Tech Trends―What A&E Firms Should be Focusing on Today

July 02, 2024
What A&E Firms Should be Focusing on Today

During a recent chat, Deltek’s Bret Tushaus, VP Product Management, discussed the latest tech trends and how A&E firms should be using that insight for their business strategy.

What is the current landscape for A&E firms regarding their use of technology?

Firms are actively acquiring and integrating technology more broadly across the organization as part of their business strategy, a notable advancement over the last few years. Firms know they need to invest in technology to keep pace with the industry. According to the latest Deltek Clarity A&E Industry Study, 59% of firms expect to invest in technology for project management, with 42% reporting a planned investment in customer relationship management solutions. Firms are continuing to plan for various technology implementations, especially since the tech landscape is growing and offers new opportunities for improving efficiency and generating revenue.

What are some of the challenges facing A&E firms?

One of the biggest challenges firms reported in the study, is determining how to implement emerging technology. Additional challenges include implementing new software (41% of firms), lack of integration for systems (29% of firms), operating with a smaller IT budget, finding top IT talent and figuring out where to prioritize investments.

Determining how and when to use artificial intelligence (AI) is also on the radar for firms. When leveraging any new technology, a great approach is identifying manageable, resonant use cases to rally around as a starting point. By establishing and learning from some small wins, firms can build on that momentum and expand into other business areas.

Do the challenges vary by firm size or any other variable?

Prioritizing applicable tech trends is number one for all firms. The cost of technology and lack of expertise are more of a challenge for small firms, which is not a surprise. However, small firms are still looking to use technology to solve challenges. According to the study, 61% of small firms report that their number one initiative is implementing tech trends and the second is educating staff on technology needs.

What is the best way to get started on this journey?

In general, digital transformation is an ongoing process, not a one-time project. Identify use cases and begin with the end in mind.

Start small with manageable projects to build momentum. Think about what talent exists in your firm and harness that experience. Great ideas can come from any corner of the business. One way to seek out ideas is to form cross-functional teams that include members from different departments to work on AI projects. This encourages knowledge sharing and diverse perspectives. It is also essential to set clear, measurable goals—and that goes for any tech implementation.

For AI specifically, firms should work on fully understanding the technology. Within this vast umbrella of artificial intelligence are subsets like machine learning, deep learning and generative AI. Examples range from virtual assistants, automation, developing 3-D models or renderings, to data analysis or exploration. Understanding the unique capabilities of different AI approaches is essential. Educating individuals and organizations across the entire AI spectrum demystifies things and enables informed decisions on which type of AI should be applied to various operational functions. Start with that foundational understanding as step one.

Looking further out, concentrate on the opportunities to apply AI for your firm. It could be automation, design, or communication, such as using an AI assistant. There are a vast number of use cases, and here again, is the importance of setting goals with the end game in mind. For example, do you have a staffing challenge and are looking to solve that by automating some processes? Opportunities are huge, and successful generative AI adoption hinges on an intimate connection to the overall business strategy.

Right now, according to the study, firms are using generative AI for marketing and proposal creation (24%), data summarization (17%), 3D modeling and rendering (15%) and data analysis (14%). In anticipation of advancements, firms largely expect AI to help most with improving operational efficiency (62%), improving project timeline/delivery (52%) and reducing overhead costs (35%).

How do you determine which solutions to invest in?

Firms must have a goal, such as solving a strategic business initiative or a high-value use case, before investing. Do a baseline assessment by analyzing existing systems, technology and workflows and then identifying critical gaps like outdated software, lack of data integration, etc. It’s important to determine what you lack, but also, what you have and no longer use. Letting go long forgotten applications can save money so you will have the funds to invest in what you need today.

Then, make a list of priorities: feasibility, impact and cost. Think about what actions you plan to take and in what order, like implementing a CRM system, training staff on new technologies or piloting AI projects.

AI is front and center and making the biggest buzz at industry conferences, but the same planning goes for an AI investment as any other technology. Start with the goal and then understand the unique capabilities. Educating individuals and organizations across the entire AI spectrum enables informed decisions on which type of AI should be applied to various operational functions.

It is also essential to understand that AI should be viewed as a tool to augment human capabilities, not replace them. Integrating AI alongside human skills boosts productivity and creativity. Embracing AI requires a well-thought-out change management plan and support for individuals adapting to this technological shift.

What should firms think about today, not tomorrow or next year, regarding technology?

Understand how much time you and your team spend on tedious, repetitive tasks that drain you and your team's creative energy. How many brilliant ideas are not explored because you and your teams are too bogged down in administrative work to bring them to life? Start using technology now, even in small ways, and you will begin reaping rewards in terms of productivity and profitability.


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