The Competitive Advantage of the Architect

When writing about competitive advantage, one immediately thinks about Michael Porter. When extending his field of analysis one could wonder whether some professionals have competitive advantage over others. For example: does an architects in Miami have a competitive advantage over a business consultant or an advisor?

The first question is than to ask where both (architect versus business consultant or management advisor) compete? Their domains seem so different at first hand.

Yet a closer look shows that this is not completely true. Both work with organizations, are contracted by a manager who is the sponsor of their project. The architect has an advisory role during the early stage of the project where he is to advise about the solution. In most cases the solution is to build a new office or let’s say: a hospital.

The management advisor is engaged in this process advising the manager on what to do best. He may develop a few scenarios where a new hospital is one of the solutions, but other scenarios may not involve bricks and mortar.

1. His profession. Architects are professionals that have studied, received a degree and are sealed into their career the same way as lawyers are. This whole trajectory offers business sponsors confidence that when hiring an architect they can trust on the outcome of the process. Obviously there are many examples where buildings are not functional, leak at delivery or other malpractices, but that is universal and not confined to the architectural profession or industry. The title of architect is a protected title only real architects can use.

2. Building and construction.
Buildings and constructions are imaginative. When contracting an architect a business sponsor most often already knows that he wants a new hospital. The only question is how and what exactly. A new building can service innovation easier than a reorganization could, and even when the effects of a new building do last only temporarily the solution to build wins in an emotional decision taking process. It is just what people want. It’s sexy and new (young) is better than old.

3. The language of the architect.
A third competitive advantage of the architect lies in the domain of language. The architect is able like no other (business consultant or advisor) to speak a language that everyone in the company understands. It is a language of future design, but also one of today’s reality, of solutions and style where all stakeholders can have their say. And everybody may have an opinion on.

Yet. Both business consultants as well as advisors are limited in their language usage. They are too focused on a specific element of the solution (the design of the organization in case of the advisor) or the design of the new business (for the business consultant). Both areas however never really meet.

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