Deltek Clarity A&E Industry Study: Changing Project Management Pitfalls into Positive Impacts on the Bottom Line

Posted by Megan Miller on July 23, 2015

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In architecture & engineering (A&E) firms, project management is more than a necessity, it is an art. You have to have the right tools, skills and time to create and deliver the final masterpiece. It will be hard to create an oil painting with clay or use the kiln to fire your watercolor painting. But, unlike some art, projects come with strict deadlines and budgets making it even more challenging to get it right.

Without great project management, A&E firms aren't likely be successful. In this year’s Deltek Clarity A&E Industry Study, we took a deeper dive into the best practices and challenges facing project managers to better understand how it is impacting the firm’s bottom line. At a high level, the data reveals that firms understand the importance of project management, but the results show there are clear opportunities to raise the bar and make measurable improvements that produce significant bottom-line results.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the results to see how your firm measures up and what you can do about it.

Project Status Visibility

We asked firms how confident are they that the right people in their organizations have visibility into the accuracy of their projects’ status. Less than 50% of firms reported high or very high confidence that the right people in their organizations have visibility into the accuracy of their projects’ status. In particular, we’re talking about visibility into milestones vs. actual schedule, budget vs. actual, client satisfaction and so forth. Is this information readily available to the right people when they need it?

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So, how can you effectively manage projects if the right people don’t have the right visibility when they need it most? And, how can we make this better? Here are a few key questions to ask yourself and your firm:

  • Why is visibility so low? Is it because of legacy systems or legacy processes?
  • Who needs better project status visibility and why?
  • What risks or inefficiencies are you creating by not having the right levels of visibility?
  • If given more visibility, how might that positively impact your projects and your bottom line?
  • What will it take to get from where you are now to very high confidence level?

Project Management Maturity

As mentioned before, project management is at the core of what A&E firms do, but we don’t always treat it that way. When asked how mature their firm's project management discipline is, there is definitely room for some improvement. Only 13% of respondents rated their project management as very mature.

PM_Maturity 

This could indicate that most firms think there is always something new to learn in project management or it could indicate a true area for improvement. High performing firms were three times as likely to say their project management discipline was very mature.

And, with 25% of projects across the board being reported as over budget, it seems we have some work to do as an industry.

  • Where are your project managers struggling the most?
  • Is there a correlation between higher turnover rates and immature project management?
  • Do you have systematic training programs for project managers?
  • Have you developed and institutionalized a common approach to managing projects just like you have for designing a building or a bridge?

Strengths and Challenges

Interestingly, when comparing what firms indicated they do well compared to their biggest challenges, many of the top answers are the same on both sides, showing the importance of talking to your project managers about their struggles so you know where to focus your time and energy.

Some firms indicated that their strengths include qualified project managers, having the right tools and collaboration/communication. So, what do firms struggle with? Inexperienced project managers, accurate project cost forecasting (tools) and collaboration/communication.

PM_challenges 

  • What are the top three challenges in your firm?
  • How can you improve collaboration and communication internally and with clients?
  • Do you need to make a strategic project management hire? Do you have a PM mentoring program to use your best and brightest to teach the next generation of best and brightest?
  • How do your PMs share best practices? Where can they go for PM-specific training, just like they would for their area of design expertise?

The bottom line is that project managers are struggling to balance their time, deliver on their promises and be the best project managers they can be. With PMs managing your most significant deliverables, investing in effective project management is investing in your firm’s future, your firm’s resources and your clients. It also can positively impact your bottom line and your attractiveness in the talent war.

More Project Management Insight

These are just a few of the key insights included in this year’s report. Check out the full report to see how your firm measures up against other metrics to identify your areas for improvement.

To learn more about key project management metrics, visit the 36 Annual Deltek Clarity AE Industry webpage where you can:

  • Sign up to follow this blog series
  • Download the full report
  • Register for the two-part webinar series (available on-demand)
  • Sign up to participate in next year’s study for a sneak peek at the report

<Go to http://more.deltek.com/Clarity-AE-2015-IndustryStudy now>