Unlocking Profitability with the New Generation of Agile Project Management Tools

The substantial project efficiencies and bottom-line benefits that architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms can readily capture by arming their project managers with more agile task-management tools.

Here in the second installment of his blog series, Unanet’s resident agile project management expert, Lucas Hayden, details the substantial project efficiencies and bottom-line benefits that architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms can readily capture by arming their project managers with more agile task-management tools.

Click here to read the first post in the series and check back soon for the third installment.

If your firm is like many in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) business, you’ve spent much of the past couple years hunting for new strategies that lead to more predictably profitable projects and a more data-intelligent, agile company. Now, having squeezed all you can from those efforts, you’re wondering where to turn next for the internal efficiencies that can fuel sustained year-over-year growth.

The efficiencies that produce predictable and profitable project outcomes, and that in turn power consistent growth for an AEC firm, may well come from an often-overlooked source: within the process of managing the actual work of projects. And capturing those efficiencies could simply be a matter of providing your project managers with agile ERP-based task-management tools (some of which you may already have at hand) that are designed to work alongside and in step with the traditional WBS (work breakdown structure).

Modern task-management tools can make a huge difference for PMs in their day-to-day work, giving them the heightened level of real-time project insight they need to clear bottlenecks, allocate the right resources to the right activities, stay ahead of changes, and keep projects moving forward profitably and on schedule. This newfound agility among your project managers connects directly to the firm’s bottom line, because when PMs become more agile in their approach, their teams begin to work more efficiently. The better project teams become at meeting milestones and deadlines, the happier your customers will be, which leads to the repeat and referenceable work that drives profitability and growth. It becomes a self-sustaining cycle, powered by project management efficiency and insight.

For many firms and their PMs, however, that insight remains elusive. In the inaugural AEC Inspire Report, published by Unanet in 2021 to help AEC firms with benchmarking, close to one-third (31%) of AEC execs named “limited visibility into project status” among their largest challenges. As important as predictability is in yielding profitable projects, a firm will struggle at forecasting where the business is heading if they can’t measure or see what’s happening inside their projects.

The latest generation of task-management tools changes how project managers engage with their work by providing them with a clear line of site into project activities, without cumbersome, time-consuming paper shuffling or combing through multiple systems in search of the right information. Within a single digital environment, PMs can monitor and manage all project activities with collaborative, Kanban-style to-do’s, with the ability to track time, flexibly allocate resources, keep tasks organized, create forecasts, track KPIs and ultimately get work done more efficiently. Suddenly, data siloes disappear in favor of a single source of truth, and information and communication about all the important details associated with each and every project flow unencumbered, in real-time, within project teams and across the firm, making for more agile, better-informed decisions and improved outcomes for the project, firm, and client alike.

Simply using these capabilities in the day-to-day work of managing projects moves a firm closer to the agile project management principles that today are driving some of the most successful AEC firms and the most effective project teams by:

  • Fostering seamless communication: The best-performing project teams consist of people who are actively engaged and openly contributing to a common goal. Having open channels and forums for communication around every aspect of a project, and to-do lists in particular, is key to maximizing engagement and productivity within teams. There is no substitute for the regular interactions that generate trust and a strong sense of value between team members. Channeling those positive forces into your project management practice results in consistently excellent project outcomes.
  • Modernizing task management. Every project involves a huge volume of discrete tasks. Instead of settling for old-school, mostly manual approaches to managing them, firms and their PMs stand to capture important new efficiencies and insights by committing to embrace today’s digital task-management tools. No need to overthink such a move. Start integrating and using the tools, then iterate as necessary, based on your experience using them.
  • Elevating collaboration. When all project team members are working off a single version of the truth and syncing to project to-do lists, goals, and KPIs, productivity increases, as do the chances for a more profitable, on-time project.
  • Making it easy to roll with the changes. Changes are inevitable within the flow of a project. Using the latest generation of task-management tools, including real-time activity tracking and personalized notifications about the status of, and changes to, items on a punch list, PMs can stay alert and ahead of change. They’re better equipped to anticipate the resourcing and production bottlenecks that can hamper the timeliness and profitability of a project.

Taken collectively, the gains an AEC firm makes in these four areas by arming their PMs with better task-management tools aren’t just incremental, they’re potentially game-changing. By consistently executing projects in a predictable, repeatable, iterative way, free of the shackles of outdated processes and systems, firms can blast through their growth ceilings and reach revenue heights they never dreamed were attainable.

The good news is that the new generation of task-management tools has arrived with the latest release of Unanet ERP AE. For more details on Unanet’s modern project management solutions, beyond agile task-management capabilities, click here.