Challenges Facing The Built Environment: Why Now Is The Time To Embrace Technology

Posted by Andy Mckay on October 12, 2018

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A quarter of all Australian AEC projects suffer delays and/or cost over-runs, but new smart and dynamic digital tools enable architects and engineers to conquer admin and increase profitability.

New technologies such as 3D printing, virtual reality and BIM hog the limelight in the AEC sector, but back-of-house digital tools have the capacity to deliver significant improvements to business performance and outcomes.

Recent Deltek research asserts that consulting firms need to embrace technology to minimise risk and remain relevant, but many are not sufficiently equipped to deal with market challenges such as increased financial pressures, procurement processes and legislative and compliance issues.

Users of Deltek’s Project Information Management (PIM) tool – an intuitive system that integrates document and unstructured information management with project accounting functions – have discovered several unexpected benefits.

Sharon Rowland, HR and Practice Manager at Design Inc in Melbourne, rolled out PIM in 2016 and has noticed a shift towards more strategic thinking as a result. “Because forecasting is something that we’ve started tracking and publishing, simply looking at those figures has improved our performance by making us more aware,” Rowland explains.

“That’s had an impact on how we manage our finances, and a side effect has been a desire to get more accurate data in other areas of the business that are less clear, such as how many submissions are in the pipeline,” she says. “It’s helped us to look further out to the horizon.”


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Managing An Era Of Greater Competition And New Technology

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Image rights: DesignInc

Deltek’s Insight to Action report argues that professional services firms must grapple with greater competition and new technology in order to thrive, and Peddle Thorp in Brisbane provides a positive example of the benefits of early adoption. Mark Cronin, Senior Executive, Design Systems & Technology, oversaw the roll out of PIM across the firm’s three Queensland offices which yielded productivity benefits and a rich trove of data that can be analysed in different ways.

“It’s improved our business performance as a whole as we capture a lot more information and start compiling a big picture,” Cronin says. “Now, four years since we introduced Deltek PIM, we have opportunities to analyse not only which project teams and leaders offer more profitability, but which project types, clients and regions are better for our business.


'PIM is now viewed as an essential tool in an increasingly challenging operating environment'



“Deltek PIM gives us the ability to use data in a smarter way, and now it’s just a matter of time until there is an AI or data miner to slot over the system to harvest trends that we may not even have thought to look for,” he adds. “The fact that information is being captured in a standardised way means we are able to capitalise on it in unexpected ways.”

One of the most highly lauded features of PIM is its ease of use, Cronin says, with different methods of inputting or extracting information depending on user proficiency and preference. Help is always available too, ranging from online videos to tutorials to a personalised help desk.

For Sharon Rowland at DesignInc, one of the major benefits of switching to PIM is the ease of searching, a great example of a new technology making business easier rather than more complicated. “It’s a beautiful thing and you get used to it quickly,” she says. “For example, email management was a huge issue for us before. We had an add-on program that was average in its performance, so the biggest selling point with Deltek PIM was the ease of integrating email with our project documentation; it’s easy and comfortable, and totally searchable, and people like it.”


'professional services firms must grapple with greater competition and new technology in order to thrive'



She says that PIM is now viewed as an essential tool in an increasingly challenging operating environment, where fees have reduced over time leading to a smaller buffer on projects. “We have become better at planning, and, once we win a project, we look at our resourcing and think ahead beyond current projects, to build a culture of excellence,” Rowland explains.

“It has also helped us to become more disciplined around each project, and to notice overruns more than we used to, and to see ‘scope creep’ generally,” she says. “Where a director used to manage all the project finances, now it’s shared with the project leaders and they can see and understand the implications of their decisions more easily using Deltek PIM.”

The most valuable advantage of using PIM is the intangible effect it has on DesignInc’s workplace culture, Rowland asserts. “Before we start a new project, we get the basics and financials sorted so we can look up and out to determine what each project offers strategically, in terms of learning development, career prospects and new architectural perspectives,” she explains. “Essentially, we get the groundwork right from the start, so that our people can focus on the part of their jobs they love, the design and delivery, rather than the admin.”


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