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Harnessing Your Knowledge Potential

Darryl Williamson
DarrylWilliamson
Product Director
BST Global
I have spoken in detail with dozens of architectural and engineering consultancies over the past several years about their desire to harness the vast knowledge resident in their firms. For most of them, knowledge management is a very high management priority. And no wonder, since the A/E industry is confronted with ever-changing regulatory requirements, global competitive pressures, and the need to adapt to rising client expectations. Business thought leader Arie de Geus succinctly summarizes the great necessity in today’s A/E marketplace as: “The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be your only sustainable competitive advantage.” So then, how do you learn well as an organization? The most common response to satisfy this knowledge management need is to buy a tool or technology that can help gather and categorize your organization’s collective knowledge, thereby making it accessible and easy to leverage. Seems logical. But, purchasing a software package and expecting it to solve your knowledge problems by its mere presence just does not work. You will not become a highly effective knowledge organization simply by completing a purchase order. Over my next few posts, I will explain that leveraging the knowledge in your firm is not achieved at all by technology, but by a culture that meaningfully connects people. And, since I do not want to expose a problem and not solve it, I’ll provide insights into how you can achieve this in your firm. What is knowledge management? But, before I talk about the place and power of culture in an organization, in this post let’s take a step back and clarify what we mean by knowledge management and how it fits into the A/E industry. An intuitive way to think about knowledge management is to think about how we acquire and use knowledge personally. How do you come to know things? Well, you have experiences and you store them (learn), so you can recall or access them later (remember). What you learn and remember is what you know. Knowledge management is the same thing for organizations, it is processes for retaining, accessing, and interacting with what an organization knows. What defines knowledge in A/E firms? For A/E firms, knowledge can be broken down into three main categories: Qualifications: Including things like the educational background of employees, their certifications, and other credentials that convey to your current or potential clients that your firm has the knowledge to do the work you are promising. This is one of the essential elements of a project proposal, identifying the qualifications (requisite knowledge) of resources who would work on prospective projects. Work Experience: This serves as proof that your firm has relevant work history to complete the kinds of projects you are promising and that you have resources who have successfully worked on those projects. Work experience validates your qualifications. Moreover, work experience helps your management to know what work your firm does effectively (e.g. what work do we perform profitably and with few defects)? In other words, how did you perform on your projects? Practices: These are the methods and practices employed on your projects, and how those methods impact project success. Accessing these practices ensures that you consistently execute projects with the same level of knowledge and capability. Where does knowledge management fit in with my business? All A/E firms are obsessively focused on three things: money, clients, and employees. And rightly so, these are the pillars of a consultancy. Because of their importance, each of these are professional disciplines (i.e. accounting and finance, sales and marketing, and human capital management). Moreover, you have professional investments in these areas: you have leadership (CFO, CMO, CHRO), and you have business solutions in place for each (ERP, CRM, HCM systems). For the A/E firm, knowledge management must become another area of obsessive focus, and a fourth pillar. Knowledge management should be elevated to the same priority as all the critical processes in your firm, because for firms whose business is literally their knowledge, knowledge management is a critical process. Every time you engage with a client, your knowledge and experience fuel everything, from the renderings and documentation you create, to the projects you execute. You must have intentionality around knowledge. You need someone to lead it, and you need solutions to help you execute it. Follow along in the coming weeks as I dive deeper into the importance of knowledge management, and how you can successfully implement a knowledge strategy at your firm by developing an effective knowledge culture. Author’s Note: This is the first in a series on knowledge management as it relates to the architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting industry.

