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Business Development Trends Discovered in the 40th Annual Deltek AE Clarity Study

Posted by Ryan Felkel on Wed, Sep 18, 2019 @ 12:20 PM

40th Annual AE Clarity Report

The 40th Annual Deltek AE Clarity study uncovered some interesting trends regarding business development from last year. The results indicated that AE firms still are struggling to find new opportunities early enough to convert them into sales. Additionally, a large number of firms that participated in the study identified the need to be more strategic about which potential projects to pursue. Here’s a quick summary of some business development findings from the 40th Annual Deltek AE Clarity Study.

Business Development Challenges

One of the most significant findings in the study is that firms have trouble with prioritizing time to nurture client relationships. More importantly, this is a leading challenge for the second year in a row. The seller-doer model seems to be the go-to business development method for AE firms where not enough attention is given to focusing on potential new business opportunities. If firms stay with this outdated model, this trend will unfortunately continue.

Diving deeper, the number 2 and 3 challenges firms reported are increased competition and identifying new prospects. In regard to competition, this is going to occur in any industry and this challenge sounds more like an excuse. However, identifying new prospects has a direct correlation to firms using the seller-doer model. 61% of firms stated that project managers are almost always responsible for business development. With project managers being tasked to do their core job, delivering projects, they struggle in their efforts to successfully generate new business.

Revenue Growth Forecast Findings 

Less shockingly, net revenue growth remained at 5.1% on average. This is very little change from last year. So, why is this not surprising? The findings that firms lack having a dedicated business development team pinpoint the reason for net revenue growth staying stagnant.

Another notable discovery from the study is that smaller firms continue to pursue small projects that have shorter timelines as opposed to focusing on trying to win larger long-term projects. This business development model is proving to be less effective for generating increased revenue year after year. Smaller firms should take this under consideration when making plans for long term growth.

Key Takeaways from the 40th Annual AE Deltek Clarity Study 

Out of all the firms that participated, less than half of the firms stated that they have a formal business development process. This is astonishing since creating new business is essential for future firm growth. Even more, firms are continuing to use the seller-doer model, and as a result, project managers face the challenge of balancing expectations which can hinder the success of their projects. Learn more by downloading your free copy of the 40th Annual Deltek AE Clarity Study.

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Topics: Professional Services, Deltek Clarity Report

Financial Trend Findings from the 40th Deltek AE Clarity Study

Posted by Ryan Felkel on Wed, Aug 21, 2019 @ 12:53 PM

40th Annual AE Clarity Report

You’ll be happy to know that the 40th annual Deltek AE Clarity Study found that AE firms’ financial metrics increased across the board. However, what you’re really wondering is how your financial metrics matched up against the findings of the AE Clarity Study. By comparing your metrics with the study findings, your firm can see what it must do to ensure it has an even more successful future when compared to past performance. Here are some financial highlights from the 40th Deltek AE Clarity Study.

Hurdles that Firm Financial Leaders Experience

A shocking reality to many firms is that finding and retaining top talent is becoming very costly. In fact, this challenge was introduced to the survey this year, and it was the largest one faced by financial leaders last year. To put this into perspective, it typically costs a business 1% to 2.5% of its total revenue to hire and onboard a new employee according to a study by MIT. For a firm with over $1 million in revenue a year, this is an astonishing amount.

However, there are other standout challenges firm financial leaders faced. Some of these included business development challenges such as increasing profitability and managing firm growth. But when closely reviewing the Clarity Study financial findings, human capital management issues were very common. Succession planning and ownership transition ranked as the fourth leading challenge for financial leaders.   

Key Financial Findings from the Deltek AE Clarity Study

Overall, the 40th Annual Deltek AE Clarity Study found that the majority of firms are improving their financial performance. For instance, the study found that firms have increased their operating profit on net revenue by 1.2%. On the other hand, firms experienced only a 0.4% increase in utilization rate and a 0.05% increase in net labor multiplier.

Surprisingly, overhead rate changes affected firms differently depending on size. Whereas large firms experienced a decrease by 5% in their overhead rates, small firms reported an 11% increase. However, the increases are most likely associated with firms making investments back into their companies and their employees. Other reasons for these increases may be related to inflated office space costs and the general increase in the cost of doing business. Keep in mind, this is just a summary of the financial findings, and you will find more details in the actual report.

