Ahead of the curve: The 4 indicators that an AEC firm is tech-advanced

Discover how being data-driven, cloud-dominant, fully integrated, and AI-mature can give you a competitive edge. Learn more in our blog series and start your journey towards becoming a tech-advanced leader in the industry.

Unanet recently released its 2024 AEC Inspire Report. In this blog series, we’ll explore the topics and themes it covers and how your AEC firm can use this information to gain a competitive advantage.

The architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry is swiftly evolving, driven by rapid advancements in technology. There is a clear and positive link between how "tech-advanced" a firm is and its progress and confidence in handling industry challenges.

Being "tech-advanced" isn't just about using the latest tools and platforms, however. It also involves adopting comprehensive organizational practices around data, integration, and infrastructure.

But what do firms that are tech-advanced all have in common?

What is a tech-advanced firm?

Let’s begin with some definitions. A tech-advanced AEC firm satisfies at least three of the following four criteria – they are:

  • Data-driven
  • Cloud-dominant
  • Fully integrated
  • AI-mature


A data-driven firm leverages data for business management, decision-making, and performance assessment. According to the 2024 AEC Inspire Report, transitioning from general BI-driven insights to AI-enabled foresight is critical in anticipating change and ensuring future success.

Firms that use data effectively can identify trends, anticipate client needs, and optimize their resources, thereby outperforming their competitors.


For an AEC firm to be considered cloud-dominant, over 50% of all its tools and applications must be based in the cloud. The report emphasizes the importance of mobility and integration, highlighting that cloud-based solutions enable better collaboration and access to real-time information, irrespective of geographical constraints.

Firms embracing cloud technology can streamline their workflows, reduce costs, and improve overall efficiency, making them more agile and responsive to market demands.

Fully integrated

Tech-advanced firms are fully integrated, meaning their applications and data are seamlessly interconnected across all systems. This comprehensive approach to integration allows for smoother operations, better data flow, and enhanced communication within the organization.

As noted in the 2024 AEC Inspire Report, this level of integration is crucial for managing complex projects and ensuring that every team member has access to the same, up-to-date information. Moreover, integrated systems help in automating routine tasks, freeing up valuable time for more strategic and billable activities.


An AI-mature company actively uses AI technology, supported by comprehensive firm-wide AI policies and procedures. The report underscores the importance of AI maturity in the AEC sector, explaining that firms leveraging AI can gain significant advantages in areas such as relationship management, business development, resource management, and project delivery.

AI technologies can help firms improve pursuit strategies, predict project outcomes, optimize schedules, and even enhance talent management by identifying skill gaps and providing targeted training.

The benefits of being a tech-advanced AEC firm

Firms that do not meet the criteria for tech-advanced status may be described as “tech-emergent.” These firms are often in the early stages of digital transformation and may struggle with inefficiencies and missed opportunities.

Conversely, tech-advanced companies are more likely to have mature project management and resource management practices, which highlight the substantial impact that technology can have on various functional areas across the business.

Enhanced relationship management

In the architecture industry specifically, personal relationships play a crucial role in business development. Tech-advanced firms can use customer relationship management (CRM) tools to manage their client interactions more effectively.

These tools provide insights into client preferences and behavior, enabling firms to tailor their services and build stronger, more personalized relationships.

Elevated and more effective pursuit strategies

Being tech-advanced can empower AEC firms to develop pursuit plans grounded in strategy rather than spreadsheets. By maintaining a single source of truth, firms can more easily navigate their intricate network of companies, contacts, and competitors. This then allows them to make matter decisions earlier in their pursuit. 

Utilizing AI, firms can gain immediate insights into the competitive landscape of their opportunities. Equipping themselves with this information can enhance the effectiveness of go/no-go decisions, ensuring they are targeting the right projects. 

Enhanced project delivery

Tech-advanced firms can deliver projects more efficiently and with greater accuracy. By leveraging advanced data analytics and AI, these firms can predict potential project pitfalls and address them proactively. This not only ensures timely project completion but also enhances client satisfaction and trust.

Optimized resource management

Many firms struggle with recruiting and forecasting labor resources. Tech-advanced firms can address these challenges by using AI-enabled and smart tools to predict staffing needs and identify the most suitable candidates for specific roles. This results in better resource allocation and higher employee satisfaction, which is critical in an industry facing a talent crisis.

Financial and growth indicators

Tech-advanced, midsize firms in the AEC industry are experiencing positive growth indicators and high projected growth rates. The 2024 AEC Inspire Report reveals that these firms are leading in tech advancement, data savviness, and AI maturity, making them more resilient and competitive.

By investing in technology, firms of all sizes can achieve better financial performance and position themselves for sustainable growth.

Becoming a tech-advanced firm is worth it

The AEC industry is at a crossroads, and success is now synonymous with tech advancement. By becoming data-driven, cloud-dominant, fully integrated, and AI-mature, AEC firms can not only survive but thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape.

The journey towards becoming tech-advanced may require significant investment and effort, but the rewards are well worth it. In a rapidly evolving industry, staying ahead of the curve with modernized technology is not just an option—it's a necessity.

Start by evaluating your current practices against these four indicators and take proactive steps to address any gaps. Embrace the future of the AEC industry with confidence and position your firm for long-term success.

In our next post, we’ll look at how the top AEC firms are using their data in 2024. Until then, download the entire 2024 AEC Inspire Report here.