Systems Integration Planning: Plan Twice, Cut Once

Eddie Shasek
EddieShasek
Project Director
BST Global
Have you ever felt like you are swimming in a pool of sharks? Take back control of your software integration project and feel like the customer again. It is a disadvantaged position to be reviewing a project plan from your software vendors trying to look for savings without being really sure if the cuts you are making are actually trimming fat, introducing risk, or destroying future shareholder value.  Below are some things to think about when reviewing a plan and deciding if it will bring value to your organization beyond the basics of software integration. Not all projects are created equal. The shortest and least expensive plan often has unexpected costs that accumulate well into the future in the form of rework and possibly re-implementation, depending on the severity of the oversight created in an overly accelerated process. Gaining upper management’s support with a short-sighted or smaller estimate may make it much more difficult and possibly painful to expand the plan and cost expectations later in the project when additional needs or risks are discovered. In addition to the unanticipated hard costs that could surface later, an under-developed implementation plan can also result in very damaging soft costs after go-live. A poorly planned project can result in attrition of employees, dislike of the new software, and loss of confidence in leadership at the front lines. To avoid these pitfalls, think about the following points when evaluating the integration project plan from your external software providers, consultants, or hired gun project managers: Does the plan allow time for data clean up? If the project is part of an acquisition, there is often overlap across the two companies of client and vendor data. Avoid Data Duplication - Data duplication can leave you with a messy system and diluted reporting. Set Boundaries and Ownership – If mergers are involved, the two companies could have worked together previously in a sub-consultant relationship. There could even be employee overlap in the data. Take action early - Data should be cleaned up ahead of any integration. Make a choice - What system is the master for duplicate data? Again in acquisition projects, allow time for process adjustments. How will you clarify processes to avoid marketing to same prospects, and maintain one face to common clients? Is there a clear milestone in the plan marking the end of configuration decision making? This allows for a stable system during data migration and process testing prior to training. Is the training within 30 days of the live date? Earlier trained knowledge will fade in your staff if it is not reinforced with use within 30 days. Have your payroll cycles been considered when scheduling the go-live date? Has the go-live been planned on a Year End? Year End is typically not a good time to open a new system due to accounting staff overload. Has a project governance process been established to ensure that the initial version of the joint system is not overly customized and that the implementation team is accountable to the milestones in the plan? Integration time is also a great opportunity to refresh and expand the knowledge of the existing staff alongside the initial training of the people who are new to the system. Leveraging internal experienced users for new user training to reduce consulting cost, and will help strengthen and expand the knowledge of experienced users.   Do you have an industry standardization M&A success story? Let us know in a comment below.

