2020 is clearly a year none of us want to repeat and we are all hoping 2021 will be much improved. Whilst COVID threw us all both personal and professional challenges last year, it also provided us with a time to reflect and re-evaluate.

The Importance of the Digital World

One thing that was clear to me was that digitalisation continues to be a key driver. Many businesses reviewed and improved their digital offering to help them survive in a time when people were in lockdown and unable to “get out”. Although COVID is not over, it looks like there is light at the end of the tunnel with the new vaccine. However with networking events remaining obsolete for the foreseeable, the digital world is vital. Business platforms such as LinkedIn remain crucial to stay connected with clients, colleagues and peers. 

As infection rates continue to ebb and flow, businesses across the board continue to feel the ramifications of the global pandemic and we have all learnt how to adapt and be flexible during this challenging period. From what we are seeing with the construction industry and specifically in our line of work of planning, dispute avoidance and resolution, more businesses are looking at their processes, policies and procedures.

From our somewhat unique perspective, we see when jobs start or when they hit problems with potential disputes – not the middle part when things are in full swing. However we see what is happening all around us and far more projects than most, as our roles are often limited to specialist areas.

On a positive note…

Many have used this time to prepare future schemes which will no doubt hit the market when confidence is right. For those developing warehouse facilities, life has been frantic as internet shopping has increased. The retail sector has had to make a massive transition from being high street dependent to internet savvy, and those who were already surfing the net have found this year slightly easier sailing and everyone else has had to adapt quickly. 

The requirement to be digitally competent doesn’t just affect the retail world. Our construction industry friends, together with their own partners / supply chains, who are working via smart systems are also feeling the benefit. There are winners and sadly casualties with a shake-up like 2020, but one key observation has been that those who were set up with strong digital systems seem to survive the best.

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) reported that output is growing for the three months to October 2020 with growth in new work and repair and maintenance. Output has increased by 1.0% in the month-on-month in October 2020, being the sixth consecutive month of growth. We would agree with this as we are seeing more Tender Planning jobs. 

Net zero carbon issues

We need to shift from nice to know a little, to its essential must-know-a-lot-more about. This can no longer be addressed as a tick box mentality, if we are to be strong in the future, we will need to be on top of these issues.

We need to be clever and invest in innovation that will truly improve the overall built environment. BREEAM and other long-standing requirements do help our industry to set targets, but from Edge’s perspective, we feel the long-term winners in this new world will be the firms who go much further than just complying to the system. 

We have found most supply chains have addressed the delays and disruption related to COVID-19 with a level of reasonable pragmatism, but there are and always will be those who see this as an opportunity to exaggerate their claims and we have been able to assist both sides to find a more reasonable position.

Finally, Brexit – what can we say?

Clearly Brexit will mean considerable change in the markets and possibly how we trade. Of course, how that will affect each of us is yet to be fully realised, as none of us have a working crystal ball. However we hope any immediate angst in reorganising will normalise over time.

Our advice is act early, do not leave any overseas procurement too late, and where possible buy British! But even then, our own industries are still dependent on imports. so again we say leave more time for procurement. Watch any currency matters / clauses very carefully, pass or share the risk where possible as these may become far more volatile and could become very costly.

The economists all say our economy will diminish and sadly this traditionally hits Construction. However there are big government spending initiatives and a big wave of stalled jobs and fresh opportunities out there! So we wish you a successful, flexible year embracing new and smart technologies. As always, the Edge team is here to support you on the journey! 

Written by Tony Ciorra.


You got this!