Finding Ways to Overcome Financial Hurdles

During the study, firm financial leaders were asked to rank their top three initiatives to overcome the hurdles they face. The majority listed business process improvement as the most important. This makes sense, as a more streamlined business process will quickly cut hidden costs. The study next revealed that firm project managers often lack financial understanding. Therefore, firms are increasing financial training for project managers to create more profitable projects. Lastly, financial leaders want to improve business forecasting which will also help with human capital management.

Benchmark Your Firm Against the AE Industry

The Annual Deltek AE Clarity Study is a great tool that allows AE firms to compare themselves to others in the industry. What makes this study so significant is that it uses information from over 700 companies of all sizes with over 2,500 individuals responding to the survey. As a result, the information contained in the study represents the entire AE industry. So, take advantage of this free study to discover how your firm measures up to the industry standard.

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Topics: Professional Services, Deltek Clarity Report

Summary of Technology Trends from the 40th Annual Deltek Clarity Report

Posted by Madeline O'Connor on Wed, Jul 24, 2019 @ 11:00 AM

40th Annual AE Clarity Report-1

Technology is a huge part of any growing business and leaders are constantly searching for emerging technology trends that can drive their businesses forward. Originally, the A&E industry strayed from embracing new technology because of the time and effort it took to learn and adopt the new trends. However, firms are now identifying technology as a strategic and innovative way to educate staff, identify key initiatives, and implement incremental changes to improve business.

Top Three Technology Trend Challenges

In this year’s Deltek Clarity Survey, firms were asked about their top technology trend challenges. The results presented in the 40th Clarity Report showed that the top three challenges were the struggles of prioritizing trends, the cost of technology, and the lack of time to learn. Other challenges included client education, lack of leadership, and buy-in from firms.

Emerging Technology Trends

For the second year in a row, firms were asked how important nine emerging technology trends were to their businesses. Lining up with the top four from last year, The Internet of Things (loT) and Geo locations ranked in, closely followed by big data and data science.

The loT is the interconnection of devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. It is important because connected devices offer the potential to better manage certain projects. The key is being able to extract and manage actionable data from the loT devices to make informed decisions.

Geo location is more prominent now than ever. Firms can leverage geo location information to make things easier for the employees and clients. Geo locations can be used to determine an employee’s location, to track how long an employee is on a job site or deliver valuable details about the client when you arrive at a project or client office. Firms can use this information to better manage projects and improve client satisfaction giving them a competitive advantage.

Application of Technology Trends

This year, firms were also asked to which areas of their business they apply technology trends. Most firms are looking at implementing these trends into projects themselves through either project management or project execution. Futhermore, more than half of the firms want to apply technology to improve their business development and marketing.

The problem is that not enough firms are seeing the value of technology and how it can improve human capital management. Potential and existing clients are wanting businesses to be tech-savvy, and those that can deliver streamlined services that use up-to-date technology will stand out from the rest. Embracing technology today can create a clear competitive advantage, while those who are not will have to play catch up later.

Top Technology Trend Initiatives

Additionally, firms were asked to identify the top three initiatives they are employing to address technology challenges in the next three years. Two-thirds of the firms identified creating a strategic plan as one of their top three initiatives, followed by educating staff and identifying and developing technology subject matter experts. With these initiatives in mind, how can firms get this information and learn from it and eventually apply it to their work forces?

First, firms just need to know where to start. Industry associations and partners are a great resource they can use to learn more about technology. Firms should not be nervous about integrating new technology into their organization because of the fear of failure. Once they gain an understanding of the technology, developing a budget for implementing these trends will become more manageable.

Learn More From the 40th Annual Deltek Clarity Report

This is simply a summary of technology trends from this year’s report. For more details, download a copy of the 40th Annual Deltek Clarity Report today. You may also find other topics of interest to keep your firm ahead of the competition.

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Topics: Technology Solutions, Deltek Clarity Report

How Do You Measure Your Firm’s Success?

Posted by Ryan Felkel on Wed, Jun 05, 2019 @ 01:18 PM

Metrics Measuring your firm’s achievements and shortcomings are important to ensure continued future success. However, many firms are unsure of what factors indicate the health of their business. Also, some firm leaders believe one indicator, such as financial reports, is more important than other areas like talent management. Well, that is not necessarily the case. Let’s take a look at some of the indicators your firm should use to make informed decisions to improve business performance.  

Employee Recruitment and Retention Rates

One of the largest factors affecting the growth of architectural and engineering (A&E) firms is human capital management. Having the right people working on the right projects has a significant impact on the profitability and overall success of an A&E firm. From highlighting experienced staff members during the RFP process to actually delivering the project, talent affects all aspects of your business. Looking at recruitment rates, employee turnover rates and several other talent management metrics is essential to evaluating and measuring success.

