A&E Software Implementation: 3 Essential Tips From A Seasoned Pro
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Architecture and Engineering (A&E) firms are experts at helping their clients manage change, but many are not so adept at internal change and modernisation programs.
According to global research by Deltek, A&E firms are slow to take up new digital tools: less than half (43%) are using financial management platforms; and only one-third are using project management and IT/cloud platforms (35%); and BIM platforms (34%) to optimise their internal operations.
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Deltek’s ‘Insight to Action’ report also highlights a disconnect between project leaders and their CEOs, around their intention to embrace emerging technologies. There are two main reasons for this reluctance:
1. Change is inherently difficult and digital transformation represents an overhaul of the entire business, not just a new IT system;
2. The current rate of change is so rapid it’s hard to know which new systems and tools to invest in.
That’s why it’s especially important to work with trusted experts in digital transformation AND change management, and Deltek boasts a significant advantage in that respect, thanks to Project Services Manager Bernie Hall. Bernie began her career as an IT project manager in the construction industry in the UK, where she oversaw the procurement and rollout of the holistic project information management tool Union Square, from the client perspective.
She liked the solution – which is now called Deltek Project Information Management (PIM) – so much, that she joined the company, to paraphrase that old Remington Steel advertisement.
Bernie has lived through several major life changes herself – switching from the client side to supplier, in 2010, and then relocating to Sydney in 2014 – and she draws on those experiences to inform her approach to software implementation with clients:
1. Establish The Right Change Management Team
“I’m pretty empathetic about what lies ahead for our clients and I try to be honest with them, without overwhelming them too much,” Bernie says. “The fact that I used to work on the client side reassures our customers; they know that I understand some of their fears about the process. Also, because of my previous role, I understand how all of the parts of the A&E business work and how external stakeholders fit in, so I can foresee the challenges that might disrupt a firm during software implementation, if they are not carefully managed.”
It’s essential for firms undergoing digital transformation to establish the right change management team and plan every stage of the process, Bernie says, adding that senior leaders need to promote the benefits of the change program even if they are also sometimes hesitant themselves. It is also important that they instigate a review of their internal procedures, including training and onboarding, to ensure the PIM solution is embedded in the daily role and objectives of all staff.
“We start by giving advice about who to involve on the client implementation team, because choosing the right people to spearhead the change can make a massive difference to the whole process,” Bernie says.
"Senior leaders need to promote the benefits of the change program even if they are also sometimes hesitant themselves."
2. Engage The Teams That Will Be Affected The Most, Early On
Many of Deltek’s customers initially aim to improve and streamline project financial processes, and HR and project management activities, so typically a new rollout will start with these aspects. “It’s a good idea to engage with the finance and project delivery teams early on, and focus on their concerns in terms of the new processes,” she says.
“We also point out the benefits they’ll enjoy with PIM – such as reducing double-keying and saving time, empowering project delivery teams with real-time project financials – and that often provides reassurance and reduces likelihood of resistance, ensuring they are more likely to embrace the changes to come.”
3. Tailor Your Approach
" There is no one-size-fits-all approach to software implementation."
Once the project financials implementation is underway, roll-out can continue across other parts of the firm, such as document, email and drawing management where appropriate, although the approach varies according to the type of business and the demographics of its people, Bernie says.
“We work with a variety of business types and disciplines within the AEC sector including Architects, Engineers and Project Managers,” she explains. “Each presents its own challenges and our knowledge of the needs, aspirations and concerns of these differing organisations is key to a positive outcome for our clients. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to software implementation.”
That tailored approach – informed both by Bernie’s own experiences and lessons she’s learned advising countless A&E clients on digital transformation and change management over the past eight years – means that Deltek’s customers are in safe hands.
And in a business operating environment where the only certainty is more change ahead, that makes a big difference.
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