17.10.2016 : Sean Milnes

Less disruptive, more cooperative

The principle of the “sharing economy” is a good one. We all know that in business you need to make all your resources work for you. Capital should be economically utilised. Labour needs to be deployed effectively. Opportunities exist to improve utilisation by sharing resources.

It’s all very current and fashionable in business to talk about 'disruption' – disruptive technology, disruptive business models, disruptive innovation, disruptive supply chains, disruptive disruption. Much of this is focused on the possibilities of the “sharing economy.” This concept is recognition that all of us have things that are under-utilised, and we could all benefit if we were to share them around. Air-BnB enables you to use your spare room, ride-sharing enables you to use your spare car seats, crowd-funding allows you to share your spare money.

Before long, many believe we won’t need to own cars at all as we’ll just request an autonomous vehicle to come and collect us. Presumably this will disrupt the ride-sharing apps which are currently disrupting the traditional transport companies.

The principle of the “sharing economy” is a good one. We all know that in business you need to make all your resources work for you. Capital should be economically utilised. Labour needs to be deployed effectively. Opportunities exist to improve utilisation by sharing resources.

To this end, a number of our clients choose to engage with us by seconding a Beca employee into their organisation. Secondments are a contracting path by which a person swaps their Beca hat for that of the client. They become embedded in the client’s business for a period of time, using the client’s processes and procedures and operating under the client’s management.

Benefits Identified by Clients

Clients have told us that they see a range of benefits in this type of engagement, and they centre on the principle of improved utilisation of people.

Flexible Workload Levelling

A business can respond to changing drivers in a range of ways, but it’s important to respond in a way that recognises the inevitability that more ­­change is coming. Capital budgets fluctuate, markets shift, and people move on. Secondments are a flexible response, and a resource gap is the most common reason for engaging in one. They support workload levelling, offer short to medium term access to personnel, and finish when the need is met. They can also be part-time if that is all that is required.

Access to Specific Knowledge and Skills

Many of our clients recognise what they are good at, and choose to focus their time and energy on those aspects of their businesses rather than on a project. A long awaited major project may require support at the governance level with a Project Director, or at the execution level with Project Management or Construction Management expertise. Alternatively, a need may arise for particular experience in a technical discipline such as; Environmental, Process, or Maintenance. As consultants we are often exposed to a range of industries and businesses, and so often bring a different perspective to our clients. Furthermore, clients appreciate that a Beca secondee has over 3000 people backing them up if they need access to specialist advice.

Secondments can offer access to all of these functions without the need to commit beyond the recognised need.

Knowledge Growth

Having a person seconded into a client’s business leads to that individual growing significantly in their knowledge of the client and their industry. A number of our clients have recognised the benefits for their industry to have more people familiar with it and capable to support it. Secondments are a good way for all parties to extend their networks, develop more contacts in industry, and therefore have more access to capability when it is needed.

Benefits for businesses

As well as describing the benefits our clients recognise, it would be disingenuous not to acknowledge the benefits we perceive.


One of Beca’s core values is partnership. Our success comes from the quality of our relationships with our clients. Secondments offer an unrivalled opportunity for our people to get to know our client businesses and people. This means that we are able to identify services and solutions that are most suitable to our clients’ context, and are more personally invested in seeing that they are successful. This is good for us as it can lead to repeat work, and it’s good for our clients because our greater understanding means we are able to deliver a more tailored service.

The Undisruptive Sharing Economy

This article started with me musing on how the current so-called disruptive technologies and businesses are often leveraging the idea of the shared economy. I suggested that the idea of the shared economy can also be applied to how businesses allocate resources through the use of secondments. Strangely, though, it turns out that secondments tend to be far from disruptive to our client’s businesses. Instead they tend to reduce the disruption of peak workloads and support clients with technical knowledge as and when it’s needed.

About the Author

Sean Milnes

Senior Mechanical Engineer

Sean has over 13 years’ experience in mechanical engineering, predominantly in process-mechanical design and project management. His work in consulting, contracting and construction has spanned the Mining & Metals, Water and Food & Beverage industries. Sean is particularly interested in Safety in Design, becoming a key champion for the award-winning process in Beca’s Industrial business.

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