in the future and (c) the plusses and minuses needed to reconcile (a) and (b).

This desired future mix of staff depends on what you have analyzed and decided will be the future environment you chose will be the market or sub market or sub markets in which your organization will be working in the future (and hopefully developing more volume and quality of services by providing more and better services desired by its clients.

These are skills and services such as preparing a bill of quantities from drawings, writing a construction contract, writing a clear and competent specification, advising a client on an array of bids for a project, making up interim payments during construction, advising a client on and handling change orders and claims and settling final accounts for projects. There may be other interspersed and surrounding skills and services but it is reasonably safe to consider that the above services are seen by society as to be expected to be provided competently from anyone called a quantity surveyor.

The Upper Matrix

The upper matrix which deals with professional and business services is made up of (a) the common horizontal axis described above on the degree of thinking and doing by people and (b) the vertical axis across the groups of types of (i) professional services within quantity surveying (ii) upstream services towards the client and (iii) downstream services towards the actual construction process.. In considering the segments of this axis there are the previously mentioned areas of core quantity surveying and broad quantity surveying . The former being the old traditional core services of a quantity surveyor and broad quantity surveying comprises which are the core services diluted towards components of project management from market demands and by the availability of new potential staff, educated in those topics.

Potential sub fields added to the above are (iv) financial, services, (v) legal services, (vi) construction contracting and management services and (vii) information services.

Financial services are these needed and provided in supplying finance for projects either for real estate development or for construction. These can be advising the client or contractor or actually carrying out the provision of finance and the management and the planning and control of these money flows between parties either upstream or downstream or both.

Legal services are those mainly derived from and related to contracts and advice thereon, be it contract formulation or advice on changes and claims and dispute resolution.

Construction contracting and management comprises services which may be currently poorly or only intermittently carried out by contractors (main or sub). This include those services which could benefit by being provided from focused professionals with a critical mass of expertise in the topic. Another potential type of market is for services which are currently only intermittently performed by contractors (these were described in more detail above) and which could be provided with greater efficiency than at present by a professional developing critical mass in such services by analysis of the present and synthesis of such fuller services, followed by proficiency development from execution of such services.

Information processing could be a new, innovative field for quantity surveyors if they can see themselves as the building construction procurement “project data processors” rather than being a conventional quantity surveyor. This new role would provide full and timely flows of information to all professional roles on at regular time intervals through at least design, contracting, construction and contract completion. This would include providing input data and receiving output data from all professionals and contractors involved. Here the provision of input data from the projects common pool of information to roles who need it as input to their work and the receipt of their outputs for passing on as inputs to other professionals work could be a new niche market. In providing and expediting such information flow services the compatibility and incompatibilities in the information to and from different professionals could be more recognized and thus adjusted for common use prior to being forwarded to other professionals as input to their work on the project. This new activity would provide added value to all professional roles extra over improving the basic carrying and passing of the information flows among the professionals on the project.

Use Of The Upper Matrix

Now, considering this axis of professional opportunities or market segments against the axis of thinking, doing and thinking and doing and the locus on that matrix of the majority of the current staff in an organization, as well as the locus of the expected future most required and profitable market segments, can show how well that organization’s current and future staff is matched against future needs and services of quantity surveyors. So each organization has the potential to rationally add and deduct staff with the skills and services attributes which are needed currently and expected as being needed in the future new or desired markets.

Combined Use Of Both Matrices

There is also the interaction between the lower and upper matrices to further fine tune the evolution of future needs and the changes needed in the current profile of staff to increase the probability of success in the future series of short terms making up the long term.

Prior to the potential of courting of customers as opportunities in future markets and rearranging of staff, currently and for the future, quantity surveyor firms can use these matrices to consider which segment and sub segments of the future market will blossom and so move to add to their expertise and services in such fields and deduct from their services the activities which are considered will be in decline in the future.

Individuals Quantity Surveyors

Equally importantly, individual quantity surveyors, considering these matrices can choose which new skills to add to their portfolio of skills and services that each can offer to all the quantity surveying firms. A very insightful individual looking to future demands of clients in the market place can often be ahead of quantity surveying firms which are using their time and energy trying to maximize current profits. So equipped, the individual quantity surveyor should survey the existing and more directly, the new quantity surveying firms in his home base and across the whole country and even all of South East Asia to consider which of them is aiming for the best future markets and equipping itself with the staff to provide such services. Then, that individual quantity surveyor has to sell himself/herself into that best potential market for the future. Each individual quantity surveyor has to invest in their own choice of skills to suit their own nature and the expected future market for quantity surveying.

To create and hold on to new market niches while continuing to be a “quantity surveyor” will or should reduce the importance of quantity surveying in the organization. Also, such evolutions may require a more conglomerate type of organization, each part of which addresses a specific market niche and this conglomeration may add costs from required overhead management and underutilized resources which may partly offset the added profits from the evolution to new markets. Even if you break even by such changes you will be mentally alive rather than constrained by mental programming.

Today, an organization should have the staff it needs for today’s mix of services but this should always be sub optimized by continuously evolving the organization towards the services and staff needed in the future. As evolutions take time to develop, each organization should always be currently sub optimal in the sense of potential profits from its current market so that it will be or is on the path to its desired future market by developing new services and staff which may become the major profit makers in the future.

If the future is expected to be uncertain or changing rapidly then those organizations and individual quantity surveyors with the attitude of the samurai professionals, entrepreneurship and agents of change will be most suitable for success. If the future environment of the market place appears to be placid and consolidated in particular services for a considerable duration into the future then the people who tend to be company people and organizations which employ most of them may be the most profitable in that future. These two futures are relative but these polarities enable clearer thinking about taking action to satisfy continuity in the future.

However, the only thing certain about the future is that it will be different from the past and present. Thus, the paths of the forward looking organizations and the paths of the forward looking individual quantity surveyor can combine, carrying both together to the brighter future.

While “many roads lead to Mecca” some may be easier traveled than others and each of us sees different modes of travel as most suitable. This paper is intended as a pair of spectacles which may better enable quantity surveyors to look at a variety of potential roads ahead.

No comments: