Pennoni - An A&E Firm of the Future
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Pennoni is on the forefront of digital innovation. They recognize the importance of technology as a catalyst for change. This leading Engineering News Record Top 500 Design Firm is at the front of the pack when it comes to early adoption of new technology and process improvement. Markus Weidner, Chief Innovation Officer, shares their story.
“More and more, when I think about the firm of the future, it looks a lot like a technology company.”
- Markus Weidner, Chief Innovation Officer, Pennoni
After 55 years offering traditional services, Pennoni is striving to be a catalyst for change by working with clients and internal colleagues to move beyond outdated systems to produce better projects, while improving their processes.
“There's so much ground to cover for new graduates to get to a point where they understand that we really have to embrace and understand technology as designers in a way that we didn't have to 15 or 20 years ago,” says Weidner.
Pennoni understands that there is a lot out there in the vendor landscape they can leverage to build a portfolio of technology partnerships to deliver better solutions to their clients. Their digital transformation journey includes their team, as well as companies like Deltek, they partner with. Together, they are moving towards full digital transformation through automation, modern technology, and process improvement.
Path to ERP & CRM Automation
Pennoni started exploring the path to next-generation, industry-focused Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) adoption in 2017. They were using two separate systems at that time that didn’t integrate together: BST for ERP and Microsoft for CRM.
They saw a need to invest in an integrated solution that would deliver long-term value to their company, and they wanted a solution designed for the unique needs of their project-based business. Two big drivers included empowering project managers so they could better plan and manage their projects with better access to financial data, combined with business automation best practices, in order to move away from time-consuming paper-based business processes and automate their workflows.
They started with a series of due diligence exercises, considering what type of system they envisioned to drive their success so they could better plan for the future. From a short-list of vendors, Pennoni selected Deltek Vantagepoint. They choose Deltek because of the company’s focus on project-based businesses and innovative, integrated solutions. Pennoni went live with the new system in fall 2019 – just six months before the pandemic hit.
Before Deltek Vantagepoint, Pennoni printed out and scanned a lot of documents. With Vantagepoint, employees can now easily enter time and expense and generate invoices from anywhere, saving time. Markus describes merging the CRM and ERP systems as two rivers meeting. There was a lot to sort out regarding integrity and consistency. They redesigned their entire sales pipeline process so that leads and opportunities funneled directly into projects. This created one integrated system that works together so their teams can work more efficiently and better track their projects through the pipeline.
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Focusing on the Fundamentals
Digital transformation often focuses on the fundamentals. It includes items as simple as automating invoices. Weidner explained, “This process improvement is not going to win us an innovation award, but it does save us a lot of time, moving the process from a week to six or seven hours.”
This results in significant time savings (more than four days a week!) plus it increases accuracy since the invoices are system generated, removing room for error. “We're not relying on a Microsoft Excel control sheet that has a bunch of formulas and totals,” says Weidner.
“Sadly there are companies out there still doing these processes manually because they don't have another option. They're trying to balance their budgets and the prices keep going up, so we try to go in there and say, look, here's all the things that you need to do. Here's where technology can help you add a little bit more value or get a little bit more juice out of your lemons,” explains Weidner.
The younger generation is embracing this new technology because it increases flexibility and allows them to work from home. It also simplifies a lot of processes. Weidner elaborates, “Even though we had PDF distribution with our old systems, a several hundred page PDF can be pretty clumsy. People used to print these off, take them home for markup, and then bring the packets back to their project accounts. And I said, you're not going to have to do that anymore. Today, Pennoni utilizes electronic invoice review and markup through EleVia’s electronic invoicing platform.”
Today, Pennoni is able to better manage their projects, saving time, improving efficiencies, and boosting profitability. With Deltek Vantagepoint they are improving the accuracy of project quotes, bidding more competitively, and ensuring they are making a healthy profit.
As Pennoni looks to the future, they are well positioned to be a catalyst for change, bringing smart engineering solutions to their clients in diverse markets, ranging from energy and education to industrial and residential, with Deltek as their trusted business partner.
Learn more about Pennoni’s projects and innovation.
About Markus Weidner, Chief Innovation Officer
Markus Weidner serves as Pennoni’s first Chief Innovation Officer (CINO). Markus is a seasoned information technology executive with more than 20 years of industry experience. His expertise includes technology infrastructure, enterprise resource planning, business process and workflow reengineering, document and project management, social/collaborative platforms, and voice/video communications systems.
Markus has held a number of director roles in the past, of which most have been in firms heavily focused on business transformation and growth through acquisition. His experience includes serving as Associate Vice President and IT Director at Pennoni from 1999 to 2013. Markus is a two-time Temple University alum with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, as well as a master’s degree in Management Information Systems.
Pennoni’s creation of the CINO position ushers in a new era for the firm with a renewed and more obvious emphasis on a “technology first” delivery approach. It is also an acknowledgement that many clients’ needs have evolved beyond standard engineering services and a real need for ingenuity across all regions and service lines called for a dramatic shift in focus at the top.
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