How Effective Project Management is Transforming One Engineering Firm

January 15, 2021

Project Management continues to be an area of focus for improvement at many architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firms. According to the Deltek Clarity Report, only 46% of the firms surveyed last year are using a clearly defined project management process for the majority of their projects.

Many high-performing firms are going above and beyond to improve project management performance. One example is Ecotope, a Seattle-based AEC firm that counteracts the climate crisis with research-proven engineering and visionary leadership. Dave Rosencrans, Director of Operations at Ecotope, shared their strategy for project management success in a recent virtual event, Coffee and Clarity, Analyzing Project Management Trends for the Road Ahead.

Virtual event attendees identified their top AEC project management challenges via a quick poll. These included:

  • Insufficient or poorly executed project management procedures: 42%
  • Accurate project cost and timeline forecasting: 25%
  • Inexperienced project managers: 25%
  • Accountability: 8%

Is your firm facing similar challenges? Read on to discover key learnings or watch the full interview with Dave Rosencrans.


On Demand: Coffee and Clarity Virtual Event

Analyzing Project Management Trends for the Road Ahead

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Here’s five ways Ecotope is driving project management and business success with process improvements and Deltek Ajera project management and accounting software:

1. Invest in Your Project Management Resources

Ecotope introduced the discipline of project management three years ago. They hired Project Managers with Project Management Professional (PMP)® certifications to help the Project Managers better develop and integrate processes with the technical staff. The goal is to deliver better work with greater efficiencies. In a time when many firms are struggling, Ecotope is facing the potential of more work than what they can easily deliver.

The PMPs work directly with the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Ecotope is encouraging the SMEs to start developing more awareness of the financials of their projects. “It’s not enough to just deliver great work,” says Rosencrans. “We want to grow the SMEs so it’s not just on the Project Managers.”

2. Examine Your Project Management Processes

The way Ecotope approaches and delivers projects is very non-standard, non-traditional. A lot of collaborative thinking goes on. “Remote working forced us to examine some of our existing processes to see what was working and what to improve. We made improvements and have delivered more work than ever before with the same staff,” says Rosencrans.

Ecotope is evolving their project delivery by looking holistically at what it takes to get a project out the door. The firm, who is a Deltek Clarity High Performer, utilizes Deltek Ajera to track performance metrics. They are working to move even more KPIs into the high-performing category this year. Clarity High Performers deliver 75% of projects on or under budget and 74% of projects on or ahead of schedule.

“The more people at the company that understand the impact to the business, the more you can impact the business overall,” says Rosencrans. The firm is helping employees better understand how their actions directly impact the next step in the process. “We are bringing in someone to work on Business Development who also understands the financial component so they can identify key risks before we get into the middle of it,” he adds.

3. Optimize Your Project Management Processes

One thing that has changed significantly is that there wasn’t a lot of continuity between the projects. Rosencrans explains, “The nature of our business is changing quickly so there’s a much greater connection between the projects. Our team is understanding that their projects may not exist in a vacuum and that is really changing our project management processes.”

Ecotope is adding staff to the Project Management group and working on an end-to-end basis for work streams across all the projects. “It’s evolving as the nature of our business evolves. We are hiring people that are change agents; not that only want to cross the t’s and dot the i’s,” he says.


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4. Share Best Practices across the Firm

Almost every week, Ecotope provides their team with two sessions on internal learning. The first one is a group conversation addressing a topic of interest, such as key challenges from a recent project. The other session is more formal with a 45 minute presentation and 15 minutes of Q&A. This one focuses on project-based learnings or project-based theory which may be foreign to some of the SMEs. “I never want to be critical of the SMEs for not knowing these things. It’s up to me and the Project Managers to help with the training path,” Rosencrans explains.

5. Be Kind

In a year that’s been tougher than others, Rosencrans reminds everyone to be kind. The weekend before Thanksgiving he drove to every employee’s house and handed out their gift personally. “We have to remember that this year has been really hard and assume that everyone is trying their best,” he adds.

About Dave Rosencrans, Director, Operations, Ecotope

“Design is the point at which human experience meets the material world; it offers limitless potential for improving lives.”

Following a brief flirtation with an electrical engineering degree, Rosencrans instead pursued his passion for arts and culture through a career providing direction at the intersection of creativity and commerce. He held leadership positions at vanguard Northwest organizations such as KCMU Radio (now KEXP), Sub Pop Records, EMP Museum, and Chihuly Studio before joining the management team at regional pioneer Ecotope.

Dave’s professional path brought him in close contact with the design and AEC industries, along with many government, civic and not-for-profit entities. That experience, coupled with a strong interest in urban planning and architecture, made him a natural for Ecotope, where engineers, scientists and policy experts deliver energy innovation for the built environment. Dave helps foster the team’s collaborative studio culture while sustaining a secure platform of operational support, to safeguard and champion big thinking when it collides with the practical realities of making things happen. Dave is a Washington native and lifelong enthusiast of all things #MightyNW.

About Ecotope

Ecotope counteracts the climate crisis with research-proven engineering and visionary leadership. They drive the building industry toward transformative and scalable low-carbon solutions, informed by four decades of learning and technical innovation. Ecotope clients seek holistic designs that optimize energy efficiency and are in harmony with the future grid.

About Deltek Ajera

Deltek Ajera puts your projects and people at the center of your business so you have the visibility to deliver successful projects. Ajera is an integrated project management and accounting system that benefits every role at architecture and engineering firms by ensuring accurate and up-to-date data, communication and accessible reporting. Customizable dashboards provide instant access to the information you need for better insight and decision making so you can optimize resources, improve cash flow, and increase profitability.