New opportunities, new competition

As architecture and design firms face stiffening global competition and commoditization of their services, they continue to explore new ways to create and deliver value. Firms like ESI Design, MAYA Design, and Frog Design have built new lines of business around innovation and applying the design process in non-traditional ways.

Other firms have broadened their offering to include a robust menu of consulting services. NBBJ, for example, lists design research, rapid prototyping, operational planning, process improvement, transition planning, change management, and post-occupancy evaluation to its offerings in more traditional design and planning.

A more consultative model opens up new opportunities and potential revenue streams for firms. It also places them into competition with more established management consulting firms and other types of providers that offer those services.

As models and roles change, design firms may find themselves competing against companies that were formerly consultants or partners. Engineering firms that have strong relationships with clients may be able to extract bigger fees from their partners and the design-build model frequently inverts the traditional relationship between architects and construction companies.

As firms extend beyond the bounds of their traditional disciplines, they show competitors a path into their core markets. Consequently, firms should be alert to where their practices are vulnerable to new categories of competition.