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Innovation begins with ideas

Welcome to Ideas, a collaborative space for architects, engineers, and environmental consultants to discuss emerging trends and issues affecting the industry. Discover new ideas from industry experts, professionals, and enthusiasts, and share your own.

Recap: The Built Environment’s Cash & Resource Management Challenges Solved

BST Global Helps Australasia Firms Solve the Built Environment’s Cash & Resource Management Challenges

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The Future Is Now: Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning Are Transforming the AEC Industry

BST Global’s Javier A. Baldor & Hank Tran Share What’s Next for AI in the AEC Industry Javier A. Baldor, BST Global’s Chief Executive Officer, and Hank Tran, BST Global’s Director of Knowledge Management joined the ACEC Virtual Fall Conference, and presented a special session — The Future Is Now: Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning Are Transforming the AEC Industry. During the 30-minute session with live Q&A, the duo explained the impact of machine learning and artificial intelligence across industries before honing in on specific use cases in the AEC space. Here are some highlights from the presentation and Q&A session: Artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data are changing the face of every industry, including the AEC space Resource utilization and revenue leakage were two areas for opportunity found in BST Global’s exclusive research A data-driven consultancy of the future will utilize machine learning and artificial intelligence to unlock efficiencies in resource utilization and revenue leakage, among other things Not all data is created the same; you need the right kind of data You should approach machine learning in a phased approach: prediction, detection and optimization Machine learning within resource management can be used to understand the make-up of teams that deliver projects; you can begin to understand their construct and skills and how they can be best applied to projects, etc. (there’s a huge opportunity here for firms to impact project teams and the project itself) A data-driven consultancy means machine learning and AI rely on data to make an impact … not one single system will contain all the data you need so it’s important to harvest data and treat it like an asset Data scientists are being embedded in consultancies themselves, and many are starting with a targeted KPI to start to test out machine learning   Interested in learning more about BST Global solutions?   Schedule a Personalized Demo Read Environment Analyst's Event Summary HERE   Want to Know About Upcoming BST Global Webinars & Panels? Just let us know by emailing, and we will add you to our list.

Rethinking Technology, Realizing a New Competitive Edge

BST Global’s Javier A. Baldor Participates in EFCG’s Executive Leadership Panel The pandemic has abruptly removed limits to technology innovation, forcing entire industries to stretch what’s possible in only a matter of months. BST Global’s CEO Javier A. Baldor joined a stellar lineup of industry executives as part of EFCG’s Executive Leadership virtual conference to discuss these changing times and what’s ahead. The one-hour session, titled “Rethinking Technology, Realizing a New Competitive Edge” explored how they, as leaders, are reshaping technology’s place in their firms to alter what and how they deliver to the market. An informative Q&A session followed. Panelists included: Raj Arora, CEO, Jensen Hughes Austin Conti, CEO, Tenna Amy Corriveau, Vice President, Director of Emerging Business Development, CDM Smith Javier A. Baldor, CEO, BST Global Rachel White, CEO, Arcadis Gen Marcus Quigley, EFCG Technology Practice Lead & Event Moderator Here are some highlights from the panel discussion: Attendee Poll Results 45% of event attendees said that it would likely take 5-10 years to successfully get “disruptive technology” to be adopted by 80% of AEC firms 54% of event attendees said that their technology strategy shifted moderately due to COVID-19, which resulted in adjustments to certain areas of their business Theme 1: Transition to Technology Panelist Question: How has your organization changed or planned to change, and how have those plans been impacted over the past 12 months: Raj: “We are on a mission now to change processes with technology-enabled consulting.” Austin: “There’s a real opportunity for the pre-planning of technology in this sector.” Amy: “While we were able to seamlessly transition to a digital workforce, many of our clients were not.” Javier: “I believe in the data-driven consultancy of the future, where AI, machine learning and big data can unlock many valuable use cases.” Rachel: “The type of agility and flexibility we need, we need systems that support the business in different ways than the core business.” Theme 2: Change Is Hard Panelist Question: How do we build culture and communities of innovation? What are the ways companies are working to drive change? What is working and what remains a challenge or remains unsolved?: Amy: “Innovation at scale shouldn’t come with brute force but it really was for many organizations. Imagine if we could do it naturally … progress doesn’t have to equate with perfectionism.” Rachel: “Change is hard, but perhaps at this moment in time, not changing is even harder.” Javier: “You should find change agents in your organization. They invite, inspire and drive change. Invite them to your meetings and encourage them to share; then celebrate them.” Raj: “Engineers, in general, want everything to be perfect to give it a go. You have to drive the “lean startup” mindset that everything can’t be perfect … you have to keep refining the tool like it’s an app on your phone.” Austin: “It’s okay to walk before you run. If you look at our entire industry, we are not completely digitized yet.” Watch the Highlight Video  Interested in learning more about BST Global solutions?   Schedule a Personalized Demo Want to Know About Upcoming BST Global Webinars & Panels? Just let us know by emailing, and we will add you to our list.