Measuring Business Development

Wasted time on winning new business is very costly. Measuring win rates, revenue from top clients and net revenue growth will prevent wasted time. For some, this seems like a logical thing to measure, but many firms don’t track this information and they should. If you’re tracking these numbers and they continue to decline, then you know you have some major issues. You can quickly change this trend by evaluating what types of projects you’re winning and losing, and why.

Financial Metrics

Without a doubt, financial metrics are extremely important. Knowing things like total employee cost, overhead rate, and total payroll multiplier are necessary to keeping your finger on the pulse of your business. Diving deeper, measuring performance using metrics like operating profit on net revenue, utilization rate and the net labor multiplier from previous years can provide a clear picture of the performance of your firm. If these numbers slip in a negative direction, other metrics mentioned in this article could provide useful insight.

Overlooked Technology Needs

Historically, the A&E industry has been hesitant to adopt new technology. As a result, firms continue to use outdated technology that lacks the abilities to keep up with the changing A&E industry. This has become the number one hurdle for little firms to keep up with larger and faster growing firms. A&E firms need to evaluate their current technology.  Are your systems connected or is there a lot of manual entry from one software tool to another? Is your software up to date? Being behind on technology can greatly hinder your ability to even measure performance indicators.

Comparing Your Firm to Others

Ok, let’s assume your firm will measure these metrics and keep track of them. Even better, it will use current metrics and compare them to historical metrics to notice trends. However, does it compare itself to other A&E firms to determine where it stands in the industry? Well, it can. Make sure to download the Deltek A&E Clarity Industry Study to see how your firm stacks up against your competition. The Deltek A&E Clarity Industry Study is created in collaboration with ACEC, the Association Consulting Engineering Companies Canada, SMPS and AIA. The data collected comes from 386 US and Canadian firms and draws from over 250,000 data points.

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Topics: Professional Services, Deltek Clarity Report

The 39th Annual Deltek A/E Clarity Report is Now Available

Posted by Jennifer Renfroe on Wed, Jul 11, 2018 @ 11:35 AM

39th Annual Deltek AE Clarity Report Each year Deltek conducts a survey of firms in the architecture and engineering industry to identify key issues impacting the market, highlight bright spots, and forecast future trends. Guided by industry experts, the survey focuses on financial statements, business development, project management, human capital management, and technology trends. This year, in total, 952 individuals took the survey, and nearly 450 companies provided input. Firms in this study are of varying sizes and headquartered across the US and Canada.

Key Findings in This Year’s Deltek A/E Clarity Report

Financial Statements

Firms’ financial statements reveal year-over-year stability in the industry, with most impacts appearing to be driven by talent management and staffing changes.

  • Average operating profit on net revenue was 13.2%, up just slightly from last year’s 13% and the previous year’s 12.8%.
  • Utilization rates dropped slightly to 59.4% from 60.0% last year.
  • The net labor multiplier saw a decrease to an average of 2.96, down quite significantly from a spike of 3.02 last year and back in line with 2015.
  • Firms reversed a five-year decline in overhead rate, increasing from 154% to 155%.
  • The average collection period dropped by one day to 71 days, although high performers increased by two days to a 67-day average.

Business Development

Firms are looking to diversify opportunities and their business development efforts to stay ahead in a competitive market.

  • Net revenue growth forecast was 5.2%, down just slightly from last year’s 5.3%.
  • Firms are using a diverse array of staff for business development, with 19% of firms using dedicated business development staff only, 31% sellers/doers only, and 50% using a mixture of both. However, only 46% of firms had a formal business development process for their staff.
  • Win rates improved to 50.0%, rising 9.8 percentage points from last year’s 40.2%.
  • The percentage of firms with a formal go/no-go process decreased from 75% last year to 67% this year.
  • More firms expect growth in surveying/geographic information systems (GIS), transportation, and commercial markets than any other industry, whereas nearly 60% of firms expect their position to stay the same or decline in the residential, education, and hospitality markets.

Project Management

Firms need to continue to focus on improving the project management discipline and increasing client satisfaction.