A&E Mergers Best Practices: Driving Joint Success

Eddie Shasek
EddieShasek
Project Director
BST Global
The documents are signed, ownership has shifted…the challenge of joint success just got real. After ownership shifts the success of the joint entity becomes the mission. It is incumbent on both firms to quickly stabilize and start to grow in the new normal of joint operations regardless of how smooth or rocky the negotiation, due diligence, and closure process was. Plan → Communicate → Execute → Refine What is the game plan? Planning a program to address overall success vs just systems consolidation makes all the difference. It is way too easy to just dive right in to a straight data conversion project to get to one system. With this approach, one of the two entities will end up suffering major gaps in understanding and possibly even capabilities. It is better to first focus on a plan for the alignment of the corporate structure, processes and people; then let the system integration tasks follow that lead. In my next post, I dive deeper into Systems Integration Planning. Talk to me Every good integration plan must include a solid communication plan, including an outline of who will participate, when and how. Your people have to be on board for organization to reach its full joint potential. Ensure there is clear ownership of the communication plan for each company. Plans should address: What will happen when Communications should start with a summary notification to all people affected at all levels. Craft a unified message of what the objectives, major milestones, and general timeline are expected to be. Let your people know when they will start to feel their daily life, processes, and systems change. Participation of each entity and key roles Follow up with more targeted and strategically timed messages from various group leaders to specific audiences addressing concerns or anticipated questions relevant to that group. Internal marketing for a positive change As the integration project progresses, these messages may evolve. Because of this, each message should set the expectation that adjustments of timing, content, and decisions may occur throughout the process. The changes should be equally communicated, demonstrating management’s ability to adjust as progress is made. Don’t fall in to the trap of driving to a goal that is no longer appropriate based on new information. Be sure to brand the initiative and leverage many forms of communication beyond email to align with what is typical and effective in your firm. It is about getting the word out with no surprises. During a merger your people will naturally question how the changes affect their role. Be open to reduce anxiety in the organization. What is it that you do here? As previously mentioned, the systems consolidation should follow the lead of a process integration or at least follow a detailed analysis of overlaps and gaps in how the separate entities were run. In the process analysis be sure to: Identify overlaps and gaps early Identify adjustments by role and process Clearly define what the recommended process is going forward in the joint environment on both sides Identify how the systems integration project needs to enable the intended new process in the near and long term To build an integration plan that joins not only systems but also process, the fulcrum should be a business process catalog. This can be leveraged when identifying the general approach to each process area for each entity that will be integrated. Focus on elements of the process that are most likely to be disconnected. You must define: What roles are involved and the level of detail that is managed at each level? Is the process manual/paper based vs. automated workflow or even an email based process? Who has what access to data and decision making authority to execute the process efficiently? Is there a material difference in volume or other factor in one entity driving the process differences that cannot be adjusted? Leaving disconnects unsolved or dictating process will just result in the process unraveling in the future. Everyone involved needs to believe that the new way is the right way for joint business success at some level or it really won’t amount to much other than a shelf full of optimistic unused documents. There can be only one. Often there is a need to integrate the systems and data of the two entities on an accelerated schedule for joint reporting. This is commonly a contingency of the deal or an investor’s way to see progress on the efficiencies that are expected as the business costs are consolidated. One tactic that should be considered to take time pressure off of the implementation is to create a bridge reporting pack. Find ways to commingle the separate systems’ reporting data manually or via similar outputs from each system that can be summarized and collated outside the system on a temporary basis. This allows the proper amount of time that you need to follow good process when consolidating processes, roles, data, and systems in thoughtful steps. You are never really done. After go-live on your joint system with commingled data, the focus should shift to finding the inevitable data issues in the details of individual project, billings, or other records. Plan to have some project core team members transition into a temporary support group accessible to the new users. Resist the urge to add more functionality and customizations or to kick off a phase two of implementation for at least a few months. This allows for operational stabilization. Be sure to reserve some ad hoc time from your software vendor’s consulting or technical staff to be available on-call or even on-site to address any technical business interruptions quickly. Leverage the experience of your vendor at this time; they do this for a living. Understand your cost of down time and recovery plan should larger issues surface in the weeks following your go-live date. And finally, continue to ensure daily tasks are done prior to starting a second phase of implementation. Do you have an industry standardization M&A success story? Let us know in a comment below.

Seller-Doers: AE On-The-Go

John Mathew
JohnMathew
Product Director
BST Global
Life in a design firm can be described in many ways – creative, demanding or collaborative might come to mind for many architecture and engineering (AE) professionals.  For those that deliver projects while also bringing in new work to their firms, mobile is an apt description for how they spend their days.  Can your business systems keep up? A recent study by the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) confirms that seller-doers are as important as ever to a consultancy’s success, and their business development efforts are on the rise.  According to SMPS, a majority of AE firms utilize the seller-doer model, while larger firms also employ full-time business developers.  In these scenarios, business developers typically focus on identifying and securing new clients while seller-doers look to cultivate existing client relationships.  All told, the amount of time that seller-doers spend on business development has grown over the past decade and is expected to continue over the next 10 years. This trend is driving AE firms to evolve their technology, and look to leverage tools that span the settings that their seller-doers work in and the various tasks they perform while on-the-go.  Working on projects, cultivating relationships and bringing in more work requires many AE professionals to spend time at their desks, at project sites, and in client offices. In my experience, I’ve found that design professionals often perform tasks and drive processes while moving between these settings.  Some common scenarios include: A client manager is visiting a client, meets someone new, and wants to quickly create a new contact in their business system – as a precursor to adding more details to the contact later in the day. During a project site visit, a project manager learns of some additional services that might be needed, and quickly logs a new opportunity for further follow-up and pursuit upon returning to the office. At the end of the week, a discipline lead needs to review and approve timesheets while away from the office so that his or her staff’s time can be posted and invoiced. Indeed, as AE practitioners navigate these types of scenarios, their contribution to business success is enhanced by their ability to work while on-the-go. All told, today’s design professionals are more mobile than ever, working in and out of their offices, both selling and doing.  Their business systems need to be mobile as well – in a broader sense than just mobile applications on a smartphone or tablet, though.  The new reality is that AE firms need business systems that span surfaces – including laptops, tablets and smartphones – and travel with their staff as they pursue and deliver projects. Has your firm implemented a mobile app or mobile-accessible web interface for your employees? Tell us some of your lessons learned in a comment below!

