2016 is underway. You’ve set your targets for the year and you’re on your way. But, wait a minute, are you certain that you have all of the information necessary to get you there?

For example, do you have a portfolio of profitable business that will sustain your growth all year? Do you have up-to-the-minute data showing who are your best clients and which offer the greatest returns?

What about the other clients in your books … are you familiar with their levels of profitability in order for you to be able to prioritise them in order of importance and the level of customer service and work hours you should devote to each one? Are any of them capable of being developed further? Are you aware of which projects delivered optimum outcomes in 2015 so that you can pursue similar clients and contracts this year?

Profit return per client is just one parameter regarding your future success.

Are you able to overlay this information with your financial data indicating which clients paid on time as this will have an effect on your cash flow in 2016. It will also impact how you prioritise those clients in your work flow.

Being selective about which clients you dedicate your time asset to, and knowing where to source new and even more profitable business, is not the only challenge facing consulting engineering companies this year. In addition, the other very important parameter which must be scrutinised is your work force.

Having the right team is crucial to delivering engineering services and maintaining customer satisfaction in order to foster growth. Not just for those clients already in your books but also for the potential business that will come through your door. You have to be ready to immediately respond to new opportunities. This might require having to employ new personnel with additional sought after skill sets.

Finding the right people is not always a simple matter. It will continue to be an employee’s market in consulting engineering in 2016 and you are likely to have to compete rigorously with your competitors to bring the right talent on board to take your business in the direction you want it to go.  And, this is not a singular solution. It is reasonable to believe that along your journey of growth in 2016 your company will evolve organically. It will not necessarily be linear. You might discover that you require new levels of expertise at certain times. How will you factor this into your growth plan?

What about your current work force? Does your data show which of them are the most productive? Who should be assigned to the biggest landmark projects?

Having said all of this how can technology help your company identify the most profitable niches to pursue and the areas of greatest return? How can it help you retain and hire the people and the resources you need?

Consulting engineering firms across the nation have identified that a robust enterprise resource planning system (ERP) is a fundamental asset when it comes to “sorting the wheat from the chaff”.

An ERP technological platform is essential for keeping projects on track, maximising profit margins, keeping a tight control on costs, identifying under-performing areas, monitoring progress and staff productivity. It is able to keep track of every facet of a business in real-time and deliver on-the-spot reporting. This enables management teams to respond immediately to issues, determine the correct responses and track their progress.

Without this data it becomes incredibly difficult for a consulting engineering firm to bolster their financial health, to set and achieve goals or to raise capital to invest in the expansion of the enterprise – either via employing additional people or acquiring extra resource.

Technology without the project management-centric architecture of ERP makes it harder – and slower – to gather much needed intel. Too often consulting engineering companies find that they have to piece together reporting from a variety of software tools in order to keep them ‘in the know’. Plus, these products lack the ability to deliver in real time. There is little value in making decisions about your future based on historic data. The information must be current.

Given that your 2016 goal is no doubt more adventurous than last year, now is a great time to review your firm’s technological capabilities.

The right (ERP) system will play a central role in winning the best business and rallying the experts you need for long term, sustainable growth.

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