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Key Takeaways from the 42nd Deltek AE Clarity Report - Project Management Edition

Posted by Ryan Felkel on December 22, 2021

Managing and delivering successful projects is the goal of every architecture and engineering (AE) firm. For most, it’s nearly a repeatable process that requires some minor adjustments to the work breakdown structure to meet the unique needs of a project’s scope. Year after year, AE firms continued with this same process while making improvements based on lessons learned. Then all of a sudden, everything in our world was altered, including the way AE firms manage and deliver successful projects.

Woman managing a time clock

However, it’s not all gloom and doom. There’s actually good news to report! According to the 42nd Deltek AE Clarity Report, firms of all sizes dealt with the uncertainty and unexpected changes very well.

Clarity on Project Management Success    

Overall, the majority of firms that responded to the Deltek AE Clarity Survey indicated that their projects stayed on schedule with some being ahead. This is great to hear, and there is more. Most of the respondents also indicated that projects remained on or under budget in 2020. This is a consistent result year after year in the AE Clarity Study findings. As 2020 was filled with uncertainty with no clear end in sight, staying on or under budget is an amazing accomplishment. Kudos to those firms!

Clarity on Challenges for Project Managers

Interesting enough, it is hard to link the effects of the pandemic to the findings in the Deltek AE Clarity Study. Overall, project status visibility issues continue to be reported as a common challenge for project managers over the past few years. Furthermore, visibility into project cost variance remains a top reason for not being able to identify project overruns before it is too late.

Highlighting other challenges AE firms experienced in 2020, tracking project KPIs continues to hinder project managers and jeopardize the successful outcome of projects. This is followed by schedule variance visibility, which only had a small upward change from previous AE Clarity Study findings. In summary, project visibility issues remain problematic but can be easily resolved by using a project management software built specifically for AE firms.

Clarity on Client Satisfaction

Mentioned, but less of a focus for project managers, is visibility into client satisfaction throughout the project life cycle. In the survey, only 40% of firms stated that they measured and tracked client satisfaction. What makes this troubling is that it is a fact that the client experience (CX) and client satisfaction has a direct impact on the ability to win future work.

For many firms, this is an unaddressed problem because they have neither a formalized CX initiative nor a solution to help track client satisfaction. This is likely because these firms are unaware that there are resources to improve their CX. Full Sail Partners is an active partner with Client Savvy, the creators of the Client Feedback Tool and the CXPS Community and can help firms to acquire these needed CX resources.

Clarity on Future Project Management Initiatives

AE firms historically have embraced a business model that forces project managers to wear multiple hats at the firm. However, this seems to be changing with more firms stating they want to:

  • Clearly define responsibilities for project management, business development and design work.
  • Invest in internal project manager training.
  • Develop internal project management best practices.

Surprisingly, all respondents to the AE Clarity Study indicated one of these as a top priority at their firm. Further down on the list of the top initiatives for AE firms is the need to hire more qualified talent. Noted in the Human Capital Management section of the AE Clarity Study, firms stated that the availability of good talent is a top acquisition challenge.

AE Clarity on the Future of Project Management

AE firms looking for future success have recognized the need to pay more attention to the discipline of project management. Moving forward, project managers need to focus on delivering successful projects. Firm leaders need to find others to share or take on the work of business development and let designers focus on creating. In other words, firms need to give the discipline of project management the respect and attention it deserves.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

With all the uncertainty of 2020, AE firms remained resilient when faced with adversity. This says a lot about an industry that is directly affected by economic ups and downs. Overcoming what could have been an industry crippling situation, firms adapted, and project managers stepped up to continue to deliver great projects.

The Deltek AE Clarity Report is an insightful study that firm leaders should review each year. Additionally, firm leaders should use the available scorecard to benchmark their firm’s results with the rest of the industry. Get a free copy of the Study and the scorecard using the button link below.

