If there is one thing that came through loudly and clearly at the recent SMPS Build Business conference in Los Angeles, it is that firms aren’t doing enough to analyze the external environment and prepare for the changes headed their way.
We’ve long known that architecture, engineering, construction (A/E/C) and related firms have rarely driven the bus when it comes to innovations in marketing. As it turns out, these same firms often prefer the backseat when it comes to strategic planning. These companies take the “strategic” out of “strategic planning,” and instead focus on the tactical and operational. Yes, these are also extremely important to company success. But this also creates a reactionary environment, where you are continually chasing the markets and trying to catch the changing trends instead of anticipating and attacking them head-on.  “Strategery” at its finest.
From talking to professional marketers – at all levels in organizations of all sizes – I truly believe that they are one of an A/E/C firm’s greatest weapons, but one that is too often left back in the arsenal, collecting dust, when it comes to thinking strategically.
Marketers understand what is happening out there. Marketers see the trends, the changes, and the potential disruptors. Marketers have great networks that help them understand what is happening with clients, competitors, and friendly A/E/C firms. 
To hire a marketing professional is to make an investment in the company. And yet too often these professionals are treated like expenses – overhead that happens to be a “necessary evil.” A/E/C firms have mastered the art of the “wild goose chase,” so marketers spend far too much of their time in wasted pursuits for projects their firms have no chance of winning. And then after another loss, firms put more pressure on these same marketers to up their game, as if spending more hours on a proposal that the firm has no chance of winning will actually increase the odds! (A friend of mine refers to that practice as polishing a turd. You can make it shiny, but you can’t change the fact that it’s still a turd.) 
A/E/C firms must think more strategically. They must better anticipate the changes in their core markets (your firm does have core target markets, right?), and focus energies on being on the forefront of those changes. 
But you simply cannot be a strategic firm unless you are continually scanning the environment. What is happening in the A/E/C world?  What is happening in your clients' industries? How are your clients' clients behaving? What are the forecasts in your vertical markets? What are the potential alternative realities, and how can you best position your company for them (scenario planning)?
These are critical questions for the long-term survival of your company. If your C-suite can answer these questions, that’s awesome. And also, most likely, extremely rare.
So why not ask the people who are actually trained to research and find these answers to step up and play a greater role in the direction of your firm? You wouldn’t ask an architect to design a plumbing system or a mason to wire a multi-media system.  So why would you expect an engineer – who’s mostly billable, anyway – to research client and industry changes that may have a huge impact on your company?
You may already have somebody to do that on your payroll. Someone who is trained to research and interpret; but for some reason you keep relegating them to meaningless, low-probability, and reactionary pursuits. Invest in your company’s future by focusing on strategic planning. And when you do, make sure that your marketing professional(s) have a seat at the table.
Your company five years from now will thank you.