Elevation Architecture’s Digital Transformation

Deltek , 7 June 2020

Rachel Tilleyshort of Elevation Architecture takes us through her firm’s digital transformation, with substantial profitability and productivity gains since implementing Deltek Project Information Management (PIM).

The benefits of digital transformation are considerable, but the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) sector is lagging behind other industries, with 92% of engineering and construction firms spending less than 4% of their revenue on digital research and development according to research by EY.

The “information superhighway” that was promised in the 1990s has failed to materialise for most architecture firms, according to Rachel Tilleyshort of Elevation Architecture, a small firm in Brisbane with 21 staff.

“Instead, we had lots of different systems that didn’t talk to each other very well, so any time we had to carry out a task, we often had to carry it out multiple times in multiple systems,” she says.

Using disconnected systems gave rise to inefficiencies, frustrations and bottlenecks, but Elevation has increased its productivity and revenue by undergoing a complete digital transformation.

Tilleyshort led the search for a simple, all-in-one platform that would bring together tasks such as project management, client correspondence, finance and human resources.

“We wanted a system that was customisable and scalable; something that we could make work for us and the way we did things,” she says. “We also wanted the flexibility of a system that we could access anywhere, because we have remote workers in our office. What we really needed was a single source of truth, instead of things being doubled up, or repeated three or four times.”

Elevation implemented Deltek PIM in 2016 and has realised time savings of more than 4000 hours per year across just one metric: project team tasks. And, by eliminating admin-based repetition, those time savings have translated into revenue growth.

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Beginning the digital transformation 

Tilleyshort undertook several years of research to scope the firm’s needs, review various product offerings, and to identify the expert partner to guide Elevation’s transformation.

“That process of looking at alternative products was overwhelming, but we kept coming back to Deltek,” she says.

That process is now easier, as Deltek recently released a new guide that provides a clear-sighted overview of the five steps to digital transformation. It explores what digital transformation really means for AEC, and offers concrete, actionable advice that architecture practices can use to start their digital transformation.

“The truth is, there will never be a perfect time to begin your transformation journey,” the guide states. “And there will never be a perfect digital transformation plan; it’s simply too broad in scope to consider every possible angle.

“While delaying the transformation is comfortable and safe, stalling for too long means you run the risk of being made obsolete by your competitors, or by rapidly shifting market forces.”

Ensuring a smooth transition to new technology

At Elevation, one of the most important considerations was having the right people in the right roles, Tilleyshort says. “We had an external consultant who was the subject matter expert, to guide us on how to do things the best possible way,” she recalls. “We also had a senior implementer – me; and we ensured we had board level support for the project.”

The digital team also identified and demonstrated the benefits of the new system to each employee.

“We looked at every single task, to see why we were doing it that way – ‘Is this just leftover from an archaic system or is there actually a reason, or a better way we could do it?’” Tilleyshort explains. “We involved the users in this process, so they really had buy-in on how they thought tasks should be carried out.”

The technology rollout took place in two stages in late 2016, and Tilleyshort still runs weekly small group training sessions with her colleagues, to share new and better ways of using the system. “We also have internal champions who are willing to help anybody struggling with any of the tasks,” she adds.

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The main benefits of the new system

As well as delivering significant administration and time savings, Deltek PIM gives Elevation access to better quality data – to steer current projects and future business decisions – via easy-to-use dashboards.

This improved transparency and access to information – especially email correspondence, and financial performance and deadlines – has benefitted the entire team.

“For us, it is all about efficiency: it's all about having access to data and not having to repeat the same task four times over,” Tilleyshort says. “We can see the benefits in that, and we're actually realising those benefits in increased revenue as well.

In fact, the time savings they’ve achieved from searching for and filing emails and updating project information have covered the cost of investment in the new system, she adds.

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Deltek’s guide to digital transformation

Deltek has published a new guide to assist architecture practice owners who may have spent years considering the benefits of digital transformation, but have been paralysed by too much choice. It explains how project management software specifically designed for Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) firms can help deliver greater efficiencies, build better buildings, and improve customer outcomes. It provides:

  • An industry-specific definition of digital transformation, and an explanation of why architecture firms are facing a tipping point right now;
  • A discussion of the key issues to consider, whether a practice has already embarked on a digital transformation or is just setting out; and
  • Information on ensuring a smooth transition by integrating people, processes and the right technology partner to drive an effective change management process.

It also outlines five simple steps to help practices make a solid start quickly, and then scale-up to a full transformation over time.

If the recent challenges have taught us anything, it’s that businesses need to be responsive and resilient in order to survive, and putting the right digital foundations in place now is key to weathering this current crisis, and to prospering once the immediate threat has passed.

Deltek’s Digital Transformation eGuide is available for download here.

Deltek is an ACA National Principal Partner. Deltek can assist with software and information solutions that provide architecture practices with superior levels of project intelligence, management and collaboration.