Three Steps A&E and Consulting CFOs Took to Steer Their Firms Through Unprecedented Times

May 20, 2021

TwitterTweet it:'With so much uncertainty arriving almost overnight, accurately predicting the financial impact of COVID-19 was an impossible task for firms – however tempting it was to try'

As Architecture, Engineering and Consulting firms navigated a global pandemic, finance teams stepped up to ensure business stability. We spoke to three CFOs to find out how.

Firms in project-based industries already deal with a competitive, fast-changing landscape. But the impact of COVID-19 made their situations even less predictable over the course of 2020 and beyond. And while much has changed, age-old challenges around changing customer demands and savvy competitors adopting new tactics continue to put pressure on firms.

As a result, Architecture, Engineering and Consultancy (A&E & Consulting) firms have been forced to re-evaluate everything from resource and project management to forecasting and cashflow. And often, this responsibility has fallen on finance teams.

So how have finance leaders overcome the hurdles of the pandemic – and helped their businesses overcome short and long term disruption? We spoke to three finance leaders in project-based firms to find out.

You can explore their answers in full and discover practical tips for future-proofing your organization in our latest white paper. Or, for a sneak peek, read on as we look at three steps our CFOs took to face the challenges of COVID-19 head on.


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How Three Finance Leaders Steered Their Firms Through a Global Pandemic

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Step #1: Build better budget visibility

With so much uncertainty arriving almost overnight, accurately predicting the financial impact of COVID-19 was an impossible task for firms – however tempting it was to try. Instead, financial teams needed to structure forecasts around confirmed work, to get visibility into budgets and revenue. This meant teams only had to predict a few variables, rather than all of them, which kept firms flexible during this unpredictable period.

For Buro Four’s Finance Director Steve Slade, adopting a new forecasting approach required a rethink of the budget process. By revising the budgets based on ‘secured work’ (projects that wouldn’t be cancelled) the finance team was able to optimize their planning process, and adjust easily if any projects were delayed.

Step #2: Allocating resources efficiently and effectively

The initial onset of the pandemic also forced finance leaders to think carefully about resource allocation. And that required getting accurate, rapid, data-driven insights.

For many of the firms we spoke to, this meant leveraging systems with robust resource planning functionality, such as Deltek’s ERP solutions. Armed with clear insights into which projects would be most profitable – and the resources available for assignment – the finance leaders could streamline resource planning and keep schedules full.

For example, if a project was deferred suddenly by a client, the organization could spot gaps in the diary and fill them with another task – keeping existing projects moving and enabling quick, accurate decision-making.

And the benefits go beyond short-term fixes. With finance teams more in the spotlight than ever, and firms relying on CFOs to ensure spot-on modelling and allocation, implementing resource planning systems now can provide long-term support and accurate information.

Step #3: Putting people first

COVID-19 was a new situation for everyone – and that meant clear, accurate data was hard to come by. To keep teams focused and supported, many financial leaders looked inwards and found new ways to provide the care, compassion and transparency employees needed to feel safe during an uncertain time.

Each of the CFOs we spoke to took different approaches to support their people. But all shared one common goal: to provide clear, informative messages about the global situation and how the business was responding.

For Ryan Latchford, CFO at ADG Engineers, a COVID central response team and ‘state of the nation’ calls provided much-needed transparency and kept employees informed and engaged. Meanwhile, Katarina Strivall, CFO Sweden at Norconsult, arranged weekly COVID meetings with the management team. These catchups allowed leaders to address any immediate business concerns and track key ‘soft’ KPIs like team morale and mental wellbeing.

Planning for the future

Despite the challenges created by the pandemic – and the existing ones it exaggerated – a new pace of change also created new opportunity for finance teams. From long-term remote working, to digital innovation and a reliance on data-driven insights, firms were forced to update processes and embrace new tools and techniques.

To see how the CFOs we spoke to are seizing these new opportunities, download our guide: How Three Finance Leaders Successfully Steered Their Firms Through Unprecedented Times. It’s packed full of great insights and practical tips for project-based firms looking to the future.


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