Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Construction engineering

Publication Details

Proceedings of the 35th Annual ARCOM Conference, 2-4 September 2019, Leeds, UK, Association of Researchers in Construction Management, 772- 781.


Strategy formulation aims to attain strategic fit between an organisation and its business environment in pursuit of competitive advantage. Although competitive strategy research is long established within industries such as manufacturing, financial services and IT, strategy within construction is still under-investigated by comparison. For construction professional service firms (CPSFs), the dearth of academic inquiry is even more apparent, partly due to the intangible nature of their service offerings, highly customised nature of their services and reliance on intellectual capital. The Irish construction sector is experiencing stable growth since following a prolonged recession, thus understanding the strategy process within professional service firms is becoming increasingly important given the role of the service sector in economic recovery. Although the overwhelming majority of Irish CPSF's are small-sized, there remains a paucity of evidence pertaining to the competitive strategies adopted by Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SME's) within construction. This study is a cross-professional investigation involving architectural, engineering and surveying (AES) firms. These firms work together in the interest of the client on a project-level yet may select different strategic options and are led by different types of strategists. The aim of the study is to investigate the overall corporate objectives i.e. corporate strategy, the mechanism adopted in realising it, and how it positions itself relative to the business environment. The study found via a mono-method, online quantitative survey that although CPSFs adopt different corporate strategic objectives, their business strategies are in many ways similar. Findings also show that as firm size increases, strategists shift from a reactive state to defending their market share. This paper provides critical empirical evidence regarding the competitive strategies in SMEs, and the findings advance the discourse by practitioners on collaboration between CPSFs who are required to work together on construction projects, while adopting different competitive strategic choices



Technological University Dublin