BST Global’s Javier Baldor & Hank Tran Discuss AI in the AEC Space

How AI & Machine Learning Will Transform the Architecture, Engineering & Environmental Consultancy Space Javier Baldor, BST Global’s Executive Vice President, and Hank Tran, BST Global’s Director of Knowledge Management, were proud to present, “Preparing for the Future: How AI & Machine Learning Will Transform the Architecture, Engineering & Environmental Consultancy Space.”   Here are some highlights from this part of the discussion:  Javier: “AI is not just going to transform the built industry but every industry.”   Javier: “AI adoption is skyrocketing; 37% of organizations have now deployed AI.”  Hank: “Big data and intelligent automation can unlock efficiencies and predictive capability that will help you better manage your projects.” Hank: “We want to approach AI and machine learning in a methodical way, so we break it into three parts: predict, detect and optimize.”  Hank: “Machine learning can be deployed to proactively manage your projects, which helps me stay ahead of the game.”  The session was part of a larger webinar presentation, produced by both BST Global and Environment Analyst, called — Delivering the Digital Revolution.   Ben Combes from PwC and Eve Joseph from Microsoft presented, “AI for the Earth: Exploring How AI Can Enable a Sustainable Future.” Their presentation, based on a report by PwC UK and Microsoft, explored the economic and environmental potential that digital transformation and decarbonization together will create by 2030.  Matt Ösund-Ireland with the Wood Group presented, ”Real-Time Carbon Footprinting.” In his presentation, Matt shared that as more countries, corporations and organizations commit to becoming carbon neutral, the “easy wins” are harder to find and a deeper understanding of activities becomes increasingly important if we are to continue reducing emissions.   Ramtin Davanlou with Accenture and Deepali Trehan from Intel presented, “Project CORaiL: Coral Restoration & Research.” In their presentation, they talk about the technology that Accenture and Intel have created that allows researchers to monitor reef health without human intrusion on these delicate environments.   Following presentations, Q&A sessions also took place with specific panelists. Ross Griffiths from Environment Analyst served as the event’s moderator.   Interested in learning more about BST Global solutions?   Schedule a Personalized Demo

