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Megan Motto

Megan Motto

Megan Motto is the Chief Executive Officer of Consult Australia; the association for professional services firms within the built and natural environment. Megan is currently a Director of the Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF), Councillor of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Councillor and Treasurer of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) and sits on the NSW State Advisory Council for the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA). In addition to her double teaching degree in Arts & Education and a Masters in Communication Management, Megan is a Graduate and Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. She was named as one of the 2014 AFR/Wespac 100 Australian Women of Influence.

The Future of Architecture and Engineering: A Q&A with Consult Australia CEO Megan Motto

Megan Motto
Consult Australia
In an industry centered around innovation, the question always remains – what’s next?  To help answer this, we’ve launched a series of blog posts exploring the past, present, and future trends in architecture, engineering, and construction consultancies. Over the next few months, follow along with us as industry leaders share their thoughts. In this post we spoke to Consult Australia CEO Megan Motto based in Sydney, Australia. Megan Megan is also currently a Director of the Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF), Councillor of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Councillor and Treasurer of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) and sits on the NSW State Advisory Council for the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA). She was named as one of the 2014 AFR/Wespac 100 Australian Women of Influence.  Q: What do you think is the most significant trend that will impact the future of the AEC industry in your region over the next 5 years? A: Globalization will be the biggest trend to affect this sector (and region), as it has already to date. As projects become bigger in scale, value and complexity, the consulting community is responding by pursuing stronger balance sheet growth so as to both spread and manage risk. Whether this risk is due to the imbalance of power between consulting firms and international construction consortiums, the cost of tendering, or sourcing adequate capacity for jobs, rapid growth strategies (usually through acquisition and merger) are fundamentally shifting the structure and culture of our industry. This is forcing change on a number of fronts, whether it be firms embracing technology to drive operational efficiency, or understanding the resulting cultural and behavioral changes that will impact project management and partnering relationships. The industry is never likely to look the same as it did a decade ago. Q: How do you see the current role of AEC firms shifting, what do you think is causing that shift, and how must AEC firms react to survive? A: There is a growing gap between those consulting firms that are attempting to elevate their advisory services to compete with the management consultants in the built environment sector, and those that merely provide downstream services. This is partially driven by the size and capacity of the new global players, and a desire to reclaim the more lucrative and rewarding elements of the services supply chain. It is also driven by a desire by the industry more broadly to both participate more fully in higher order public policy and to remain relevant in an increasingly global, competitive and complex environment. This will mean, however, that firms playing in this space will need to develop new capability with regards to delivering fit for purpose policy advice rather than technical advice. The two might converge on the same information, but the delivery systems will be wildly different.  At the other end, it will be increasingly important for firms to demonstrate best practice technical services and have a clear strategy for talent attraction and retention, so as to remain viable for the future.  Q: Knowing what you know today, are there things you would or could have done differently to prepare for or react to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008? Are there things that you are doing differently now because of the GFC? How have you evolved your processes or policies post-GFC? A: I think for most Australian companies the biggest shock of the GFC was that our organizations didn't have exponential growth paths. In Australia we are now in our third straight decade of economic growth, and this has meant that many middle and even upper level managers had been lulled into a false sense of security that the good times would last forever and that we were innately resilient from external shocks. Thus we did not react fast enough to the changing conditions. We had become bullish in our budgeting, buoyed by past successes, and underestimated the speed with which we could react to income collapses with expenditure controls in professional services companies. In future I think the industry will budget more cautiously, and look more closely at lead indicators in the broader market.  Q: What is the biggest challenge you are currently tackling within your firm or association? A: Maintaining relationships with the senior leaders of the industry is actually a real challenge at present. The turnover and movement of individuals in the Australian AEC sector is astounding - partially from mergers, partly from more immediate financial return demands from shareholders, partly through demographic and intergenerational change. For Consult Australia this means being more connected to the members via social media as well as traditional communication channels.  Q: How has your office environment changed, and how is your firm continuing to evolve your workplace environment, procedures, and technologies, to accommodate the evolving demands of the incoming millennial workforce? What considerations and changes are you making regarding collaboration, efficiencies, work/life balance, technologies, etc.? A: Well although we are certainly not paperless yet, we certainly have LESS paper than a decade ago! I think the biggest change is of course the difference technology is making in terms of the autonomy of how work is packaged and delivered. Mobile connectivity means that work can be done any time, any place, and this is fundamentally changing our entire work culture. It means that we have more fluid boundaries between work and life, and this encourages more diverse workforces and more diverse working styles. This is a challenge for organizations as it necessitates more sophisticated management capability focused on outcomes rather than inputs.   This post is part of a question and answer series with global industry leaders on the future of the architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting industries.