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Brains over brawn: leading construction firms are winning in the office, not on the job site

Leading construction firms are winning in the office

KPMG Future-Ready Index reveals that only 20 percent of the surveyed industry is prepared to meet the needs of a changing industry.

Phil Blackman

Chief Operating Officer, Global Corporate Affairs

KPMG International


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Construction and engineering firms are building the world of tomorrow yet only a small number of firms have the ability to lead the industry, according to a KPMG survey released today. The market demand for firms with expertise to build climate-aware, data-driven smart cities is growing and capable firms are demonstrating leadership miles from the job site. They are rationalizing governance, investing in technology, building culture, hiring diverse skillsets, and tracking results across all aspects of the business. The KPMG Future-Ready Index reveals that of the executives surveyed, only 20 percent are prioritizing and benefiting from these back-office competencies.

“In the two short years since we last surveyed the market we've seen a particular jump in attitudes of construction executives toward the implementation and use of technology in their businesses,” said Geno Armstrong, Partner, KPMG in the US, Global Leader of Engineering & Construction, KPMG International. “In 2017 few organizations were making technology investments, and even fewer were reaping those benefits. We are now hearing from leaders who declare themselves to be technology companies building construction projects. The stark contrast highlights the widening gulf between the leaders in the industry and everyone else.”

The survey interviewed 223 global construction and engineering executives, scoring responses under three pillars to determine a benchmark of the industry. The benchmark index is comprised of Innovative Leaders (20 percent), Followers (60 percent) and those organizations considered to be Behind the Curve (20 percent). The research reveals an imbalance in the industry, with those in the bottom 20 percent facing a critical challenge to adapt quickly, lest they face consolidation or takeover bids.

Additional key findings from the Future-Ready Index include:

  • Invest time and effort to strengthen governance and controls: 66 percent of leader organizations who have done so finish projects on time while 0 percent of those behind the curve do the same.
  • Leaders are far more likely to deploy pilot programs on new technologies, to have organization-wide labs to test new innovations, and to actively recruit new talent with specific technology skills
  • Future-ready organizations rate attracting talent as the second most important challenge for the entire industry - all other respondents rank talent in fifth place
  • Diversity doesn't stop at hiring: the majority of the bottom 80 percent believe a diverse workforce is important, but only the top 20 percent prioritize the tracking of diversity at all levels of the business
  • For those in the bottom 20 percent, the majority of effort is spent on short-term revenue growth and there is little to no investment in technology

Geno Armstrong adds, “We know the construction industry has been slow to realize the immense opportunity that technology and digitalization present, but now we can quantify how few companies are leading the rest of the industry. Unsurprisingly, the bulk of the industry exists in the middle of the pack, while twenty percent are quite a ways behind. The good news is that those in the middle can begin to make real strides toward leadership in the industry by putting in place a strategic road map.

For the complete results of the study, details about the methodology and to use the self-test tool, please visit the Future-Ready Index website.

For press requests, please contact:

Phil Blackman
KPMG International
Chief Operating Officer, Global Corporate Affairs
+44 (0)7770 700383

About KPMG International

KPMG is a global network of professional services firms providing Audit, Tax and Advisory services. We operate in 153 countries and have 207,000 people working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.

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