AEC Firms Solve Today’s Cash & Resource Management Challenges

BST Global Helps European AEC Firms Solve Today’s Cash & Resource Management Challenges  In today’s economic landscape, architecture, engineering and environmental consultancy firms are facing major cash flow concerns and resource management challenges, impacting project delivery and profitability. With a worldwide clientele, BST Global understands these unique challenges and has successfully partnered with leading firms to solve these risks and thrive forward.   In this 45-minute webinar + demo, BST Global shared best practices, helpful tools and streamlined processes related to cash and resource management — resulting in more lucrative profit margins and more on-time project completions. The session included a demo of BST Global’s flagship ERP solution, BST10, and its cash and resource management capabilities. Here are a few highlights.   “There’s a large opportunity gap between today’s employee billable utilization numbers and our desired state. Getting closer to the desired state can have a huge impact on your bottom line.”  “Empower your project managers, and digitize and streamline your processes to overcome key cash flow and resource management challenges.”  “BST10 is a process-based system, so keep in mind that we designed the workflow to follow your projects.”  “A huge benefit of using BST10’s resource management feature is not just to keep your staff busy but you have access to dashboards and forecasting.”  A trend we are seeing in DSO management is electronic payments like letting clients pay invoices by credit card or digitally delivering invoices … it’s really about digitizing that entire experience.”  Interested in learning more?   Schedule a Personalized Demo

Aftershocks & Opportunities Shaping the AEC Industry in Australasia Post-Event Coverage

BST Global’s Javier Baldor & 3 Built Environment CEOs Across Australasia Respond to Aftershocks & Opportunities Many regional economies have already commenced reopening on a phased basis in the current pandemic environment, and architecture, engineering and environmental consultancy firms are taking varying strategic measures to overcome continuing challenges. As built environment firms around the world continue to discuss rebuilding from the global pandemic, we sat down with four industry powerhouses — including Greg Lowe of Beca, Heang Fine WONG of Surbana Jurong, Ashley Wright of GHD and Javier Baldor of BST Global — to understand the unique challenges and opportunities presented to those in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.    In the 1.5-hour panel discussion, the group covered off on the current state of business, the future of work and silver linings. Here’s an overview of some of the highlights.     The Current State of the Business  Ashley: “I think this has really shown us what’s possible when everyone comes together with a common purpose with a mindset to succeed and operates as a team … in many ways, we are closer than what we had been.”  Heang Fine: “To transform ourselves immediately from our day-to day-business, which is really quite face-to-face in operations, to completely remote … it’s quite challenging times … we have to find strength in new ways.”    Greg: “We have a lot to look forward to. We are all learning how to be more agile; we are all learning how to take advantage of our digital investments. We have to really understand what markets are doing, influence markets where we can and respond to that change as organizations.”  Javier: “As a technology company, we are also very fortunate to have in place the infrastructure, communications and technology plan formed to really pivot from our brick-and-mortar business on March 13 as we knew it when we announced effectively that we were adopting a complete work-from-home approach globally.”     The Future of Work  The New Normal  Ashley: “There’s also no doubt that the pace of digital transformation, not only in our business but in our clients’ and our other stakeholders’ business, has all dramatically accelerated — and we are all having to adapt to that.”     Javier: “The advancement of our digital strategy was foremost. We are able to globally change and adapt our business to be 100% digital from how we deliver project support to our clients, and manage distributed software design and development teams.”  Coming Together  Heang Fine: “In our trade, we all seem to forget that we deliver projects as a team … it has been personally very inspiring for me as a leader to see how people can come together and make things happen when conditions are far from conducive.”       Remote Work  Ashley: “Ultimately, we are social beings, so it’s probably more likely that we will see some balance.”  Greg: “I think we are all experimenting with what this means and I’m seeing attitudes [about working from home] change a little.”    Heang Fine: “Moving forward, all of us really need to redefine the meaning of ‘coming to office’ … and the next thing we need to change is we need to trust our employees to deliver the output we require.”  Company Travel  Greg: “I think there are two aspects to that: One will be need and one will be cost.”   Ashley: “I go back to some of the authenticity of some of the discussions I’ve had with fellow CEOs from client bodies that weren’t even happening face-to-face. There’s something about donning the suit, and the tie and professional persona that’s created a formality in relationships that’s clearly been broken down through this pandemic.”  Employee Vacation  Heang Fine: “We are very conscious in these times that there is additional stress. We try to encourage our staff to take their leave as they work from home.”    Artificial Intelligence / Technology   Ashley: “We’re very keen to utilize technology to help our people not only self-action items in their roles but to free them up from some of the more mundane elements of the tasks.”    Greg: “We’ve been on a journey, all of us, around automation for a long time. The more we can automate, and the more we put into automation process around things like design and development of deliverables, that speeds of the process of removing repetitive activity from our people and increases in the end our overall productivity.”  Javier: “That technology cocktail, I believe, will include elements that have been mentioned around AI but also machine learning that is applied to big data sets and delivered in consumer-grade applications anytime, anywhere in the cloud. This affordably will drive, I believe, unprecedented efficiencies and new business opportunities.”  Heang Fine: “Technology will play a huge role in the transformation of the built environment.”     The Silver Linings   New Ways of Spending Time  Ashley: “ This has been the longest time my family and I have been together in about 13 years, and we’ve found it a privilege to spend that time together.”   Learning as a Leader  Heang Fine: “This crisis really emphasizes that as a leader, you need to energize your team to deliver successful outcomes for your clients, even under very extreme and difficult environment.”      Greg: “One of the things we’ve seen is a big increase in the level of trust. We trust our people more because we can’t see them so frequently, our clients trust us … at a leadership level, I’ve become more willing to really recognize that things are going on in places that you can’t see them but you’ve got confidence they are happening.”  Javier: “I’ve learned quite a bit in this period as well, mainly to slow things down, particularly during uncertain times, and to remind calm. Next, to think and communicate very clearly.”   Final Thoughts  Heang Fine: “In Surbana Jurong, our motto is ‘building cities and shaping lives,’ and the things we are doing during this COVID really brings forth the mission for a lot of our architects, engineers, project managers, contractors, administrators and so on.”  Ashley: “Everything is possible; if we trust and adapt, we will thrive.”  Greg: “I think we have very reason to be very positive about the future.”  Javier: “A few words come to mind for me: relentless, optimism and resolve. I believe we all need lights in our families, in our companies, in our countries and our world at large I might add, particularly during challenges times like this. Optimism and resolve to me are the fuel for these lights.”     BST Global, in partnership with Consult Australia and Environment Analyst, was proud to host this event. BST Global Director Eileen Canady served as event moderator.     Want to learn more? You can find the full recording here. 

