In chasing work, architecture, engineering and construction firms have always weighed and scrutinized up-front costs and resources—mindful of not over-extending themselves, underperforming and jeopardizing client relationships, future work and company profits.
But in a changing marketplace of more complex procurement choices, firms see new challenges to find the best project proposals to embrace and develop vetting approaches that make the "go-no-go" decision the right one.
"Go-no-go regimens are more and more prevalent, and in all cases much more rigorous," says Scott Braley, principal of marketing consultant Braley Consulting & Training, Atlanta. "Firms of all types are screening pursuits and prospects much closer, and committing to the cost of a proposal is better thought through. The higher the cost of proposal preparation, the more focus is paid on the potential for a win."
The emerging post-recession economy has been a blessing and a curse for many firms, providing new opportunities but also adding cost and resource pressures in bid and proposal decision-making for large and small firms alike.
"There is still a pervasive fear about the post-recession economy and competition, fear that we must submit to stay in the game," says Robert Brustlin, CEO of engineer VHB, ranked at No. 76 among the ENR Top 500 Design Firms. "Compression and expectations have both intensified. We are compressed for time, with shorter turnaround for proposals and with expectations for more, more, more technology and visualization on myriad projects, not just the megaprojects."
Canuso Jorden, a $50-million Pennsylvania contractor, feels the resource pressure on work pursuits, which William Long, principal and vice president, attributes to "a net outflow of personnel, both at the trade and management levels." He adds, "Fees contracted substantially, and they have only rebounded slightly. In many cases, [both design and construction] firms are spending a large portion of their potential profit" to chase work and "are becoming much more selective and evaluating their return on investment."
Industry consolidation is a complicating factor, Brustlin says. "The continuing proliferation of mergers and acquisitions has made go-no-go decisions more difficult," he says.
"Larger and medium-size firms continue to partner extensively on pursuits despite the growing in-house capabilities of these megafirms, so we carefully assess why we are being added to a team and the likelihood of playing a meaningful and substantive role on the project once it is awarded."