Link to download the 42nd Deltek A&E Clarity Report

Deltek 42nd AE Clarity Study Reveals an Evolving AE Workforce

Posted by Ryan Felkel on December 01, 2021

Starting with the obvious, all departments and roles at AE firms were directly impacted by the global pandemic. This is emphasized in each section of the 42nd Deltek AE Clarity Study. However, the Human Capital Management (HCM) segment highlights another challenge firms are facing – a multigenerational workforce.

Today, an AE firm’s workforce can include members of up to four generations. This infusion of differing opinions about professionalism, work-life balance, and overall expectations of an employer has pushed many company leaders to shift their culture to embrace these differences. While some firms have accepted this multigenerational workforce, others have chosen to keep up their traditional methods – until now.

manager demonstrating poor human capital management practices

When the COVID-19 global pandemic struck, expectations of flexible schedules, more casual work environments, and telecommute options were thrust upon everyone without warning. Even those that were steadfastly against the idea of hybrid workers. Now, we are at the crossroads of two seemingly unrelated challenges that have a common solution, and the pros and cons of this evolving workforce dynamic are highlighted in the 42nd Deltek AE Clarity Study.

New Human Capital Management Challenges

Great workforce management requires consistency, which is everything that work, and life hasn’t been since 2020. As a result, this imbalance has created a new leading challenge for AE firms in terms of HCM. According to the 42nd Deltek AE Clarity Study, succession and career development planning jumped to first place from third place in the previous study. Subsequently, performance management and employee engagement fell to second and third place.

On the surface, these challenges are expected in the given circumstances. Taking a deeper dive, learning and development programs ranked fourth overall and was considered a top three challenge for forty-eight percent of survey respondents. Looking below the surface, succession and career development planning, and learning and development programs are closely linked. Therefore, it’s logical that the increase in ranking in both these challenges goes hand in hand.

Employee Turnover and Staffing Levels

Overall, survey respondents reported that employee turnover rate went down over one percent. This may seem like a small change, but it goes against trends documented in past surveys. In previous years, AE firms reported increases in employee turnover rates. Likely because of the strong economy. Since 2020, it has been likely that employees preferred to stay with their existing employer for stability instead of taking a leap of faith with a new company during uncertain times.

In terms of personnel growth over the previous year, firm respondents stated that they had an increase of 0.5% which is nearly 3% less than reported in the 41st Deltek Clarity Study. This is likely the result of hiring freezes during uncertain times. Additionally, thirty-three percent of firms reported having more open positions at the time of the survey and fifty percent had fewer open positions. Encouraging is the fact that forty-eight percent of respondents state the reason for open positions is solely because of firm growth.

Talent Acquisition Challenges

One of the least surprising findings of the 42nd Deltek AE Clarity Study is that the availability of good candidates in the marketplace once again ranked number one in terms of top talent acquisition challenges. The simple cause and effect assumption is to connect this finding to the decrease in employee turnover rates and other factors like uncertainty about the future economy. But what impact will the pandemic and a new hybrid workforce has on talent acquisition challenges.

For years, firms have competed for talent within their local geographies. However, the global pandemic has allowed firms to embrace their evolving workforce, and employee can be an effective member of the team whether they are at the office or at their home. When taking into consideration the changes created by the pandemic, the challenges of the past, such as matching qualified candidates to open positions and offering competitive compensation will likely become minute in comparison to the other challenges listed in the Clarity Study.

Focusing on Managing and Retaining Talent

Providing a clear career path with training goals and milestones helps keep employees engaged and ultimately retain talent. For AE firms, this strategy helps them plan for the future to make sure the firm can remain successful. Apparently, this is no secret. Respondents to the 42nd Deltek AE Clarity Study overwhelmingly ranked create or improve succession and career development planning as a top initiative. Closely followed by developing more formal career development programs. Being leading areas of opportunity for improvement, these initiatives and the others that are highlighted in the 42nd Deltek AE Clarity Study are things firms should evaluate closely.