BST Global Is Helping AEC Firms Solve Today’s Cash & Resource Management Challenges

In today’s economic landscape, AEC firms are facing major cash flow concerns and resource management challenges, impacting project delivery and profitability. With a worldwide clientele, BST Global understands these unique challenges and has successfully partnered with leading firms to solve these risks and thrive forward.    Because of this, BST Global hosted a 45-minute webinar + demo — Today’s AEC Cash & Resource Management Challenges Solved — to help provide viable solutions to architects, engineers and environmental consultancies to mitigate these challenges.   Here’s an overview of some of the highlights.   Industry Stats That Matter  BST Global research shows firms today are seeing a 67% employee billable utilization rate but desire to be at 75%, an 8% opportunity gap  However, AEC Advisors research suggests the gap could be even larger, at 13%; if a $100M organization increased utilization by 13%, the firm could see a $6.5M impact to its bottom line  AEC Advisors research says the median DSO for firms is at 90.7 days while SPI’s research suggests best-in-class firms sit at roughly 45.3 days, leaving a huge opportunity gap that significantly impacts cash flow  Major Challenges Affected Desired-State Goals  Project Management Challenges: Lack of Resource Manager role, siloed utilization goals, lack of visibility to resource availability and workload, lack of communication and collaboration, and a disconnect between Resource Management and Finance  Cash Flow Challenges: Lack of clear roles and responsibility, rigorous controls and processes, manual processes, lack of billing/collections process documentation, and lack of process evolution  Additional Challenges Brought on By the Pandemic  Abrupt shift to a digital workforce  Even greater cash flow concerns  More pressure on project delivery  Successful Firms Focus on Two Key Pillars  Empower your project managers: Deploy a power team of PMs, RMs and staff; tie utilization goals across geographies; and invest in a shared platform to foster communication and visibility  Digitize and streamline your processes: Set clear roles, responsibilities and processes; say goodbye to paper; and review legacy processes for optimization  How BST Global Flagship ERP Solution, BST10, Aligns to These Pillars  Specifically designed for the AEC industry  Projects are at the center of the system  Role-based user experience gives specific views for specific end users  Users can quickly move between projects with details at their fingertips    The unified project experience paints a holistic project snapshot for users  Resource planning and utilization visibility allows for easy assigning in one screen  The native mobile application allows users to enter timesheet on the go with supervisor reviewing and approve right within the app  Digital pre-bill generation gives users the power to swiftly make revisions and regenerate updated invoices immediately    Billing back-up helps users say goodbye to paper  Reports alert users to at-risk projects, allowing project managers to drill down to cause to solution against it  Clients Have Seen Great Success   6-8 hours of time-savings per invoice  10-20 hours of time-savings per week  Same revenue with -100 resources  Better financial forecasting achieved    Interested in learning more?   Schedule a Personalized Demo 

