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Is going global a vanity thing?

Tom Smith

We hear the word global in everything we do these days, particularly in our industry. How do we win global projects? How do we seamlessly service our global clients? How do we increase the mobility of our global experts? How do we share information with our global colleagues?

These are very real questions that global businesses need to address if they are going to provide competitive advantage to their clients and continue to grow organically and sustainably. Global connectivity isn’t a vanity thing, it’s a strategic imperative. All the drivers coming from clients, staff and projects demand a global response.

Our clients offer unparalleled organic growth opportunities using that well known adage of selling new services to existing clients. Many of our clients are investing in emerging markets and are looking for global consultants who can support their global capital plans - for example Canadian pension funds Oxford Properties and CPPIB investing in European real estate, large industrials like GE and Siemens expanding in South East Asia and South America and the likes of Volvo and BMW building car factories in China.  

Also, clients are becoming leaner and outsourcing more to consultants which means corporate procurement departments are busy reducing their supply chain partners by selecting fewer firms that can provide all services in all regions. And it is not just global clients seeking global connectivity, many of our regional clients increasingly seek the very best global expertise and experience on offer.

Equally, graduates and young people coming into our industry through other routes have a global mind-set and want to know there are opportunities to work overseas and further their careers. Consultancies looking to attract the very best talent need to demonstrate they can offer global mobility so young professionals can get the very best experience on the very best projects.

Projects are changing too, becoming larger and more complex. We are seeing projects being clustered into major programmes that span many countries and more projects in developing markets where construction practices are less sophisticated. The sheer scale of projects we are involved in these days means that it is not always possible to find all the necessary skills and expertise in one region.  

These drivers are not going away and they are becoming ever more influential in shaping our consulting industry.  However it will be the firms that can operate globally while remaining best in class locally that will really succeed. It is the foolish company that forgets about its domestic market.


  • Tom Smith is WSP global director, property and buildings

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