Going Glocal: Making Money

John Mathew
JohnMathew
Product Director
BST Global
Ultimately, going glocal for a design consultancy isn’t just about expanding reach and impact – it’s about delivering positive results to the bottom line. Achieving profitability in a foreign market can be quite a challenge for firms who don’t have prior experience doing business abroad. Entering a new market often requires a different operating paradigm, but inexperienced firms can overlook this and end up impeding their return on investment. Let’s examine one last common afterthought as part of our Going Glocal blog series: making money. Common Afterthought: Making Money When consultancies are expanding internationally for the first time, it can be tempting to count on an effective collections process as the key to making money. But in reality, financial success in a new market requires a more holistic approach that considers the entire project lifecycle, beginning with how projects are initiated. Below are some tips to help you get started: Review Contractual Terms: Review how contracts are written for projects in a new market, and consider terms that can help mitigate risk. For example, look at leveraging fee types that share risk with clients and seek to bill the project in a stable currency. In scenarios where volatile currencies can’t be avoided, you may want to look into a foreign exchange hedge to protect against exchange risk. Also, payment terms should be realistic and reflect the payment culture of the market you’re entering. Assess Project Setup: Look at how you internally resource and setup your projects for execution. When delivering a project in a new market, you may bring together multiple operating units to deliver the work, including organizations that you’ve just added in your new market and more experienced organizations that live elsewhere in the firm. Some firms hit a limitation with their internal business system, in that they can’t setup up a single project that spans multiple internal organizations. They then have to setup multiple internal projects to represent the single project they’ve contracted to deliver for their client. This adds administrative burden to project management, impedes visibility into overall project status, and can lead to otherwise avoidable schedule delays and budget overruns. If this is something you’re dealing with, consider switching to an industry-focused business system that accommodates multi-organization, and even multi-company projects. Distribute Budget Accountability: As you setup projects for a new market involving multiple internal organizations, give consideration to how these working organizations have responsibility for the overall budget on a project. Some firms will hold the lead organization on the project responsible for budget performance, while other firms look to distribute budget accountability to each organization performing work. By doing the latter, you are in a position to get better insight into where project variances might arise during delivery. This often occurs in specific working organizations that spend more than budgeted and need more attention to keep the project on track and profitable. Digitize Vendor Invoices: Projects in new markets can also bring about new cash cycle challenges. For example, as you engage subconsultants and other vendors to assist with a project, it can be difficult to keep track of their invoices – particularly when the project is happening in a location that may have a new office or no office at all. Look for ways to digitize your vendor invoice routing process, whereby invoices are scanned and electronically routed around for review, approval, and ultimately vendor payments. This way you can rest assured that vendor invoices don’t go unaccounted for and lead to surprise downstream costs on the project. Anticipate a Different Payment Culture: As I mentioned earlier, entering a new market can entail getting acclimated to a new payment culture – a culture that unfortunately may be longer and have more steps than your existing markets. For example, you may now have to send out a pro forma invoice to a client and get approval before sending out a final invoice. And, you may be expected to personally visit a client in order to receive payment. Understanding the payment culture of your new market is essential to managing expectations internally and externally, as well as sharpening the business case for cash cycle improvements. Automate, Automate, Automate: If you are facing lengthier payment cycles in a new market, one way to offset them is to further automate your internal billing and collections processes. Look at streamlining the process for generating internal pre-bills that go to project managers for their review before sending an invoice to a client. This can be supported by a business system that supports electronic pre-bills that can be edited and annotated online by project managers. Also look to implement a collections system that drives and captures collections activities in support of getting paid, so that there’s better transparency and accountability, and ultimately lower accounts receivable. Making money in new markets can be challenging, not only because of longer payment cycles in some geographies, but also because of internal inefficiencies and bottlenecks that are only exacerbated by more far-reaching projects and more distributed project teams. To successfully go glocal, you must take the time to look at how you structure your contracts and projects, and manage your cash cycle, and then make the necessary improvements. Do you have any financial lessons learned from an international expansion? Let us know in a comment below! Author’s Note: This is the sixth article in a series on glocalization as it relates to the architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting industry.  

