This year’s Deltek Clarity Architecture & Engineering (A&E) Study came on the heels of an unprecedented event with the global pandemic. However, the 42nd Annual Deltek Clarity A&E Study showed that despite the challenges presented in 2020, many firms were able to persevere by focusing on fundamentals, maintaining contact with clients and managing costs. The move to remote operations, changes in workplace policy, and greater use of technology identified new areas for improving processes. Additionally, the Clarity Study indicated that firms are optimistic about future opportunities and growth potential moving forward.
The 42nd Annual Deltek Clarity Study collected responses from A&E firms of all sizes in North America based on 2020 fiscal data. Here is an overall look at what was reported this year, but for more detail, the 42nd Clarity Study can be reviewed in its entirety.
Clarity on Technology Trends
Throughout 2020, firms continued technology adoption and deployment as well as migration to the cloud according to the 42nd Annual Deltek Clarity A&E Study. The top technology challenges included cost of technology, prioritizing which technologies would be most beneficial and dedicating a champion to evaluate which technologies would achieve firm goals. Furthermore, the Clarity Study noted that firms expect to increase investments in emerging technologies in project management and execution to reimagine ways of working to increase profitability. Not only will finding ways to leverage technologies in project management be important but also teams will need to be well versed in it to utilize it effectively and efficiently to bring significant returns.
Clarity on Financial Statements
Despite the use of tighter controls and leaner spending in 2020, the financial stability of firms was maintained according to this year’s Annual Deltek Clarity A&E Study. The results of the Study indicated that operating profits and utilization rates increased as net labor multiplier went down, and firms demonstrated no material drop-off in the ability to secure projects or maintain a strong pipeline. The key financial challenges for firms addressed in the report were finding and retaining top talent, in addition to driving and managing growth into the future. Learning during the last year, firms went back to basics and focused more on financials leading to improved operational efficiency and increased profitability.
Clarity on Business Development
The results of the 42nd Annual Deltek Clarity A&E Study noted that business development (BD) resources were being stretched with responsibilities shared among staff, and cross-training employees grew in importance. Another challenge to BD was finding ways to nurture client relationships as in-person meetings and events were cancelled. Furthermore, competition increased for pursuits which caused a slight decline in overall win rates yet electronic proposal submissions freed team members up to focus on other projects. Firms also indicated in this year’s Deltek Clarity Study that they needed to carefully target their marketing efforts to meet client interests and needs. Additionally, using business intelligence (BI) tools and investing in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems would help prevent missed opportunities better positioning firms to win.
Clarity on Project Management
As workers went remote during the pandemic, keeping projects on track became a great concern. Coordinating with clients and keeping teams connected virtually was a new concept and firms needed to come up with a project delivery system that focused on meeting client needs. 2020 did not allow for focusing on enhancing project management best practices or finding experienced talent. Based on the survey results of the 42nd Annual Deltek Clarity A&E Study, going forward, firms appear to be getting more serious about project management. Firms cannot afford to have project managers (PMs) without the necessary training, and a clearly defined process for PMs will help improve project success. Moreover, visibility into and better understanding of project financials can help PMs analyze performance and manage projects proactively while integrating with accounting staff.
Clarity on Human Capital Management
According to this year’s Deltek Clarity A&E Study, Human Capital Management (HCM) KPI tracking decreased overall in 2020 most likely because managers were having to support a remote workforce. Talent acquisition continues to be a top HCM challenge and firms need to find the right balance between in-office and remote workforce practices. Any steps that firms can take to help make the work/life balance more attractive will benefit future recruiting efforts particularly after a year of remote working. Additionally, investments in talent acquisition and performance management tools will help to tackle the ongoing challenges of recruiting, onboarding and retaining quality staff.
The 42nd Annual Deltek Clarity A&E Study Reports Positive Conditions
Even after a very challenging year, the industry outlook and market conditions are positive based on this year’s Deltek Clarity Study. In order to maintain financial stability and keep projects on track, the study shows that A&E firms focused on the fundamentals and stayed close to their clients. From the experience of this past year, new opportunities for improvement have presented themselves across the board. Firms have shown an interest in investing in the training and development of their PMs which will greatly impact project profitability. Realigning strategic marketing initiatives to incorporate virtual interactions when face-to-face are not always feasible will help firms continue to connect with their clients. Furthermore, firms began to provide remote and flexible work options for their staff which going forward will only encourage retention and attract new talent.