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time vs money

Time is the most precious resource in AEC – here’s how you can save it

from  August 16, 2022 | 4 min read

With speed to market a priority for many, time is rapidly becoming the most important and precious resource for any project team in architecture, engineering, or construction. More than in other service and project-based industries, in construction, wasted time means wasted money. After all, a work crew can only work on one job at once, and delays in the availability of equipment, materials, or personnel mean value is lost across every team in the business.

Click to read Increasing Excellence in AEC with ERP Gated


A recent article in the Engineering News-Record highlights that AEC firms are increasingly using outside contractors to help optimize resources, keep projects to schedule and avoid wasting their most previous resource – time, as they face pressures from supply chain disruptions, global uncertainty, and an increasingly tight talent market.

In fact, for many firms, subcontractor and supplier partnerships have become a crucial strategy to growing AEC firm capabilities and staying competitive in an increasingly difficult market:

Today, our conversations with clients focus more on project planning and delivery options to deliver the best results in the current environment of labor and supply chain shortages

The article discusses the whys and wherefores of vetting and selecting potential professional services partners for AEC projects at considerable length.

But while it’s possible to head off some of the challenges posed by the post-pandemic world by outsourcing and strategic partnering, we believe that there is a much more fundamental way in which firms can deal with these challenges: by tackling the issue of effective time management head on.

The problem of time management

Time management is a significant issue for architecture, engineering, and construction firms – with these businesses lagging behind others in the service industries by a considerable margin.

According to a recent PAC research paper into professional services performance in Europe, 14% of architecture and engineering firms admit they deliver less than half their projects on time. They’re also the slowest within service-based industries to recruit – spending an average of 21 days longer on each recruitment cycle than management consulting firms – the clear leader of the pack.


Why do architecture and engineering struggle so much with time management?

We believe the answer lies in technology. According to SPI, architecture and engineering firms report lower levels of application usage across virtually all aspects of their operations – with the exception of the core financials solutions on which they rely to run their businesses.

This deficiency applies across all aspects of operations from project to people management – with less than half of all architecture and engineering sector firms tracking metrics for employee wellness and engagement. Failing to take these traditionally “soft” metrics into account can lead to reduced overall efficiencies and ultimately missed deadlines – as a less engaged workforce will underperform relative to its potential, making managing every part of a project from timelines to supply chain that much harder.

Take the time to invest in technology

The simplest thing many AEC firms can do to improve their ability to manage time – whether it is their own people and resources or their various subcontractors and partner firms – is to invest in transforming the technology they use to run their businesses.

86% of architecture and engineering firms say that their legacy applications are holding them back from providing a more innovative approach, a higher proportion than in any of the other industries sampled in PAC’s survey.

As operational complexity grows with increasingly tightening schedules and resource limitations, technology’s importance in improving efficiency, effectiveness, and resilience will be critical. Making the investment in modern enterprise software also has huge potential to enhance both resource and project management by taking a more joined-up, premeditative approach to planning schedules and matching the best resources to the right jobs. It also helps to manage engagement and wellness to avoid burnout in an increasingly tight talent market.

Modern operational technology – particularly cloud ERP – makes more effective time and resource management possible by creating unified data flows throughout every part of your organization and making round-the-clock reporting and “instant insight” possible. Giving project managers a complete and reliable picture of resource usage, work in progress, and how and when to make use of your internal resources and those of your external contractors and partner organizations.

How can Unit4 help you?

Unit4 have been creating software that helps project-based organizations like AEC firms to better manage their resources – from materials to people – for over 40 years.

Our focus on People Experience creates enterprise software solutions across ERP, HCM, and FP&A that free up your peoples’ time to focus on work rather than admin, automating the rote-work associated with projects so that everyone can add more value and do effective work more efficiently.

To learn more about how AEC firms performed in 2021 compared to other professional service firms, check out SPI’s Professional Services Maturity Benchmark and PAC’s report into the performance of European service businesses.

To learn more about what Unit4 can bring to your business visit our dedicated industry page for architecture, engineering, and construction companies.

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