  • Two-thirds of all firms have a high level of visibility on cost variance, whereas more than half of all firms stated that they had low or moderate visibility into schedule variance and client satisfaction. Compared to last year, client satisfaction visibility decreased from 53% to 45%.
  • Firms this year reported that 20% of their projects were over budget and 25% of their projects were behind schedule.
  • Sixty-one percent of firms had high confidence in their overall project reporting abilities, down from 72% last year. More than 90% of firms felt confident they were accurately reporting the actual cost and budget of their projects, whereas only 69% of firms felt the same about the accuracy of their schedule reporting.
  • In terms of discipline maturity, only 47% of firms used a formal project management process for three-fourths or more of their projects. Overall, 18% of firms had a PMO or center of excellence. Additionally, only 39% of firms have less than one-quarter of staff with formal project management training.
  • Eighty-one percent of firms are measuring client satisfaction, and of these firms, 45% are conducting these measures for all projects and 49% for strategic projects only. The majority are measuring client satisfaction irregularly, compared to 22% of firms that do so at key project milestones. 

Human Capital Management

Firms are experiencing growth, but employee turnover—particularly voluntary turnover—has increased, making staff retention and improved talent acquisition imperative.

  • Staff growth is 4.3%, declining from 6.9% last year.
  • Employee turnover increased to 12.8%, up from 11% last year.
  • 34% of firms had more open positions, compared with only 15% with fewer open positions.
  • The average time to fill positions was 31–60 days, although for 15% of firms, it takes an average of 90 or more days to fill positions. Compared to last year, there was a 7-percentage-point decrease in firms that filled positions in less than 30 days.
  • Of all firms, 43% have a formal succession plan. For 68% of firms, their succession plan applies only to current leaders and next-in-line leaders, whereas for 7% it applies to all employees.

Technology Trends

In the first year tracking technology trends, firms are looking for better ways to collect data that can be leveraged for strategic decisions.

  • Geolocation and the Internet of Things (IoT) were the most important technology trends.
  • Most firms did not rank artificial intelligence (AI) or wearable technology as technology trends they are focused on, but it can significantly change the way we run our businesses when the time is right.

Benchmark Your Firm with the Deltek A/E Clarity Report 

While these are the highlights of the 39th Annual Deltek A/E Clarity study, the report goes into much more detail. Using these results, you can see how your firm has been doing not only compared to your previous year, but also to other comparable firms in your industry. With these industry insights, you can develop future goals to help your firm stand out against the growing wave of competition. For an in-depth view of everything included in the 39th Annual Deltek A/E Clarity report, download your copy today.

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Topics: Professional Services, Deltek Clarity Report

The 39th Annual Deltek A&E Clarity Industry Study Results: Focus on Human Capital Management

Posted by Jennifer Renfroe on Wed, Jun 20, 2018 @ 11:35 AM

39th Annual Deltek A&E Clarity Report Talent FactsAccording to the 39th Annual Deltek A&E Clarity Industry Study, one of the top three firm initiatives to address financial challenges is managing growth. Firms are needing to quickly expand departments, hire and train new employees, and find ways to retain them to prevent turnover. Not only are project managers dealing with staff shortages, but inexperienced project managers ultimately lead to client dissatisfaction and poor perception of firms in the marketplace. Firm financials are being directly impacted by issues with human capital management.

Turnover and Talent Acquisition

The results of this year’s Deltek A&E Clarity study show that human resources (HR) professionals are seeing higher voluntary turnover, more open positions with longer average time to fill plus difficulties with talent acquisition. Turnover has increased by nearly two percent compared to last year, and the percentage of firms that take 31–60 days to fill an open position went up by four points. Regarding talent acquisition, many firms are not focused enough on improving the efficiency of the talent management process. The majority are still using outdated HR systems with 63% of small firms having not updated their HR systems within the past five years making it a challenge to track KPIs. Talent acquisition remains the most expensive business process facing HR.

Drop in Utilization Rates

Additionally, firms have seen utilization rates drop slightly for the second year in a row, declining to 59.4% from 60% last year. This may be due to firms having a harder time recruiting, onboarding, and retaining talent this year and leading to higher employee salaries to attract the best talent at lower billable utilization. This shift in utilization rates is also reflected in the small increase in overhead rates. Firms should develop a strategic onboarding process to reduce the time it takes to get new hires assigned to billable projects. Another issue affecting financials is that increased turnover means senior staff are pulled to train new employees pulling them from their current tasks.

HR Stuck in Recruiter Mode

This year’s Deltek A&E Clarity report also noted that with growth management, HR professionals tend to get stuck in recruiter mode leaving little time to focus on other essential tasks to help keep staff engaged. Firms need to first properly train their staff, so they are productive. They must then find out what professional development and learning opportunities their employees are looking for to ensure retention. According to the study, only 13% of firms said they have a learning management system (LMS). This is down two percentage points from last year, when 15% of firms reported having an LMS.