Post-Event Coverage: European AEC Industry COVID-19 Response Forum

BST Global’s Javier Baldor Speaks Alongside Leading AEC Industry CEOs Across Europe About COVID-19 Challenges & Strategic Solutions Architecture, engineering and environmental consultancy (AEC) firms are facing unprecedented challenges simultaneously including: managing cash flow demands, navigating cost reductions and project delays, and handling changes to utilization in a work-from-home environment while preparing for the “other side” of COVID-19 to name a few. BST Global’s Executive Vice President Javier Baldor joined a panel of AEC industry powerhouses across Europe — including Nicolas Jachiet from Egis, Keryn James from ERM, Jens-Peter Saul from Ramboll and Karin Sluis from Witteveen+Bos — to share insights on how they are guiding their businesses to remain resilient during this challenging economic environment. The webinar forum — The European Architecture, Engineering & Environmental Consultancy Industry Responds to COVID-19 Challenges — covered a wide range of topics.    Survey Results: A survey of 207 European firms representing roughly $104 billion in gross revenue provided some interesting data to discuss.   In terms of organic growth, firms reached a high in 2019 but expect a decline to 0% in 2020 before bouncing back to a more normal growth of 5% in 2021. Jens-Peter shared, “This is a bit on the optimistic side but it really depends on how your business is shaped. Both Jens-Peter and Keryn explained that they are running three scenarios to prepare for the worst and prepare to achieve the best. The survey revealed that working from home appears to have had a significantly negative impact on utilization in Europe, compared to a 2% increase in the US. Karin disagreed, “We haven’t seen that as a whole. In fact, we saw a slight increase in productivity.” Karin shared that the firm started weekly discussions to discuss workflow, deployed digital tooling to see gaps, and encouraged employees to move to another field of expertise if they chose to. Jens-Peter shared working from home has helped the firm. “Collaboration has been outstanding. People are working better than ever and that’s very encouraging.” According to the survey, a little over half of firms have implemented layoffs and furloughs. Nicolas stated that they have deployed some furloughs but that workflow has been steady. He’s also seen the firm redeploy employees to busier areas and frozen compensation increases for the year. Javier said for clients, it’s all about the cash and how it is being protected and managed during this time. “It comes down to a couple of key areas; it takes discipline to that process and leadership. It has been difficult for clients if they have not been centered on that before, because it is not something you can just turn on.”   Reopening Plans: Who is making the plans for reopening and how are you communicating it to your employees?  Most of the panel shared that the decisions were being made by a board or executive leadership team and then regional managers were executing that. All confirmed that the safety and health of the employees were most important, and regional considerations played a key role in the reopening and reentering plans. Keryn elaborated, “We talk about the return to the workplace because it is not just our offices. It could be a client site or a client office, not just our own, that we also need to consider.” Nicolas said, “we have gradual plans to reopen. Recent weeks have been devoted to reopening and June will focus more on reentering with a little bit at a time.”  The New Normal: How has this changed your go-forward plans?  Javier shared, “We’ve had a history of investing in recessions including the most recent GFC and this pandemic has not abated our go-forward plans. Retrenchment and shoring up have never been a part of our strategy; we will make thoughtful investments to position us for when the tides turn.” Jens-Peter explained that as CEO, working from home has shifted his leadership approach, creating videos at home to share with employees and being more involved in Yammer. “I believe leadership is more important than ever, to give comfort to our people.” Karin said, “This is a great chance to challenge our longer-term strategy around three key areas: digital transition, diversity and sustainability.” Keryn also discussed sustainability as it relates to global climate change. “The global pandemic has put a sharp spotlight on sustainability issues and there’s no question that this is going to generate a significant dialog around this.” BST Global and AEC Advisors in association with Environment Analyst have partnered to host this webinar, and AEC Advisors’ President Andrej Avelini also served as the event’s moderator. Environment Analyst’s Co-Founder and Editorial Director Liz Trew introduced Andrej to kick off the session.   View the Full Recording Read Environment Analyst's Insight Briefing: European consulting leaders respond to COVID-19 and re-opening challenges