Clarity for the Future

Reflecting back, it’s impossible to avoid including the impacts of the global pandemic on businesses. For human resource professionals and AE firm leaders, they sure got the “short end of the stick” with having to adapt and quickly create policies to ensure business can continue as normal and employees are aware of the new expectations. Fortunately, the world is getting back to some sense of normality and those tasked with overseeing their firm’s HCM strategy can get back focusing on hiring and retaining talent, and developing training and succession plans.

Link to download the 42nd Deltek A&E Clarity Report

A&E Finance Leaders Took Control in 2020 According to Deltek Clarity

Posted by Ryan Felkel on September 22, 2021

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.

Deltek Clarity Report logo

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.

Benchmark your firm! Use the link button below to download the 42nd Deltek A&E Clarity report and scorecard for free.

Link to download the 42nd Deltek A&E Clarity Report

Significant Technology Trends Discovered in the 42nd Deltek AE Clarity Study

Posted by Ryan Felkel on August 11, 2021

With the uncertainty of 2020 behind us, many AE firms are optimistic about the future and expect that investment in new technology will likely remain consistent. While a great number of firms are still in the early stages of moving to the cloud and making investments to support a mobile workforce, smaller tech savvy to large-sized firms have already implemented these technologies by 2021 and are seeking out IT solutions that improve project delivery and ultimately their bottom line. According to AE firms that participated in the 42nd Deltek Clarity study, adopting new technologies to support firm growth and client needs is a priority, however, selecting which technologies will produce the desired results and provide a noteworthy return on investment seems to be a challenge.  

Deltek Clarity study logo

Clarity on Technology Trends for Small Firms

Small AE firms, those with less than 50 employees, reported in the Deltek Clarity study that investments in new and emerging technologies will likely see a reduction. Likely, because many of these firms made larger than expected technology investments in supporting the needs of a remote workforce to ensure business continuity during the pandemic. Therefore, many of these small firms are refocusing efforts and spending on revenue generating resources.

Furthermore, small firms typically have smaller budgets for all departments across the board. As a result, they tend to invest in new technologies that are usually more affordable and easier to deploy firm wide. Which brings up another key finding from the Deltek Clarity study – limited internal IT expertise. Small firms and even medium-sized firms both noted that one of the largest challenges with adopting new technologies is having internal experts to help navigate the sea of technology options that serve different and unique purposes. Even more, some firms are likely unaware of which operational processes can be improved with the assistance of technology.

Medium-sized Firms Looking to Go Big

AE firms with 51 - 249 employees, commonly referred to as medium-sized firms, indicated in their responses to the Deltek Clarity study that they are eyeing big data and artificial intelligence (AI) for future technology solutions to support their organizations. However, only 18% of firms reported having an actual plan in place. With a large percentage of firms citing the aforementioned and seemingly consistent theme of lacking internal champions to identify and thoroughly vet new technology. Overall, medium-sized firms as a whole are continuing to straddle between implementing less expensive and simpler technologies with big aspirations to embrace and invest in emerging technologies large firms are already utilizing.

Large Firms Seek Clarity with Big Investments

Large AE firms, defined as having more than 250 employees, will always lead the AE industry when it comes to adopting the latest and greatest technologies since they generally have larger budgets and the ability to spend. As such, larger AE firms that participated in the Deltek Clarity study stated they are continuing to move forward with making large investments in emerging technologies like geolocation, big data and data science with no indication of slowing down. More importantly, large firms revealed in the Clarity study that they have less of a challenge with employing internal technology experts that can provide guidance on future technology investments that are aligned with the needs of the firm.