Succession Planning and Retention

Another key aspect to employee retention is succession planning. The Deltek A&E Clarity study showed that of all firms, only 43% have formal succession plans. Therefore, firms need to focus not just on identifying tomorrow’s leaders, but also on engaging high-potential employees in a way that keeps them at the firm and lets them know that the firm is invested in their success. For 68% of firms with a succession plan in place, it only applied to current leaders or those next in line. Only 7% had plans that applied to all employees. Regardless of size, without a succession plan, the future of the firm is especially at risk if something happens to its current leaders or key staff.

Future Human Capital Management Strategy

Of particular interest, the Deltek A&E Clarity study suggested that to develop an effective future human capital management strategy, firms must evaluate what different generations want and need. With baby boomers voluntarily retiring, firms must change their approach to new hires by offering tailored benefits such as tuition reimbursement and the ability to work from home. Overall, firms that offered these and the more traditional benefits, including stock ownership options, medical, 401(k) or retirement plans, performance bonuses, or paid overtime, do have higher total employee costs. However, firms that did so would have higher employee retention rates, thus reducing the financial burden of turnover.

Clarity Outlook for Human Capital Management

Firm financials are being impacted by challenges in human capital management. In the next year, firms should focus on updating outdated human resource systems, appealing to the new workforce generation, providing strategic onboarding, offering top professional development and learning opportunities, and creating succession plans for all employees. For the future, financial leaders must manage growth by tracking the costs of talent acquisition and investing in their employees to prevent turnover. To really understand the true cost savings of employee retention, HR must continue to work closely with financial professionals. Lastly, make sure to download your free copy of the 39th Annual Deltek A&E Clarity Report now.

39th Annual Deltek A&E Clarity Report Deep Dive Into Human Capital Management 

Topics: HR, Deltek Clarity Report

Key Performance Metrics for Architecture and Engineering Firms

Posted by Amy Balassone on Wed, Nov 15, 2017 @ 10:00 AM

AE Firm Metrics Blog.pngHow does your firm measure up? That is the vital question many architectural and engineering (AE) firms should be asking themselves. It is challenging to manage what you are unable to measure! There are several key performance metrics that an AE firm should use to determine its current status. These measurements are important to not only keep you abreast of the condition of your company, but they also allow you to examine the past, so you can plan for the future. Let’s look at a few of the significant performance metrics.

Proposal Win Rate

A win rate offers insight into which business development endeavors are working.  A minimal improvement in your win rate can make a crucial difference in your profitability. Win rates will aid in determining the chances of sealing a deal. The capability of your company to gain new business is critical to your success.

Profit

Profit is one of the most important metrics in ascertaining the success of any company. Profitability metrics help AE firms determine if they are actively engaging suitable businesses. Profit is the measurement of gross income deducting all expenses.

Labor Utilization

The labor utilization metric helps evaluate acceptable staffing levels.  This metric offers insight into the performance of all employees, identifying which employees are under performing and which are over performing. To maintain an effective labor utilization rate, management should spend time reviewing both direct and indirect portions of the metric.

Net Revenue/Operating Income

Net revenue is the force that keeps a business thriving while the operating income is a measure of business capacity. This measurement determines the amount of income that a firm passes along to subcontractors for their services versus the amount that they keep for their own services. It is a noteworthy metric.

Backlog

To measure whether you are operating within your budget and track the remaining work your firm has, the backlog analytic is very helpful. For this metric to be effective, it is important to include both the proposals you hope to win as well as the current work that remains. This will allow your firm to get an accurate picture of your ongoing work and budget needs. 

Client Loyalty

For any business to grow and continue to be successful, client loyalty is a necessity. It is important for both word of mouth referrals and repeat business. Meeting client expectations, proactively engaging in client feedback and acting on areas that need improvement are all essential to keep loyalty.

Cost of New Business

Company growth is often the result of new business. There is almost always a cost involved with obtaining new business such as labor and materials. Measuring these costs aids in selecting which new businesses to go after and if the potential gain will outweigh the cost.

Measuring Up the Firm

Continuously measuring and monitoring key performance metrics on a regular basis is vital to the continued success of your AE Firm. While we have discussed some notable ones, there are endless measurable metrics for your firm. It is up to you to determine which metrics would most benefit your particular firm. However, make sure both staff and management have a clear understanding of the chosen company metrics and your goals.

38th Deltek AE Clarity Report

Topics: Deltek Clarity Report