Navigating the Waves of AEC Digital Transformation Change
Keeping up with the latest technology trends, growing your firm, managing staff, and getting them to use the technology is no easy task. That’s why engineering firm leader Florence Sterlin went right to the source – her team – to get the information she needs to move the firm’s digital transformation strategy forward.
Sterlin offered every employee the opportunity to spend 15 minutes with the management team with a “create your own agenda” approach. Some employees brought forth their career and education goals, while others stepped up to lead change and offer suggestions on ways to improve productivity and overall operations.
"The employee point of view is critical. It provides us the opportunity to apply feedback into our processes so we can make them better."
– Florence Sterlin, President, DB Sterlin Consultants
For Sterlin, President of DB Sterlin Consultants, it’s fundamental to have the right people on the projects, but just as important to keep it all organized and connected with technology that is built for the industry's unique needs.
A customer since 2006, DB Sterlin utilizes Deltek’s project-based solutions to manage their people, projects and financials. According to Sterlin, “The solution has been a lifesaver, providing ways to drive profitability, reduce liability, and work faster and smarter.” The firm of 100 is celebrating its 25th anniversary this April.
One Step at a Time
During the past several years, there have been a lot of starts and stops in DB Sterlin’s digital transformation journey. From pandemic impacts to return to work protocols, how do you effectively lead and navigate change when you don’t know what’s coming next?
“DB Sterlin’s journey is simply one step, one person at a time. It’s about people, technology, processes and feedback. Sometimes it’s simply asking someone to click on a different tab to use the integrated system to manage their projects and explaining the ‘why’ to that person – helping them understand the importance of all information in one location so everyone has access,” says Sterlin. The firm is striving to meet employees where they are with technology and provide a way to help them advance their skills.
The Technology Generation Gap
As DB Sterlin moves forward, one of the biggest challenges is the gap in technology usage, expectation and comfort-level between generations. “The younger generation is ready to use new technologies, yet many in the older generation want to continue doing things the way they have always done them,” says Sterlin.
To help bridge the technology gap, DB Sterlin Consultants has established a Think Partners Program to connect their multigenerational workforce. Rather than a traditional one-way senior to junior level employee mentorship, they are connecting employees to work as partners.
Sterlin explains, “We empower the junior employee to talk to the senior employee about better ways to utilize technology while the senior employee mentors the junior employee on engineering best practices.” Creating these connections improves processes and builds team morale. “In every role, it’s important to look at ‘Is this the best way to handle this?’” says Sterlin.
Keeping Up With Technology
With the rapid rate of technological change, how do you keep up and where do you look for direction? “Look at what the big companies are doing because whatever they are doing we’ll be doing in five to 10 years," says Sterlin.
Despite their best efforts to provide employees with the tools they need to effectively do their jobs, DB Sterlin struggles, like so many firms, to get all employees to use the designated systems. Challenges like employees keeping all of their files on their computer, instead of one centralized location, still occur. This creates disconnected data and potential project delays if someone becomes sick or unexpectedly leaves the company.
Sterlin is creating a cross-collaborative environment with processes for sharing data and keeping it all in one location. It could be as simple as showing an employee to click in a different area, or emphasizing the importance of completing a form in the shared database so the firm has access to the information.
What’s Next for DB Sterlin
From all employees in the office pre-pandemic, to everyone working from home, DB Sterlin has managed both workplace scenarios. The plan moving forward is a hybrid approach, with set days for employees to be in the office and working on project sites as well as working remotely.
Due to the collaborative nature of their work, Sterlin still finds it beneficial to bring the teams together in the office and at team building events. This summer, the firm is hosting a Chicago boat cruise to explore bridges the firm designed.
They will continue utilizing continuous feedback via ongoing meetings that connect employees with their supervisors to review bright spots and opportunities for improvement. And they will also continue with employee succession plans and career ladders to help employees determine how to grow their careers.
Deltek has supported DB Sterlin's growth and efficiency for more than 15 years. The enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution allows the firm to enforce timesheet approvals to ensure that the correct invoice goes to the client the first time. It easily creates project cost estimates to help with project planning and eliminates the need for paper checks, saving time and postage. While also protecting the firm with all essential information in one consolidated system. Deltek's all-in-one solution helped Sterlin's team during an audit, ensuring the required information was accounted for.
DB Sterlin recognizes it is time to move to the cloud and the modern time-saving features of Deltek Vantagepoint. “We have wanted to upgrade our solution for several years now, but we haven’t been able to get there yet with all the changes we’ve had to navigate,” said Sterlin. While this part of their journey is taking longer than expected, Sterlin knows they will get there soon.
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Florence Sterlin, President DB Sterlin Consultants, Speaks to Drive Thru HR
About DB Sterlin Consultants
DB Sterlin Consultants is a multi-discipline engineering and consulting firm founded in 1997 who offer services to the private and public sectors. They are a full-service transportation consulting and design firm specializing in highways, bridge structures, airports, utilities, railways, tunnels and public sewer and water.
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