Similarities Deltek Clarity Identified for All Firms

According to the 42nd Deltek Clarity study, firms of all sizes have some shared challenges regarding technology initiatives. Unsurprisingly, data and cybersecurity lead the way like previous years and will likely continue to be the leading concern for AE firms well into the future. An encouraging finding in the Clarity study is the common strategy all firms are taking to mitigate these risks, with nearly half of respondents stating they are implementing new security policies and protocols. Even more, thirty-four percent of respondents said their firm is planning to outsource their IT administration and infrastructure. Although there are no fail proof safeguards against a cyberattack, being proactive can certainly reduce the risks which is what firms are trying to accomplish.

Do More with Technology and Deltek Clarity

One thing is clear from the Deltek Clarity study, AE firms of all sizes will have to continue to invest in technology just to stay competitive. For small and medium-sized firms that indicated they lack internal experts to help make technology investment decisions as a challenge, maybe they need to consider enlisting the assistance of a company that specialize in the technology needs of AE firms to help with these choices.

Lastly, big data and data science are quickly being adopted in the AE industry. As a result, AE firms will begin to see new technology solutions specifically tailored to meet their needs being brought to market over the next few years. Which adds more complexity for firms when it comes time to decide which technology solutions they should pursue in the future.

Link to download the 42nd Deltek A&E Clarity Report

42nd Deltek A&E Clarity Study Finds Business Development Embraced New Strategies

Posted by Ryan Felkel on July 07, 2021

Overall, the majority of respondents to the Deltek A&E Clarity study shared an optimistic view about opportunities and growth potential in coming years. Conversely, the long-term effects of the global pandemic did shock the industry with handshakes and face-to-face meetings becoming collateral casualties. As a result, the loss of these interpersonal connections was far greater and impactful than many could have imagined, and this sudden mandate and frankly need to socially distance inevitably left its mark on the way people interact and nurture relationships. As a result, this year’s Deltek A&E Clarity results are that much more significant as they shed light onto the future of A&E business development tactics that firms have embraced and will likely continue to utilize well into the future.

Deltek Clarity Report logo

Top Three Business Development Challenges

Finding time to nurture client relationships seems to be a list leader year after year for the A&E industry. However, the number of respondents that listed this as a top challenge grew five percent from prior years. Increased competition is second on the list with 22% of respondents putting this as their top BD challenge. While the third top challenge was identifying new prospects, with 15% of respondents listing this as their top challenge.

Interestingly enough, 14% of respondents indicated that their firm’s business development model has dedicated BD staff, 39% have a seller/doer model, and the remainder a combination of both. Even more, firms reporting having a formal business development process declined from previous years. Identifying the exact correlation on how these different BD models and lack of processes impacts these top BD challenges is difficult to measure, however there is with some certainty a direct relationship.  

Bidding to Winning

This year’s Deltek A&E Clarity study found that more firms are employing a formal go/no go process with an increase to 75.7% with 51% stating they use a formal process for all opportunities. For firms not using a formal go/no go process, 25% are considering implementing one in the future.

For small and medium A&E firms, proposal win rates decreased by nearly two percent from last year while large firms had an increase of almost two and a half percent. On the contrary, firms of all sizes saw an increase to their capture rate with a cumulative increase of three and half percent. These differences between win rate and capture rate can be attributed to the type of work firms are pursuing and the use of a more strategic go/no go process.    

Deltek Clarity on A&E Marketing Techniques

Respondents to the 42nd Deltek A&E Clarity study indicated that they predict traditional marketing techniques like in-person trade shows and exhibits, and public relations initiatives will see a sharp decline in utilization with a transition to more modern techniques. Specifically, firms stated they will increase the use of client-specific marketing, social media, thought leadership and content marketing as the core to their overall marketing strategy. This is not to say that trade shows will be abandoned, but these will likely become more virtual and/or hybrid versions which can reduce their benefit and importance to A&E firms. Overall, it’s encouraging that A&E firms want to adopt more modern marketing techniques, but their willingness to make significant investments into these changes has yet to be seen.  

