Pivoting in a Pandemic: 3 Top Tips from AEC Leaders

Posted by Deltek on December 7, 2020

TwitterTweet it:'The adoption of collaboration and information sharing systems can lead to an improved, team-orientated and efficient culture across all stakeholder groups, whilst reducing cost at any point.'

When the World Health Organisation first announced the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic, Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) businesses of all sizes were thrust into a transformational phase. This forced rapid change across existing business operations and placed a renewed focus on data and people.

As the situation evolves, will any of the lessons learned have a lasting effect on the way businesses operate and projects are delivered?

During our recent webinar, Lessons From the Pandemic: AEC Leaders’ Insights, we heard from Matt Harper, ITC Director at multi-disciplined contractor, Erith and Michael Ibbeson, Principal at structural engineering specialist, Structa. Amidst the pandemic, both firms turned challenge into opportunity, using this time to explore new ways to collaborate and review existing IT systems. Here are their key takeaways and advice to peers.

Collaboration is key

This is paramount within the AEC industry. The adoption of collaboration and information sharing systems can lead to an improved, team-orientated and efficient culture across all stakeholder groups, whilst reducing cost at any point.

In immediate response to the announcement, all non-site based workers were required to work from home and meetings shifted into virtual boardrooms to negate the need to travel. Cloud based collaboration platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Office 365 eased the transition to a remote-working model, keeping teams connected anytime, from any location.

“All users were equipped with Office 365 and Microsoft Teams prior to lockdown but only a handful of teams used it. We began to find that video and audio conferencing, together with real time collaboration, were getting more popular by the day” Harper suggested.

Soon, users were discovering how these technologies could enhance the way they worked, driving productivity, efficiency, flexibility and collaboration throughout the organisation.

“We previously introduced Teams and Sharepoint so video conferencing, information sharing and chat functionality all removed the email dependence and enabled us to better communicate across teams and the wider business. We suddenly became far more team-orientated and were focusing very much on the culture within our teams” Ibbeson explained.

 

"The forecasting of projects changed fundamentally due to furloughing across the industry. Many of the businesses we support chose to furlough their office staff, mainly because they didn't have the technology in place. That’s when Deltek Vision and Teams proved vital for collaboration and information management, helping us understand which projects are continuing, which were on hold and what new work was on the horizon"

Michael Ibbeson, Principal, Structa

Challenge to change

The AEC industry is used to dealing with difficult times and adapting to change, but the pandemic presented completely new and exceptional challenges. Suddenly faced with managing a disparate workforce, delayed projects, a turbulent supply chain and increased health and safety measures, businesses were forced to reinvent themselves, defining new business models and shifting to more collaborative environments.

“We have been contracted to carry out Demolition and Remediation works in Ireland and will be working with several local companies in the area to provide our expertise. Works of this size need a common data environment to make sure that everyone shares the same version of the truth, Deltek PIM will help us to deliver that,” explained Harper.

He added, “We took the opportunity to revisit and revitalise our backup strategy. It became important to be able to manage and monitor the entire environment from a location other than the core of the network.”

Ibbeson commented, “The forecasting of projects changed fundamentally due to furloughing across the industry. Many of the businesses we support chose to furlough their office staff, mainly because they didn't have the technology in place. That’s when Deltek Vision and Teams proved vital for collaboration and information management, helping us understand which projects are continuing, which were on hold and what new work was on the horizon”.

 

"A rationalise in our cost base, unfortunately led to the loss of some employees. This made supporting the business’ information management requirements even more difficult. By using Deltek’s Project Information Management (PIM) system however, we were able to improve our project collaboration stance"

Matt Harper, ITC Director, Erith

Technology as the business enabler

With more than 80 per cent of AEC businesses having furloughed staff in May*, project delivery in many cases, experienced delay, suspension and even termination. Keeping on track of these changes is challenging, particularly without an adequate project information management system in place.

“Our project management systems are based around the Deltek Vision ERP. When furlough impacted many of our clients and supply chains, our workload was also impacted. Having a system in place, we were able to update our projects, resourcing, scheduling, billing and future opportunities, in real time, so we could understand our position and resourcing requirements for each project” stated Ibbeson.

Harper added, “A rationalise in our cost base, unfortunately led to the loss of some employees. This made supporting the business’ information management requirements even more difficult. By using Deltek’s Project Information Management (PIM) system however, we were able to improve our project collaboration stance”.

The pandemic created a variety of new challenges in a fast-changing environment. For Erith and Structa however, this presented opportunity to adapt to new ways of doing business, with technology as the enabler.

You can hear the full discussion and discover what’s next for Erith and Structa as they prepare for the next phase of the pandemic by listening to our webinar on-demand.

 

Hear the Full Discussion

 

Hear the full discussion and discover what’s next for Erith and Structa as they prepare for the next phase of the pandemic.


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*Office of National Statistics