A Paper Presented by ACEN President, Engr. George C. Okoroma, FNSE, JP on Tuesday 23rd June 2020 at ACEN Business Evening Hosted by Zone 6 (Port Harcourt)
Good evening distinguished firm members and wonderful audience. Welcome to this Business Evening organized by ACEN for consulting firms in the Port Harcourt Zone. Let me briefly thank ACEN secretariat and the Port Harcourt Business Evening Organising Committee for putting this event together.
This evening I shall be sharing with you some thoughts on the Fate of consulting services/projects in Nigeria after COVID-19.
The challenges and impacts of the unprecedented novel coronavirus has dominated global, regional, and local digital teleconferencing and discussion platforms and space in the last couple of months; Nigeria, not an exemption.
The fate of consultancy services/projects in Nigeria may look gloomy in the face of the present distortions and decline in projects activities and availability, but it should not be perceived as likely to suffer severe deadly blows and collapse under the pressures brought about by COVID-19 challenges and its impacts in this industry sector. Without a doubt, the need for this industrial segment to continue to be relevant and to contribute her quota in the infrastructural conception and development and the economic growth of Nigeria are sacrosanct.
Nigeria like other nations in developing countries in Africa and Asia still lack the critical infrastructure to meet her developmental needs. Notwithstanding the likely crunch in budgetary provisions for infrastructural developments occasioned by COVID-19, there are, surely, very critical and important services/projects gaps that will need very urgent attention by governments to close; especially in the health, safety and agricultural sectors.
The challenges brought about by COVID-19 and its unfolding crisis on services/projects will depend to a large extent on the client segment of our firm service and the position our firm sits in the industry value chain; studies, designs, pre-contracts, and contracts stages. So, depending on where our firm sits in the industry value chain, your firm may be affected by:-
1) Delays in project delivery which may likely result in time and cost overrun and the attendant request for time extension and probable price review.
2) Services/Projects cancellation, halt, or stoppage at various stages of the procurement process; studies, designs, pre-contracts, and contract stages.
3) Supply chain bottlenecks due to border closures (land, air, and sea).
The impact of these challenges on firm members will also vary according to the size, position, level of experience, and competence of member firms within the industry. The following are the likely scenarios that will play out in our firms.
1) Cashflow decline and reserve depletion (if any was available).
2) The decline in the effective deployment of the project workforce resulting in furloughing of employees, layoffs, and job cuts.
3) Depletion of stocked engineering and construction materials and tools, and attendant redundancy of equipment and tools due to lockdown.
Distinguished members, now that we are in a new normal, we understand the challenges we face. I have some solutions I think will help us to move to the new phase of providing sustained services to our clients or customer segments. The way forward after COVID-19, will, therefore, require that consulting firms should first and foremost strive to stay in business and to survive this challenging period. To survive and remain relevant therefore, our firms must need to do the following.
1) We must ensure that, no matter how constraining the impacts of COVID-19 might seem, essential workers, especially those we have invested resources to train, must be retained to ensure quick bounce back. We certainly need them to retain and maintain our credibility in our industry sector.
2) We must have the financial reserve to weather the pandemic storm. Hence, a good balance sheet will guarantee sustainability in the market segment. It is only those firms that have liquidity and stable cash reserve that will remain relevant to serve prospective clients.
3) Automotive solutions for services/projects should be appropriately considered and deployed to reduce manual work processes and the number of workers on site. The use of Zoom and Google meeting apps for project procurement and management processes has become part of the new normal. The use of digital cameras and drones could provide intelligent information on site.
4) It is important to note that after COVID-19, prospective clients will be more interested in firms with innovative business processes, value for money propositions, and smart services/projects
Finally, distinguish members, the fate of consultancy services/projects in Nigeria after COVID-19, will not be a hopeless or woeful situation as may be perceived, but one that firms which are resilient, able to remain stable, and able to develop expertise, good work process, quality service, value for money and efficient service delivery, will be patronized by prospective clients. I foresee clients willing to pay more for durability, good reputation, top value project delivery, organizational efficiency, reliable process, co-operate governance, and best turnaround time delivery.
I thanks all members who have turned in and attended this online version of our business evening. I thank the MD, the ACEN Secretariat, and the Business Evening Organising Committee for putting this program together.
Good evening once again.