Deltek Clarity on the Future Outlook and Forecast of A&E Industry

Small firms expressed a bullish outlook when reporting on their revenue growth forecast while medium and large firms expected to experience gains in the coming years. When asked to look further out to nine years, respondents expected to see growth of five to six percent in most years indicating there is still some level of uncertainty in the market, but still being sanguine there will be an upward trend in the years to come. Generally, A&E firms are optimistic about the markets they serve and believe they will be able to increase their position within them.

Significant Deltek Clarity Business Development Findings

In summary, the 42nd Deltek A&E Clarity study found that firms are going to need to continue to rely on passive sources for new opportunities which will require nurturing existing client relationships to win more work from them and to gain referrals as well. Firms will also need to embrace business intelligence tools and strategic business development models and processes to remain competitive. Additionally, the pursuit process itself has changed and became more virtual and digitized. As a whole, A&E firms have recognized the need to revolutionize their business development strategies if they want to remain relevant and viable in the future.

Understanding the full business development findings of the 42nd Deltek A&E Clarity study truly requires comparing the results to one’s own firm. Make sure to download your free copy and use the Clarity Scorecard to benchmark your firm.

Link to download the 42nd Deltek A&E Clarity Report

Why Should You Join the CXps Community?

Posted by Full Sail Partners on June 16, 2021

Simply stated, strong client relationships are fundamental for thriving professional services (PS) firms. Therefore, proactively creating a positive client experience (CX) should be at the core of a PS firm’s mission. As simple as this effort may seem, many firms fall short in terms of meeting client expectations which inevitably becomes detrimental to their bottom line. However, there has been an influx in forward looking PS firms that are now dedicating resources to CX.

With this rapid growth and interest in CX for PS firms, the creation of a community dedicated to connecting likeminded individuals and firms has risen. CXps is the only client experience association dedicated to professional services firms. What once began as an annual conference has now evolved into so much more. The CXps community is now a nationwide network that offers monthly virtual meetups, regional in-person events, a rapidly growing library of CX content and so much more.

CXps community logo

As a client-focused firm, Full Sail Partners is a dedicated partner of the CXps community with several members of the staff actively participating in the network and others joining this year. Furthermore, the 2021 CXps annual conference was hosted virtually from May 25th to May 27th. During this year’s annual conference, trends and ideas were presented and breakout sessions allowed attendees to collaborate and share their perspectives. Additionally, Ryan Suydam with Client Savvy discussed the evolution of the CXps community and the future outlook of this rapidly growing network of CX professionals. If you are wondering what you missed, here’s what some of the Full Sail Partners’ crew members had to say about the CXps annual conference and community.  

“As a CXps newbie, I learned a lot!”

As a first timer, I have long understood the necessity for firms to ensure a good client experience, however the 2021 CXps virtual conference was the first time I was introduced to the idea of firms actually focusing on the concept of CX in their overall business strategies. During the small group breakout sessions, I was able to discover several things about CX. First, firms appear to always be seeking to increase profits whether they consider themselves to be mission, vision or purpose driven, therefore CX is significant for that reason alone. Next, that employees, no matter what level, need to have a good employee experience (EX) in order to facilitate a good CX. We also learned that a great story about a positive experience goes a long way in CX and encourages both employees and clients to be loyal to the firm. Attending this virtual CXps conference offered me new insight and perspective on the real complexity of CX.

              Jennifer Renfroe, Marketing Associate

“The CXps conference is one I look forward to every year!”

The Client Savvy team did an excellent job revamping the traditional conference format into a truly virtual experience. In this experience, you worked hands-on with a community of peers to build your CX program together.

One session of the conference took us through making the business case for a CX firm initiative. We were inspired by Ryan Suydam to “win the heads” of our firm leaders to begin a CX program. Then we broke into small groups to discuss the challenges/opportunities of how a managed CX program can create value for our specific firm. We were provided a list of different options that ranged from easier ones like pricing our work to value, not market, and reducing non-value-added project work to more advanced methods like increasing share of wallet with clients and measuring client lifetime value. We were asked to pick one or two ways we can demonstrate the value that a managed CX program could provide.

