Big Data Will Transform Your Company: An ACEC Panel Recap

Posted by Megan Miller on April 29, 2016


Last week, ACEC held the 2016 Annual Convention and Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C. – one of the premier events in the Engineering industry covering critical issues facing engineering firms across the United States.

ACEC Big Data Panel

Bret Tushaus (Deltek), Gary Hill (Cisco), Capt. Jay Bitting (U.S. Naval Academy),
Jeff Cryder (iSqFt), John Doering, Mike Ryan (IMS)

This year, one of the highlights of the convention was the “How Big Data Will Transform Your Company” panel discussion. Deltek’s Bret Tushaus, VP of Product Management, was a part of an esteemed panel of experts on the topic. Joining Bret on the panel were Gary Hill, CTO of Cisco; Capt. Jay Bitting of the U.S. Naval Academy; Jeff Cryder, VP of Finance at iSqFt and Mike Ryan, CEO of IMS. The panel was moderated by John Doering, Author of “Fast Future”.

The overall theme of the panel discussion focused on the one thing we all know engineering firms do not lack - data.   In most firms today that data is there, but is not being used.

During the session, Hill (Cisco) shared the key for firms today is transforming the data they have into usable, actionable data to enable them to make better decisions.

With the challenging global economic environ­ment, shorter business cycles, and changes in the competitive landscape, design firms must be agile if they want to be success­ful in today’s market. Most firms already have the critical asset that’s needed to help ensure their success — data. But simply having data isn’t enough — it’s how the data is used that separates the successful firms from those that are struggling. Organizations that have a clear strategy for organizing and normalizing data for both tactical and strategic purposes can ac­celerate their business decisions to help them stay afloat in the fast-paced market.

“For the last five or six years, there’s been a transition from report formatting as the focus – does it look the way we want, are we using the right colors, etc. – to an increased focus on actually using the data firms already have to drive critical decisions in the organization,” said Tushaus.  In today’s competitive market, firms can no longer make decisions based just on gut feel.  This may have worked in the past, but to grow your firm you need to know what’s happening with your projects, where you are winning, where you are losing, what projects are most profitable so you can make decisions that will drive revenue.

Tushaus also shared with the audience that it’s not about the size or volume of the data you have, it’s about the discipline to act on the data that is already there.  Your success hinges on your firm’s abil­ity to evaluate how your business is operating. You must be able to monitor organizational performance, make necessary adjustments as things change and measure the results. Orga­nizations employing strong data integration practices and using advanced analytics are more likely to be successful. If it is used right, information from data collected drives better decision-making, which leads to improved performance.

The panel also discussed the importance of measuring actions from the data. Determine the metrics to focus on, and ensure you identify benchmarks that are indicators of the health of the firm or the project, such as utilization, WIP, backlog or effective multiplier. Each firm needs to choose the key performance indicators or KPIs that are right for them depending on their maturity level, size, location and strategic plans.

While unlocking the data in firms was the theme, the panel warned firms to be aware of data threats and to be conscientious of protecting their data from the outside.  Unfortunately, we live in world where protecting our data is not an option, it is a must. Data breaches are all too common place.

As one panelist noted, “It’s not if but when your company will be attacked. You are probably being attacked right now. Do you have the right solutions in place to stay ahead of those attackers and limit damage from any breaches?” Your data is one of your most valuable assets and you can’t leave it to chance.

According to the panelists, more firms are moving to the cloud to manage their systems.  While some may be leery of this and think the cloud isn’t secure, the recommendation from the panel was firms should focus on doing what they do best and driving their business. Moving to the cloud gives firms more than just peace of mind for data security. It also means enterprise class infrastructure, redundancy and replication, accessibility and easy expansion to support growth.  

Key Takeaways from the ACEC Big Data Panel

  • Unlock the power of your data
  • Transform your data into actionable data to make better decisions
  • Develop a discipline to act on the data
  • Measure your actions
  • Leave it to the experts to protect your data

Are you interested in finding out how you can unlock the data in your firm to drive better decisions?  For information about how Deltek can help you, check out the Vision Performance Management link below.