AEC Checklist for Success: 4 Ways to Improve Your AEC Firm’s Operations

November 29, 2022
4 Ways to Improve Your AEC Firm’s Operations

Today’s business environment includes a host of challenges from staffing to project profitably. To improve architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) operations, take into consideration these four key plays of successful AEC firms.

1: Improve Project Delivery

As a project-based business, your company’s reputation is built upon how you deliver your work. AEC firms that effectively manage their projects and resources deliver projects on time and on budget.

With the recent uptick in projects and increased backlogs, it’s more important than ever to effectively manage your projects, yet according to the 43rd Deltek Clarity Study, only 46% of the firms surveyed are using a clearly defined project management process for the majority of their projects. The study also noted, firms are seeing 8.75 months of backlog on average, plus 64% are reporting a problem with staffing shortages, which makes managing project execution even more difficult.

Here are three areas that can derail your projects.

Scope Creep

Successful projects start with an accurate, realistic and detailed scope of work. Without a well-documented and agreed upon plan, scope creep and over-servicing will lower your profits. To avoid scope creep, AEC project managers should have a clear vision for the project and agreed upon milestones, as well as goals and success measurements with your client and project team.

It’s also important to plan for changes. Change is inevitable even with the best of plans. Allowing for some flexibility in your project will empower your project team to make necessary adjustments and changes without risking deadlines or budgets. Don’t forget to communicate clearly and often, and if possible – centralize project communications to make it easy for both your project team and client to collaborate.

Not Having a Risk Management Plan

Risk management is one element of great project planning that is often missed. When you plan for the worst-case scenarios you can mitigate risks faster, keeping your projects on track. Common risks in AEC projects include time and budget misallocation, communication breakdowns and re-work and revisions.

Poor Resource Planning

While it can be tempting to start a project with whomever is available, having the right people on a project will save you time, protect your project’s profitability, keep your team from becoming frustrated, and most importantly, ensure your project’s success. Resource planning fails when the process isn’t clear, isn’t documented, and is overly complicated, so keep it simple.

2: Invest in Talent and Culture

The strength of your company is built on the strength of your employees. Invest in the right talent and nurture them with your unique company culture to build a competitive advantage for both your people and your firm.

Today’s companies need to build a culture for attracting top talent, as competition is fierce. The more time you spend recruiting or onboarding employees, the less time is spent on billable work. An investment in developing talent and an appealing culture for your firm will ultimately result in a happier and more efficient workplace. According to the Deltek Clarity Study, firms are making changes to establish a more attractive workplace. 65% of firms are implementing an annual employee survey, while 96% are investing in mentoring and coaching programs.

Assigning the right people to the right projects and tracking utilization will help to improve the velocity and quality of project delivery to your clients. Knowing when to bring in contractors or hire additional employees while reducing turnover will ultimately help drive business growth and help improve employee retention rates.

3: Increase Profitability

Projects and talent will only get you so far – you need to include a focus on efficiency and profitability in order to drive financial success.

If you have the right processes, the right resources, and the right people in place, you’re well on your way to increased efficiency and profitability. When you have control of your budgets in real-time, you will be able to quickly adjust resources and timelines as priorities change, resulting in more proactive project management.

Efficient processes will enable employees to spend less time on non-billable and administrative tasks and more time focusing on what’s important. Increased margins and an accurate view of your costs will power your company to record growth in record time. Deltek customers perform better than their peers with better pipeline visibility, control of projects, and higher yield per employee. Osterlund Architects uses Ajera throughout the entire lifecycle ─ from proposal, design development, construction documents, engineer and contractor coordination, and contract administration, to setting the final roof tile. They can see where their projects stand, view outstanding invoices, and measure performance ─ all in one place.


" Deltek Ajera was the right choice. We have found new levels of productivity, client satisfaction, profitability and success."

– Andrew Osterlund, Principal, Osterlund Architects


Ready to Improve Your Profitability?

Simple Steps to Take Now

  • Ensure Transparency. Enter all jobs with a clear scope and service level agreement (SLA), matching the project scope with a realistic estimate. This helps to avoid project scope creep.
  • Review and Adjust. Take a hard look at your business model to discover any challenges that are leading to scope creep and the poor usage of human time and financial resources.
  • Find Balance. Remember that under-servicing clients is as much an issue as over-servicing them. How is your team spending their time and what adjustments could be made?
  • Monitor Performance. Use appropriate and objective metrics and measure the right key performance indicators (KPIs). Use the Deltek Clarity Scorecard as a guide.

4: Implement a Plan for Growth

Once you’ve established an optimized mix of projects, talent and profitability, you’re ready to turn your attention to building a long-term plan for growth.

It’s tempting to set the goal of growing and scaling your AEC firm fast. However, growth without proper planning will likely set your company back instead of helping you to succeed more quickly. Establishing the right positioning and pricing will provide your firm with the stability needed to grow in the long term.

Careful planning, a clear view of your pipeline, and establishing reliable partnerships will carry you forward to sustained success. The thoughtful planning involved in building a long-term vision for your firm is fundamental. When accepting projects, make sure to bring in the business that will set up your company to succeed and improve profitability. You will need a clear view into your resources to ensure that you properly staff your projects with the right number of people and skill sets. And of course, pay attention to resource planning to continue to build effective client partnerships.

There is enterprise resource planning (ERP) software designed for the industry that can help your firm automate some of these processes – Deltek Ajera and Deltek Vantagepoint. With these project-based solutions, you can proactively manage your pipeline and nurture client relationships so you can stay in touch with clients when it matters  most.


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