During another session, we were challenged to “win the hearts” by using stories. Our firms have dozens of stories like the one great story of how a client was won or kept through extraordinary conditions. Andrea Mac from Prequal, LLC showed us how CX stories can optimize the value of client experience initiatives among colleagues and leaders. Again, we broke into peer groups to begin developing our story element library and how to use them.

The best thing about the CXps virtual experience was that it took somewhat nebulous ideas of client experience and put a framework and system around it. And, when you can do that, it helps A&E firms develop and grow a proactive and thoughtful client experience program at their firms.

Lindsay Diven, CPSM, Blackbox Connector Sales and Marketing Manager

“Being a member of the CXps community gives you access to a wealth of knowledge!”

I’ve been participating in the CXps community for over a year after joining the 2020 annual conference. My first conference and the 2021 conference were both outstanding with great presenters. Whether it was your first time being exposed to CX concepts, or if you are a seasoned CX veteran, the conference has an incredible depth of knowledge for all experience levels.

Additionally, as a member of the CXps community, you are able to access the knowledge base that the Client Savvy team continues to grow and fill with reliable informational resources and contributions from members of the community. I personally contributed last year by creating a video, “How Marketers Can Use Client Feedback” for the Knowledge Sharing Modules (KSM) which Client Savvy releases on a monthly basis. Make sure to check out all the KSM sessions on their YouTube page.

This year, I’m looking forward to the regional meetups. During the “Making CX Happen” regional events, CXps community members will meet in-person to explore challenging CX problems PS firms face. I’m also a sucker for Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

Ryan Felkel, Marketing Manager

It’s Never Too Late to Join the CXps Community

Did you miss the 2021 CXps Conference? No worries! You can join the CXps community whenever you’re ready to take the first steps to improving the client experience your firm delivers. There are several levels of membership, and your level of commitment and participation is completely up to you.

Join the CXps Community

Revelations of the 42nd Annual Deltek Clarity Architecture & Engineering Study

Posted by Jennifer Renfroe on June 09, 2021

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.

Deltek A&E Clarity Report lol

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.

Link to download the 42nd Deltek A&E Clarity Report

The 41st Annual A&E Deltek Clarity Report: Financial Statements

Posted by Nicole Temple on November 11, 2020

Deltek Clarity 41st

Financial statement data is vital for leadership teams. This data is the basis for measuring firm performance and influencing decisions regarding the firm’s future. There are several financial metrics that businesses track and rely on. Based on the findings of the 41st Annual Deltek Clarity A&E Report, operating profit on net revenue has increased for ten years consecutively to 15.8%. This is a 1.4-point jump year-over-year. A variety of other important metrics were addressed in this year’s Clarity report as well. The Clarity report reveals where things measured up for 2019.

Top Financial Challenges

The financial challenges have remained similar year-over-year. This year the trend is towards challenges with increasing profitability, finding and retaining qualified staff, and managing firm growth. Although, finding qualified personnel and keeping turnover low is second to increasing profitability. It is also noteworthy that qualified staff is at the top of the list for greater than half of the respondents. Cash flow is floating in the ranks, but it seems that firms are managing it better than in years past. The unpredictable spending environment was only at 11% for 2019, though that is likely to change given the challenges many firms faced in 2020.

Building on Success

While there is economic uncertainty in the year 2020, the results show that firms strengthened their operations in 2019. Operating profit continues to rise steadily, as it has over the last decade. Of note, small businesses saw a strong increase, rising to 15.9% operating profit, up 3.5% from the prior year. The net labor multiplier has seen a minor increase as well, reaching 3.03 last year. That’s the highest multiplier measured for the industry in ten years.

