The state of the AEC industry: An optimistic outlook

Unanet released its 2024 AEC Inspire Report. In this blog series, explore topics it covers and how to use this information for a competitive advantage.

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.  

In the AEC industry, it’s always helpful to know what your colleagues are thinking about. What challenges are they facing? What are their successes?  

The 2024 AEC Inspire Report surveyed some of the top minds in the AEC industry. One topic the survey covered was how these firms view the future. According to our research, the outlook of many within the AEC industry is brimming with positivity. But challenges lie ahead as well.  

Here’s a closer look at what the report’s respondents had to say about their overall outlook of the AEC industry – what they feel good about, what’s giving them cause for concern, and how firms can set themselves up for success despite unpredictability.   

The road ahead: optimism and growth 

For the technologically advanced firms within the AEC industry, the outlook remains optimistic. Proposal win rates and project profit percentages are forecasted to rise while growth rates are expected to surge in the coming year.  

But the key to actualizing this promising vision lies in how well firms can leverage their data and align their tech capabilities with future demands. 

Below you’ll see some of the statistical research findings from this year’s survey, putting a spotlight on many firms’ view of the industry as well as how they view other critical issues like forecasting, data management, and their use of technology.  

Summary by the numbers for AEC firms and their business outlook

While 86% of respondents having a bright outlook for the future may be a good sign, there are perceived obstacles on the horizon as well.  

Large, tech-advanced firms expressed a mixture of confidence and caution 

While large and tech-savvy companies are overwhelmingly optimistic about the future of the AEC industry, the sentiment is tempered by some concerns.   

The greater economic landscape is a primary focus, specifically for smaller and less tech-evolved firms. The complexities of business operation costs, resource management, and talent acquisition and retention in the engineering sector are other prominent worries.  

Amid these ongoing issues, the industry is also witnessing growing unease over unpredictable, catastrophic or "black swan" events. Such events have moved from theoretical risks to actual disruptions that can considerably shake up even the most well-developed, sophisticated business strategies. 

How are larger, tech-advanced, and AI-forward companies navigating the future? For one, they’re showing heightened sensitivity to these potential uncertainties.  

A good example of this occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. During a time when talent was on the move, tech-advanced firms reported better staffing and retention outcomes than their less tech-forward counterparts. 

Respondents saw technology as one of the main keys to strategic planning and innovation. Of course, despite clear evidence supporting tech advancement, data obscurity and outdated technology remain significant hurdles for some firms. The willingness to embrace technology isn’t always matched by a firm’s perceived ability to do so. 

The message is clear: you can’t predict the future, and sometimes you can’t prepare for it. But with the right tech and tools in place, you can mitigate your exposure to risk.  

The key to future success? Leveraging data with the right technology 

So, at a high level, AEC firms have at least one key question to ask themselves: how well can your firm harness data to align its tech capabilities with future demands? 

While many firms have a positive outlook for the future, their ability to turn this potential into reality is by understanding how to harness and leverage their data. The firms who can align their tech with the needs of the industry going forward will be the ones to not just survive, but thrive.  

In our next post, we’ll take a deeper dive into what it means to truly be “tech-advanced.” Until then, you can download the entire 2024 AEC Inspire Report here