AEC Advisors Cash Flow on May 1 Post-Event Coverage

BST Global’s Javier Baldor Speaks Alongside Other AEC Industry Leaders About Cash Flow Challenges & Solutions Admit the Pandemic We are all living in unprecedented times now in light of COVID-19, and successfully managing your AEC firm’s cash flow is paramount to making it safely to shore. BST Global’s Executive Vice President Javier Baldor joined a panel of AEC industry powerhouses — including Scott Stewart from IBI Group, Jon Kessler from Gannett Fleming and Cindy Milrany from Freese and Nichols — to discuss these unique challenges and offer tangible solutions on how to mitigate. The webinar forum — Cash Flow in a Time of Crisis — covered a wide range of topics within the cash flow sector. Here’s an overview of some of the highlights.   Cash Balances: How much cash should you have on hand to safely make it through the crisis? Roughly 30–60 days of operating costs, while it also depends on the philosophy of your business. Javier shared that BST Global went through an exercise in the past of determining how long the business could sustain if no revenue was coming in: “You have to aggressively save to survive a crisis of any kind.” Reducing Working Capital: What strategies are you using to bill more frequently, collect receivables faster and extend payables? Billing suggestions included billing weekly vs. biweekly; reviewing reasons for holding building more in-depth; using RPA for automated reminders; keenly focusing on meeting milestone payments; optimizing billing processes like the pre-bill review process, invoice-generation process, collection process, etc.; and more. “There’s a lot of blocking and tackling,” Javier said. Faster collection tips included leadership involvement; direct dialog with clients; moving collections responsibilities from Project Managers to Accounting, allowing more choices in acceptable payment types; moving to digital, reducing WIP, and more. “Don’t communicate by email,” Javier explained. “Call them and talk to them. People will remember how you treated them and care for them during hard times.” Extending-payables ideas included upcoming lease negotiations and bonus delays for leadership but the panel agreed that it’s important to keep vendor relationships positive. Cutting Costs: What ways are you looking to reduce costs to positively impact your cash flow? Adjusting staff hours, temporary and/or permanent furloughs, reviewing benefit plans for potential savings, looking at technology investments to save costs elsewhere within the business, building space reductions, reduction in company travel, increased focused on resource management and more were offered. “The overall approach to meetings is going to change completely,” Javier shared. “Meeting our clients digital with video conferencing is now wildly accepted.” Silver Linings: What has this crisis taught you and what will you keep in practice after the pandemic? Overall, the panelists agreed that hard times can show you opportunities to get better. BST Global partnered with AEC Advisors to host this webinar, and AEC Advisors’ President Andrej Avelini also served as the event’s moderator. View the Full Recording

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