The state of the industry is anything but business as usual, as there is a lack of engineering talent coming out of engineering schools, a question as to whether to work from home or return to the office, as well as looming M&As, a pending infrastructure bill and supply chain issues. The good news, however, is that while AEC firms are feeling the pressure, five trends have emerged that can help drive productivity, revenue and profitability in the AEC space — all of which involve data, a key ingredient in running business better.
Trend 1: Centralized analytics and BI
According to the “2021 Inspire Report” compiled by Unanet — a leading provider of project-based ERP and CRM solutions — data-driven AEC firms significantly outperformed others in 2021, in terms of revenue and expected growth and profit. With data in hand, a firm can make more informed decisions, better measure and track KPIs, and make more accurate forecasts. Yet what’s the best practice in terms of data? A centralized place for all data.
AS KPIs give powerful insights into how companies are performing, and will perform, real-time, interactive KPIs centralized across the organization and databases give a clear sense of direction. As a result, growth becomes orchestrated. Centralized and standardized analytics provide a holistic view that gives clarity into the business and connecting disparate systems — including the overall health of the company, the status of KPIs, financials, project profitability and so much more.
Trend 2: Data at the heart of your organization
Today, growth is essential to strategic planning for AEC firms. With data such a key player in growth, what has hindered the use of data in the past? Missing or inaccurate data, insufficient tools to access, integrate and analyze data, and lack of data availability or accessibility, were common pitfalls. As data becomes ever more vital, however, its role is changing in AEC project management. The old paradigm of “how did we perform?” is transforming into “how will we perform?”
According to the “Inspire Report,” 76% of AEC executives surveyed were prioritizing digital technology in 2021. Yet many were still working in silos without a holistic view of the organization. And the degree to which analytics were centralized on one platform/solution was surprisingly low at just 6% — not to mention, over one-third were still working with spreadsheets, and more than one-half of AEC firms were using a mix of spreadsheets and BI tools. When you consider that 88% of spreadsheets have at least one error, that can prove especially risky for the firm.
As we move ahead in 2022, greater emphasis will be placed on analytics, as leading AEC firms are prioritizing digital transformation efforts to increase efficiencies, insights and talent retention. It’s important to note that in order for these initiatives to be successful, there must be a focus on people, processes and tools — including a cloud-based application that’s mobile-ready, scalable and secure; real-time, fully interactive analytics and reporting that unlocks insights and helps guide business decisions; and the ability to orchestrate data and automate workflows across business applications and the organization.
Trend 3: Investments in digital initiatives
Currently, knowledge areas are generally divided across multiple entities, such as communications, stakeholders, cost, schedules, resources and scope. These areas are spread across roles within and outside the organization — including the client, architect, project manager, principal and engineer. With data strewn throughout the organization, how does the principal or project manager keep track of the project, much less manage it?
It behooves an AEC firm to invest in digital initiatives that boost the effectiveness of the project management team, and move the project along, more efficiently. AEC business leaders are now directing investments to support how data flows through the AEC project management team. The result is streamlined processes and projects, which in turn, increase revenue and profitability.
Trend 4: Simple approaches to collaboration and product delivery
Most AEC firms use 15 or more business applications to run their business. This is not only inefficient, but it can also be costly in terms of expense, time and confusion.
In any AEC firm, communication is vital as data that flows along communication lines drives decisions. As such, delivering data in a timely manner is key. Also to be considered is who needs the information? How should the data be shared?
It’s also important to keep communication simple, as in virtual — or in-person — meetings, for instance. By staying on message with a well-defined agenda, data can be shared effectively and in a timely fashion. Bottom line — simplicity is the answer when it comes to winning virtual AEC projects.
Trend 5: The certainty of uncertainty
Today, we’re seeing AEC principals concerting extra energy to help cultivate a culture that encourages project management teams to focus on intended outcomes — value.
While the day-to-day is important, the focus must also be on future performance. By creating a safe growth environment in which all discussion is encouraged, the project management team can identify opportunities to pursue and areas of threats to avoid. They also have awareness of the project environment, can proactively investigate and respond to uncertainty, have awareness of how various factors influence one another, and recognize opportunity, which improves outcomes.
As AEC firms recover from the pandemic, they’re seeking ways to better run their business. Executives and project management teams are finding great value in data, and when accessed from a centralized location — coupled with streamlined project management in AEC — the result can be higher revenue and profits in the year ahead.
Unanet ERP for Architecture and Engineering
Unanet is a leading provider of ERP solutions. More than 3,200 project-driven organizations depend on Unanet to turn their information into actionable insights, drive better decision-making, and nurture business growth.
Unanet AE ERP is purpose-built for Architecture & Engineering firms and offers a powerful combination of Project Management, Business Intelligence, Time and Expense Tracking, Financials, and Integration tools in one single source to run your business more effectively. Powerful and customizable analytic dashboards allow organizations to gain greater visibility and control, analyze data and trends in real time, interact dynamically with their data, and drive their business forward.