During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses across all industries were forced to make quick and decisive decisions. For A&E firms, determining the best plan to keep projects profitable and on schedule became the priority. While many departments were able to quickly adjust to working from home and figuring it out as they went, finance leaders had to determine how to maintain financial controls immediately. The 42nd Deltek A&E Clarity highlights the success of these efforts in addition to providing some insights on other key financial metrics.
Numbers that Improved
Across the board, A&E firms of all sizes had increased utilization rates in comparison to the previous year. With small firms reporting a little over two percent increase and large firms showing over a one-percent increase. While this increase seems small, it’s actually significant when viewed as a change over a one-year period. Additionally, net revenue per employee also increased for A&E firms of all sizes. When looking back over the last year and comparing other relative information, it’s reasonable to link this improved utilization rate to the fact that firms had minimal growth of personnel. Meaning existing employees are being worked more and firms need to be aware of the negative effects of employee burnout. Make sure to learn about exception reporting and how this can help identify employees that are at risk of burnout.
The overhead rate for A&E firms dropped in comparison to last year which can be linked directly to the decrease in travel and other in-person related expenses. Obviously, this can be attributed to restrictions created by the pandemic, but it also leaves room to wonder if this can be maintained in the future as the world transitions to the “new normal.” Which itself is still unclear, many are predicting a hybrid variation of a remote and in-person work environment. This is even highlighted in the 42nd Deltek A&E Clarity report as something firms need to evaluate in the future.
The largest indicator of success is the firm’s earnings after all operating expenses are taken out which is referred to as the operating profit on net revenue. Unsurprisingly, A&E firms that responded to the Deltek A&E Clarity survey overwhelmingly indicated an increase with small firms reporting an eleven percent increase over the previous year. Looking back to overhead rate, the pandemic related changes firms were forced to make is a clear connection between these two numbers making it difficult to determine if this will be sustained in future years.
Numbers that Suffered
While success is easy to celebrate, shortcomings also need to be reviewed and given attention. Starting with the net labor multiplier, firms that responded to the 42nd Deltek A&E Clarity study reported a decline to a minimal increase. Which actually breaks a ten-year trend and reverted net labor multipliers being realized by firms to similar rates of five and six years ago.
An A&E firm’s most consistent indicator of operating performance is the total payroll multiplier. On face value, the total payroll multiplier remained unchanged from the previous year which seems like a win. And might as well be when considering the challenges firms were presented with as a result of the pandemic.
Future Financial Initiatives
Across the board, respondents to the 42nd A&E Deltek Clarity study stated their top priority is business process improvements which is a consistent leader year after year. Furthermore, this seems like a vague statement that lacks an actual plan action and is likely the yearly list leader for this reason. With all the adversity firms faced throughout the last year, it might be a good time to start implementing a business process improvement plan by first mapping out firm processes to see how these changes have impacted firm operations.
Further down the list of financial initiatives firms wish to address are better managing growth, organizational change, and increasing spending for talent acquisition and retention which are ranked fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. Lumped together, all of these are a component of human capital management. From an employee perspective, this is promising to know that A&E firms are realizing that their value proposition is their people.
Gain Financial Clarity
In the face of uncertainty, A&E financial leaders buckled down by tightening finance controls by embracing technology to keep teams connected. Similar to what other departments within the firm did which is detailed in the technology trends section of the A&E Deltek Clarity report. Further, it’s exciting and promising to see that A&E firms weathered the initial impact of the pandemic fairly well. While the future still has some uncertainties, A&E industry has once again proven to be resilient and capable of overcoming adversity.
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