Reflection and Reinvention: The Time is Now for AEC Businesses

Posted by Deltek on April 1, 2021

TwitterTweet it:'Whilst the #Architecture, #Engineering and #Construction (AEC) industries experienced a significant downturn in productivity, a unique opportunity was also gained.'

“Never let a good crisis go to waste”. Inspiring words by Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom as he rallied the British public during World War II.

Whilst the context may have changed, its sentiment has not.

The world faces a challenging time and as this continues to evolve, so too can the professional services industry, using this time for reflection and reinvention to build a more resilient future.   

To start, you may ask yourself…

  • What are the key future proofing strategies you should implement?
  • How has the current pandemic influenced strategy moving forward?
  • How should your business prepare for what might come next?

Whilst the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industries experienced a significant downturn in productivity, a unique opportunity was also gained. Business leaders began to identify inefficiencies in existing processes, technology became the enabler for new ways of working and new future proofing strategies were identified, ensuring business continuity through future challenges.

In our webinar, alongside Construction Manager Magazine, we brought together AEC leaders from international construction and property consultants Thomas & Adamson and leading construction and civil engineering company Sir Robert McAlpine. We discussed what they learned from 2020, and how they are using those insights to plan ahead. You can watch the full session on-demand. We’ve also captured some of the key talking points here.

The Time for Digital Reinvention?

It’s clear. The workplace has evolved and the pandemic accelerated the use of technology for many. But is the pivot we’ve seen over recent months, the opportunity (and motivation) businesses need to fast track their transformation?

Nick Nieder, Product Director at Deltek urges every business leader to firstly “Look back at their investments in technology and think about how they could reimagine the use of these”.

Thomas & Adamson used this time to initiate a modernization project with an emphasis on technology.

 “We saw an opportunity to embrace our vision, to stop bad habits and build upon the new positives, to evolve and be proud. To achieve this, we had to take a complete view of our ICT infrastructure – and fundamental to this was the shift from local servers to a cloud-based document management system” explained Senior Partner, Alastair Wallace.

For Nick Leach, Strategic BIM/Digital Lead at Sir Robert McAlpine, “It provided the opportunity to identify gaps where specific tools were required”. He continued “We soon realized that it wasn't just project level tools moving into this transition. Our backup operations were also beginning to move from traditional ways of working to a more digitalized approach.”

"We saw an opportunity to embrace our vision. To stop bad habits and build upon the new positives. To evolve and be proud"

Alastair Wallace, Senior Partner, Thomas & Adamson

Will the workplace ever be the same again?

Many businesses quickly responded to the need to find new ways to work. The pivot to remote working allowed the industry to sustain its activity as best as possible – but how permanent will that move be?

Wallace suggested, "This gave us a great opportunity to change the way we work permanently. We gained and increased our understanding of how to be more effective in a more collaborative efficient manner”.  

He continued, “The office was the place that you came to work - we're turning that on its head. Offices will eventually become a local hub. A place where people come to collaborate, to learn, give support and to host events. It will become a place where you can choose to work”.

For Sir Robert McAlpine, “The pandemic has accelerated our use of technology. We saw a great uptake in the use of our internal social platforms and collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams. We proved that remote working can work and can be just as productive, if not more so than before” commented Leach.

“We now even use some of our surveillance solutions on-site, to help visualize and see progress in real-time, from any location” he later added.


For some firms where strong internal operations were already in place, it was only when they came to collaborate with other project partners that the cracks begin to appear. And that inefficient collaboration really can be the root cause of a lack in productivity gain.

Nieder suggests, “Perhaps the pivot that we see now is the opportunity to fast track moving forward as we all try and protect our businesses from risk BUT also think about how we can reinvent ourselves and be more efficient in some of our back-office processes.”


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The One Source of Truth is More Important than Ever

Data breaches are happening every single day. How do you ensure privacy is protected, data is secure and that you are compliant with requirements like GDPR and FOIPPA? And it’s not only your data, but confidential project information for clients too.

Leach recognized this challenge. “More emphasis on the security of both our information and data is needed. Where is that data stored, what protocols are in place, the due diligence required, what certifications does a vendor have, etc.?”

As information and data becomes more and more disjointed, sharing of that information becomes harder, particularly as file sizes increase. Add poor version control management and time wasted searching for right data, and this can eventually lead to inefficient processes, poor project governance and transparency and even compromised data security.

Nieder commented, “We all have masses of data. Some of it is really disparate in our organizations. Perhaps the first step here, is simply to bring it more centrally.”

“Having one source of truth is crucial to making informed decisions. Having process and information management systems in place not only helps you to capture project information, but helps to organize it, simplify how you store it, how you search for it and how you automate it. This in turn is going to improve your ability to collaborate, deliver solid project governance and, more importantly, future-proof your organization against unpredictable challenges.” added Nieder.

Out of Darkness Comes Light

Reflecting back now, as working practices started to become more dispersed, some businesses were able to leverage the investment they had already made in technology and systems. They quickly adopted video conferencing platforms to make collaboration more efficient and to respond to the need for travel for example.

With customer needs rapidly changing, traditional supply chain models transforming and government initiatives such as the Job Retention Scheme creating challenge for project delivery, the need for centralized information was heightened. For those with an information management system already in place, the ability to pivot and collaborate in new and enhanced ways was enabled.

For others, this accelerated the first step towards change. The needs gap was highlighted, giving the opportunity to review strategy moving forward and the key future proofing initiatives required to ensure continuity during any future crisis.

Now, what was once merely an aspiration or vision for this modern way of working, has rapidly turned into reality and will no doubt lead to a positive reinvention of the industry as we move beyond these challenging days.

"Do not let us speak of darker days; let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days: these are great days"

Winston Churchill, 1941

Future Proof Your Business: Insights from AEC Leaders

Discover the steps to turn current challenges into long-term opportunity, watch the webinar on demand.


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