Message from the editor | Issue 03 | July-August 14

The implications of this month’s jaw dropping news that AECOM is to acquire URS Corporation and create one of the world’s biggest engineering firms with 95,000 staff and annual revenues of $19bn cannot be underestimated.

The shockwaves are certainly still bouncing around the market as competitors, clients, partners, suppliers and employees of these two firms get to grips with the new paradigm and assess the threats and the opportunities.

In the world of global engineering consultancy business, consolidation has been the way of the recent past and will certainly be the way of the future. Yet, regardless of scale, the question still remains: how do you make it work?

Acquisition is about accelerating the drive for growth, finding economies of scale and boosting market clout. It must therefore also be about accelerating the drive for greater profit.

A few regulatory hurdles need to be cleared before the AECOM deal is signed and sealed in October and the critical thing for AECOM must be that, by the time they get to that point, the people-centric business that they just shelled out $6bn for still exists.

For no matter where you sit in the world of global engineering consultancy business, relationships are critical. People buy people. Their skills and their culture.

And as we heard clearly at this month’s Infrastructure Intelligence business round table (see page xx) finding the right people with the right skills and right culture remains a limiting factor across the profession when it comes to turning the current economic growth into increase profit.

In every business acquisition or merger, regardless of size, two things remain critical to future success. 

First is achieving a unified culture which aligns and inspires all staff behind the new common cause. Given that many of the UK-based URS staff have just emerged from four years of migrating away from the Scott Wilson brand, this challenge for AECOM cannot be underestimated. 

Second is convincing existing and future clients that the additional business scale and management focus on integration will not distract from servicing their needs. Why, the question will be, is bigger necessarily better for them?

Over the next few months AECOM will have its work cut out on both challenges. Success will mean more efficient and effective services for clients and greater career opportunities for more engineers. 

In effect the same as everyone else in this increasing buoyant market 

Antony Oliver is editor of Infrastructure Intelligence

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