Another significant metric tracked by firms is the utilization rate. It is calculated as cost of labor charged divided by total labor cost. This metric remained steady with the prior two years, except for Architecture firms that showed an increase of 2.3% points year-over-year. Employee retention is a factor within this metric. Firms with higher utilization also tend to show lower turnover rates as well as higher net revenue by employee. Does this show us that working employees are happy employees? Findings will show that investments in technology and training can keep employees engaged and productive in producing revenue.

Net revenue per employee is yet another metric to see a positive increase. This could be attributed again to the investment in technology and training, an already high productivity amongst employees, increased rates, or possibly better efficiency driving projects to completion. Since obtaining qualified staff remains difficult, firms are working with existing teams to accomplish more. Burn-out should be a consideration and cutting associated costs or wages could be disadvantageous.

With employee cost being a possible factor in retention it is important to track trends and analyze total employee cost as a metric. This is calculated as the sum of total labor and other labor related costs, (such as fringe benefits and taxes but excluding bonuses) divided by the average number of employees during a year. This returned data shows that there was not an overall noticeable change. Payroll expenses and employee numbers increased at higher percentages which in turn drove the decrease in overall cost. Where the year prior it had showed a small decline, we may see a more drastic change in 2020.

The average collection period calculation divides accounts receivable by annual total revenue, multiplied by 365. This is an important metric for cash flow stability and deserves a great deal of attention. There has been small improvement or decline in average days amongst all firms. In comparison, small businesses and high performers stand out as having notably improved. It is important to stay on top of the outstanding accounts receivable to maintain cash flow performance stability.

Preparing for the Future 

A&E firms have largely agreed that business process improvements and project management training have a strong impact on a firm’s financial health. In addition to those areas, better forecasting should continue to be a top focus area. Addressing and improving these key components can be the key to continued success, even in difficult and uncertain economic times. To read more about financial statement findings, visit the full Clarity report. 

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The 41st Annual A&E Deltek Clarity Report: Human Capital Management

Posted by Joel Slater on October 14, 2020

Deltek Clarity 41st

Human Capital Management (HCM) is a vital process that must be taken seriously for firms to be successful. There are many aspects to HCM from talent acquisition, to employee learning and professional development to succession planning. Based on the findings of the 41st Annual Deltek Clarity A&E Report, talent acquisition remains a major challenge for A&E firms and they must embrace technology and improve practices to attract the best candidates. This year’s Clarity report also addressed a variety of other hot HCM topics for A&E firms.

Tracked KPIs for Human Capital Management

According to the results of the report, the top four KPIs tracked by A&E firms included revenue per full-time equivalent (FTE), voluntary turnover, involuntary turnover, and employee retention. Identifying these particular KPIs shows that firms are concerned with retaining employees once they are hired. As a matter of fact, 74% of firms tracked revenue per FTE which indicates that financial-related metrics are being connected to HCM. However, only a minority of firms tracked other financial-related metrics. Those firms willing to look at the whole hiring and retention process will ultimately have less costly HCM systems thus making them more successful.

Managing Talent

Seeing that the top KPIs tracked are regarding turnover, it is no surprise that employers continue to focus on their initiatives for managing talent. The report stated that the top two talent management initiatives remained the same, develop more formal career development programs and create/improve succession and career development planning. Creating and improving mentorship programs moved to the third spot going from 28% to 45%. It is becoming clear to firms that knowledge must be transferred to those employees with less experience if they are to continue operating successfully. Unfortunately, however, only 10% of firms prioritized investing in a HCM solution even though 40% of firms currently use outdated HR solutions.

Surveys of Employee Engagement

Again, focused on the topic of retention, this annual Clarity report addressed employee engagement surveys. The results from the report indicated that 81% of firms conduct employee exit interviews and surveys. Only 60% of firms stated that they do annual employee surveys which means that the opportunity to address employee concerns is often missed. If those concerns were heard and addressed, then turnover could be reduced. Gauging employee sentiment is important to keep retention high so firms should move away from more traditional methods of survey towards more frequent survey models.

