Clarity Study: data dominates technology goals and challenges for A&E firms

August 10, 2021

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We recently surveyed 600+ decision-makers in architecture and engineering (A&E) firms about their current technology challenges and their strategies for the future. The results might surprise you.

Architecture and engineering firms around the world have had to rapidly expand their digital footprints over the last year. Some firms had to improve back-office systems to get more visibility and stability during an uncertain time, while others were busy expanding their infrastructure to support a workforce split between site, the office and their own homes.

With so many different digital challenges facing firms, it’s clear there was no single path to success. But what technologies were firms focused on, what challenges did they experience, and what strategies did firm leaders put in place to navigate the uncharted waters of the last 12 months?

The latest Deltek Clarity Architecture and Engineering Industry Study for EMEA and Asia Pacific (APAC) surveyed over 600 decision-makers in A&E firms around the world about their business strategies, technology goals, and challenges faced in various parts of the business. It also explores what key performance indicators (KPIs) firms are measuring in different regions.

This blog will focus on the survey results around the use of technology across firms in EMEA and APAC. It will look at:

  • Digital maturity levels today and in five years’ time
  • The digital challenges firms are facing
  • Different technology priorities around the globe

Digital maturity: ambition and reality don’t always match

After a turbulent year, firms have made big strides in their digital transformation goals. Last year’s Deltek Clarity research found that just 9% of respondents described their firm as digitally ‘mature’ or ‘advanced.’ In this year’s survey, that figure has doubled.

But while the leap between last year and now is impressive, there is still much to be done if firms hope to achieve their digital ambitions. When asked to predict their digital transformation maturity in five years’ time, 69% estimate they’ll be in the ‘mature’ or ‘advanced’ stages – a significant leap from the 18% that identify at this level of maturity today.

Firms’ success in meeting these goals will come down to deploying emerging technologies in meaningful ways. Technologies like big data, machine learning and data science were overwhelmingly seen as important to the business, but just one-third of respondents report having deployed these solutions across business functions today.


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Technology barriers: costs, education and prioritization stand in the way

With a turbulent 12 months now behind them, participants are thinking carefully about their next moves, what approaches take priority, and how to make the most of limited resources. That might explain why the cost and prioritization of emerging technologies were seen as the most significant technology challenges facing firms.

Respondents identified the following as one of their top three technology challenges:

  • The cost of technology – 60%
  • Prioritizing which technologies are most applicable to the business – 52%
  • Lack of employee education about trends and how they apply to the industry – 44%
  • Lack of client education about technology trends and how they apply to projects – 40%
  • Lack of time to personally invest in learning about technology trends – 40%
  • Buy-in from firm leadership – 36%
  • No technology champion to lead initiative – 26%

While cost and prioritization are the most pressing concerns facing firm leaders, there’s also a number of challenges relating to education. Whether it’s educating teams, clients or even decision-makers, there’s a barrier of understanding across the industry firms will need to break down to truly achieve their digital goals.

Strategic initiatives: different regions adopt different digital strategies

The survey also shows that firms have big plans to address these challenges. But the approach differs by region.

Creating a plan for implementing technology trends was the most prominent strategy globally, with 48% of respondents putting it in their top three initiatives for the year. But it was far more popular with firms in Singapore (59%), Germany (53%) and the UK (50%) than in New Zealand (38%).

A few more outliers show firms in some nations valuing or devaluing some initiatives compared to our global sample:

  • 40% of respondents globally are planning to identify technology partners to work with, but just 16% of firms in Singapore plan to do the same.
  • 41% of firms around the world are keen to identify and develop technology experts within their business. Just 27% in Denmark have plans to do this.
  • 47% globally report plans to educate staff on technology trends, but New Zealand brings the number up (58%) while Sweden brings the average down (31%).

While these numbers reflect different priorities for IT strategy around the world, the operational plans within IT departments in A&E firms are more focused on a few key approaches.

When asked about the top challenges facing IT operations in the next 12 months, the clear front runner was ‘improving cybersecurity’, which 38% of respondents placed in their top three challenges. This was closely followed by ‘finding top IT talent’ (31%) and maintaining data privacy (30%).

You’ve seen the highlights. Now, it’s time to dig deeper.

We’ve covered a snapshot of the most pressing technology challenges facing the A&E industry, and the strategies firms are using to fight back. But this is just the start of what the Deltek Clarity study has to offer.

Read the full report to learn more about the technology landscape across APAC and EMEA, the project management and financial challenges your peers are facing, and how they are performing against their KPIs.


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