How Can Australian Architecture Practices Futureproof their Businesses? We Asked the ACA’s CEO

October 27, 2022
Australian Architecture Practices - Prepare for the Future

TwitterTweet it:'Deltek recently spoke to the Association of Consulting Architects Australia (ACA)’s CEO Angelina Pillai to get her thoughts on the findings of the 3rd Annual Deltek Clarity Architecture and Engineering (A&E) Study.'

An Interview with Angelina Pillai, CEO, Association of Consulting Architects Australia

Deltek recently spoke to the Association of Consulting Architects Australia (ACA)’s CEO Angelina Pillai to get her thoughts on the findings of the 3rd Annual EMEA & APAC Deltek Clarity Architecture and Engineering (A&E) Study. The study highlights benchmarks, industry trends and details on market conditions based on survey results from 600 A&E firm decision makers from across the globe.

Angelina offered her views on the key themes highlighted in the report and how these are affecting Australian architecture firms. We covered why digital transformation is front of mind, how firms can improve operational efficiencies and why attracting talent is still a top challenge.

Is it Time to Move on From Digital Transformation to Digital Normalisation?

As shown in the 3rd Annual EMEA & APAC Deltek Clarity Study, operational weaknesses became more apparent during the pandemic. Asia Pacific firms are ahead of the curve with their digital improvements but that doesn’t mean that their job is done, they still need to prioritise digitalisation.

Despite digital transformation being high on the agenda for firms for several years, there are still obstacles that many practices are struggling to overcome. The most notable is investment, which is a particular issue for smaller firms.

Larger firms were forced to accelerate the improvement of their digital infrastructure as the industry moved to remote working. Architecture practices needed to ensure that team connectivity and the ability to serve clients weren’t impacted.

However, with project cancellations and staffing problems in the background, practices needed to strike a fine balance between innovation and survival. The result is that firms are looking more at a steady evolution of their digital infrastructure rather than introducing rapid transformation. “Firms are taking the time to establish their needs and find a more consistent approach with their digital strategies,” Angelina commented.

That said, there is no getting away from the fact that the pace of innovation is accelerating with firms often overwhelmed by the availability of new technology. This makes it hard for practices to keep up. Angelina’s concern is, “Is it going to solve a problem or create new ones? That’s the million-dollar question for many firms.”

The Importance of Data Science to Increase Knowledge and Understanding

According to the EMEA & APAC Clarity Report, firms see emerging technologies as more important than in 2021. Data science is now seen as more important than artificial intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning is now top of the list for Asia Pacific firms.

Angelina believes that this is due to the role that data plays in key business areas such as decision-making and process design and optimisation. “With greater emphasis now placed on social and environmental sustainability, including First Nations design principles, there is perhaps a need for practices to understand what data is telling them before they can automate or digitise technology. Practices must re-evaluate their technological needs and look for data to assist their decision-making processes.”


Architecture & Engineering Industry Report

Benchmark Your Firm and Get Critical Industry Insight



The Issues of Talent and Resourcing

We can’t talk about trends affecting the architecture industry without talking about talent and the impact of the ‘Great Resignation’. Currently we are in a jobseekers’ market and candidates are looking for roles that suit both their career and lifestyle ambitions. Many candidates are looking for roles in practices that are forward-thinking and innovative and that offer opportunities to work on interesting projects, as well as flexible working conditions and benefits.

Angelina noted that many smaller practices are losing current employees and job candidates to larger firms with bigger budgets. “But it’s not always about the money,” she adds. “Workers are looking for employers whose values and purpose align with theirs. Many insist on the importance of a healthy and innovative practice culture.”

What can firms do to ensure that that are in a strong position to attract and retain top talent? According to Angelina, they should focus on areas like open communication, mentoring and training, particularly in emerging areas of expertise, such as digital. Technology can also help, she says. “Smart people management systems with equally smart reward and recognition software will be a game changer. They can be linked to robust learning and development plans to foster employee engagement.”

Remain Competitive by Prioritising Costs and Efficiency

But it’s not all about trends and emerging technologies, according to the 3rd Annual EMEA & APAC Deltek Clarity Study, Asia Pacific architecture firms are focusing on process improvement, increasing efficiency and how to reduce costs over the next three years.

Angelina agrees that these are the right areas to focus on: “Building and construction problems are becoming more complex. So, practices should keep adding value by improving their processes, benchmarking their financial performance, setting proper and profitable fee proposals, managing projects within those fees, and generally keeping a careful eye on their overall business of architecture. All without compromising the integrity of their value, culture and worth.”

For practices operating and competing globally, this will be a challenge, Angelina says. “They’re playing catch up and the next three years will be critical. They need to solve the ‘wicked’ problems of the built environment and get value for money doing it.”

Read the Full Report for Further Insight

To find out more about how leading architecture practices are future proofing their business and even preparing for growth, download the full 3rd Annual EMEA & APAC Deltek Clarity Report.


Digital Transformation for A&E Firms

Find Out More




About ACA

The ACA helps architectural firms navigate the changing world of practice by providing regular advice and information on business and employment matters, by promoting awareness of and discussion about business issues, and by advocating for better business practices and legislative frameworks.