Talent Acquisition

Back to the issue of talent acquisition, the top talent acquisition initiative reported in the survey was improving the perception of the firm (54%) which is important since reputation helps attract the best candidates. Additionally, 41% of respondents picked improving onboarding processes and procedures which went up from 37% the prior year. On the other hand, the report showed that only 40% of firms were considering an enhanced compensation offering. Besides compensation, firms should consider leveraging technology to offer flexible/remote work options to attract candidates.

Firms Care About Human Capital Management

Despite a tough labor market, it does appear that A&E firms continue to improve their HCM processes. Acquiring and retaining top talent remains a priority for firms. They must continue to improve talent acquisition by tracking KPIs, considering enhanced compensation and leveraging technology. There should also be focus on succession planning and career development to ensure employee engagement and retention. For more detailed information on the 41st Annual Deltek Clarity A&E Report, review it in full.

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The 41st Annual A&E Deltek Clarity Report: Project Management Trends

Posted by Rana Blair on September 23, 2020

Deltek Clarity 41st

Projects are the bread and butter of A&E firms and well executed ones are an absolute necessity to remain competitive. Based on the results of the 41st Annual Deltek Clarity Report, A&E firms are aware of the need for project management responsibilities to be more clearly defined. Project information processes must be improved and there should be more investment in project manager (PM) training. Additionally, PMs require more visibility into KPIs to meet performance expectations. Here are some snippets from this year’s report.

Project Management Challenges

The 41st Deltek Clarity Report showed the top three project management challenges facing firms to be the same for the third straight year. Those challenges are inexperienced PMs, staff shortages and competing priorities. PMs are at the center of project management, so they need to be better trained and be knowledgeable of firm and industry wide best practices. For firms to deliver successful projects, PMs across all projects should be keenly aware of their responsibilities. They should also become experts in their practice and to bring in other members that complement the team.

Project Status

According to this year’s report, the number of projects that came in on or under budget is slightly higher than last year. With a six-percentage point increase to 72% for architecture firms and high performers coming in with 75% of projects on target or under budget, project status appears positive. Additionally, two-thirds of projects were recorded as being current or ahead of schedule which is up two percentage points from last year. Visibility into project financials and KPIs plus targeted PM training positively impacts project execution.

Tracked KPIs for Project Management

In the survey, and consistent with last year, most A&E firms track profitability (92%) and net revenue (91%). Next is average collection period (87%) and multipliers (80%). The least-tracked KPIs remained on-time delivery, schedule variance and earned value management. The report again indicated, based on these findings, that there was a need for greater project visibility. Increasing efforts to track those KPIs would in fact improve project success, business performance and client satisfaction. In particular, the failure to track schedule variance would be reflected in the percentage of projects determined to be behind schedule.

Measuring Client Satisfaction

Based on the 41st Deltek Clarity Report, 54% of surveyed firms do measure client satisfaction. The majority of those which are not currently doing so are considering it for the coming year. Engineering firms are more inclined to evaluate client satisfaction, and the larger the business, the more likely it is considered. Of those firms that measure client satisfaction, 58% do so for all projects. Firms use a variety of means such as in person to electronic surveys. While the executive team is usually in charge of contacting clients (50%), large firms rely on the PMs (56%) to monitor client satisfaction. Lastly, firms that do not regularly measure client satisfaction will not be very effective with process improvement.

Well Executed Projects

As seen in the 41st Annual Deltek Clarity Report, A&E firms understand that improving project management training and providing access to KPIs will lead to improved project performance. Additionally, leveraging tools to streamline project delivery and investing in both PMs and the whole project team will make the process much more efficient. When projects are well executed, clients are likely more satisfied, and firms earn repeat business. This ultimately keeps firms competitive in the A&E industry.

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