A&E Innovation: 5 Trends Shaping the Industry

Originally posted on Deltek.com. Link here: A&E Innovation: 5 Trends Shaping the Industry

By Deltek

A&E firms are continuing to evolve their use of technology, looking for ways to not only improve how they run their business, but leverage it as a competitive advantage. In a recent webinar Bret Tushaus, Deltek’s Vice President of Product Management, outlined the latest trends which will shape the architecture and engineering (A&E) industry over the next few years. Below is a recap of the webinar.

Pervasiveness of technology is front and center, once again, as evidenced by survey respondents in the 44th Annual Deltek Architecture & Engineering Industry Study. Firms cited investments in technology around cybersecurity, business processes and project management as a critical part of their operations which is consistent with what we have seen in the past four or five years. The pandemic amplified the need for investment and demonstrated how technology can help, because in many cases, firms were forced to leverage technology. Respondents see technology investments as a top priority and key way to grow their business, improve their project management discipline and differentiate themselves from their competitors. We see five main trends shaping the industry this year.

1. Automation of Manual Tasks

Firms are looking to automate tasks and processes as they are faced with increased labor costs, staffing shortages, and inflationary pressures. To combat these challenges, firms are looking for bots and other automation tools to complete repetitive or manual tasks so humans can focus on more value-add efforts. An example could be as simple as having a bot enter information into an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, saving resource time and freeing up staff.

However, automation is not limited to completing repetitive tasks. With firms having difficulty hiring staff with specialized skills for areas like creating construction specifications, automation tools should be considered. One such tool is Deltek Specpoint, home of AIA Masterspec, a cloud based-solution that allows you to increase the efficiency and productivity around the specification authoring process, and also adds additional functionality and capabilities that can make your specifications more accurate. Specpoint can be used to automate your design process and author your specifications, as well as streamline the process when selecting products for your building designs.

Architects often spend time in the field where they take notes and issue status reports for current projects. Automation tools, like Deltek ArchiSnapper, can be used on-site to help firms produce more accurate and timely field reports.

With ArchiSnapper, architects can create and manage field reports while on site by capturing key observations and photos and assign tasks to other team members. This industry-leading app can then automate the generation of the associated report to share with the team.

Another area we see automation increasing is financial management. Automation is key for helping firms connect payments and transactions to their banks. Using a product like Deltek Payments, it is easy to make that connection. Deltek Payments eliminates paper, and creates transactions in real-time which increases efficiency, optimizes cashflow and offers visibility into payments and any AR challenges that your firm might be having.

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2. Better Integration to Increase Visibility

Firms are stepping up integration efforts to provide connected data that can be viewed by all stakeholders in real-time. Integration connects all the tools companies use when operating their business to eliminate redundancy and foster the ability to see the business through a single pane of glass. The task to share data on a timely basis with multiple stakeholders is critical to business operations, so it is not surprising to see this trend. As a result, Deltek has introduced new offering called Unionpoint.

Deltek Unionpoint gives Deltek customers the ability to connect their Deltek products to other tools they are using to run the business. Unionpoint is an integration platform as a service solution (iPaaS) and is built on a best of breed platform from Workato, which has an excellent and expansive community of connectors built into its solution. The platform allows for the creation of integrations via a no or low code drag and drop designer. Deltek is also building some integrations on this platform to connect some of our products to each other, as well as some commonly used third party tools.

3. AI-Driven Intelligence for Better Decision Making

Given all the press, it’s not surprising that one of the trends we are seeing is the use of artificial intelligence (AI). There are many benefits of using AI-based tools which can initiate more informed decision making through predictive analytics and generative intelligence. These benefits can help drive improved accuracy and productivity by allowing machines to identify trends and automate interactions that might be more easily missed by humans.

One example is the use of AI for recruiting. When you open a requisition for a new position, you likely receive many resumes, and some may not be aligned to the role or job description. Hiring managers spend lots of time filtering out resumes but with AI driven tools such as Deltek Talent Management, finding the right resume can be automated using the Resume Relevancy feature. This tool compares content from the resume to the job description, creates a score behind the scenes, and serves up the highest scored resumes saving time for recruiters and helping to find the right talent.

AI can also be used for predictive intelligence. Let’s say you are looking at a project or opportunity to pursue. You know what pursuits you’ve won in the past, and the attributes of those pursuits. Based on these attributes, predictive intelligence from AI can determine whether you are 80% likely to win this particular project or only 20% likely to win, which might drive the decision on whether or not it is worth the investment to pursue.

4. Tools to Improve Business Operations and Better Manage Projects

Twenty five percent of Deltek Clarity survey respondents report that insufficient or poorly executed project management procedures are a top project management challenge, and is why many firms look to tools, such as ERP, to better manage their projects.

When using ERP tools in the context of technology, keep these things in mind.

  • Consider how you can better enable your project managers and include your project managers in technology decisions. As you select and evaluate tools to integrate into your business, make project managers part of the process.
  • Leverage tools that are specifically designed for project-focused businesses that can enhance project management capabilities and offer more insight into projects. When you acquire a tool that really isn’t purpose-built for what you do, or for how you operate, or the industry you work in, you will spend a lot of time and money and cycles modifying, customizing, tweaking, and building workarounds to get it to work for your organization.
  • Give your project managers a way to build a project plan that can be integrated into the business. If you have a tool that’s sitting off to the side being used by project managers that is not integrated, you will have very limited visibility into your project plans in the context of the rest of your business.
  • When it comes to architecture and engineering businesses, it’s all about the people. They are your product, so resource planning is important. Have the right people on the right projects at the right time, and make sure they are not overworked causing burnout. Smart utilization of staff will be a key part of your operational efficiency and success.

5. Movement to the Cloud to Tackle Cybersecurity Challenges

Over the past 10 to 15 years, many Deltek customers, and other firms in the industry have been moving to cloud-based solutions. And while that trend has been in place for a while, it has amplified over the past few years for one key reason – cybersecurity. According to the latest Deltek Clarity Study, 18% of firms surveyed have experienced some sort of cyberattack and 68% indicated that data and cybersecurity pose one of the top challenges for their IT operations.

The right cloud provider offers a more sophisticated enterprise level infrastructure and network than you could build within your organization. And when you have that elevated infrastructure, a host of other benefits are included, such as fast and easy product upgrades from the provider, offsite data replication as well as business continuity and disaster recovery. Cloud solutions also provide cost savings such as hardware and resources. Your internal staff does not need to maintain an on-premises ERP solution allowing them to focus on the core business and better serving clients.

By prioritizing the right investments that align with key business goals, firms will be able to increase productivity, control costs and increase employee satisfaction. In addition, smart investments in technology can yield far-reaching dividends that empower firms to be more competitive, profitable, and better protected against emerging cybersecurity threats.

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