Going Glocal: Becoming One Studio

John Mathew
JohnMathew
Product Director
BST Global
In a design consultancy, you’re constantly focusing on who’s staffed, and who has availability – it’s core to life in professional services. And when you look to expand your operations, effectively managing resources becomes even more important. Are you prepared? All professional services firms manage their resources in some form or fashion. It may be done in a thoughtful, disciplined manner, or completely ad hoc and perhaps even as an afterthought. As you think about expanding your operations, know that this will cause you to lean further on your current resource management practices. And for many firms, going glocal also sparks a recognition that becoming a more integrated global practice – or, becoming “one studio” as some firms coin it – is a key strategy for better sharing work and resources across geographic boundaries and ultimately better serving clients in all markets. Let’s examine this concept as part of our continued series on global expansion. Common Afterthought: Becoming One Studio A building block for an integrated practice is a resource management discipline that goes beyond a loose, ad hoc process. To get there, there’s a three step process that I’ve seen successful firms follow: Target One Operating Unit: Choose an office, department, or studio in your firm that has an appetite for change and is looking to make resource management improvements. Focus on its active projects—those currently underway—plan them through completion, and implement an integrated project staffing and utilization management process and system in that unit. Also consider including the scheduling of leave or vacation time, so that this unit achieves basic visibility into staff assignments and availability. Extend to Additional Units: Once you’ve achieved success within one operating unit, bring in additional operating units that work on projects with your first unit, so that you can begin to extend your resource management practices to better facilitate sharing of staff across units. You may also consider including additional projects, such as potential projects and non-chargeable endeavors. This will provide full visibility into staff availability spanning both active and proposed projects, as well as vacation and other types of non-chargeable time. Integrate Earned Value Management: Now, you will have a collection of operating units that are benefitting from your new resource management framework, forming an impetus to get the rest of the firm onboard.  Consider integrating earned value management into your resource management process. This will build on the project planning discipline established in Steps 1 and 2.  Also consider leveraging your resource management system to provide resource and revenue forecasts across the firm, as you now have quality staffing plans to leverage for much better operational visibility. This three step approach can be significantly aided by an industry-focused business system, and it’s also a process that can be adjusted to align with your firm’s specific needs and appetite for change.  If you’ve struggled in the past with establishing a resource management discipline, know there’s a proven way to get traction and move towards the goal of becoming one studio. Has your firm successfully evolved resource management efforts and made progress towards a more integrated practice? Tell us more in a comment below! Author’s Note: This is the fifth article in a series on glocalization as it relates to the architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting industry.  

Going Glocal: Managing Human Capital

John Mathew
JohnMathew
Product Director
BST Global
“Companies have long had difficulty maximizing the visibility and mobility of their best people.  Managers can struggle to find the right person for a specific project, and talented workers can’t always see opportunities that might help them grow professionally and develop their expertise.” --McKinsey This task can be especially challenging for firms that are expanding operations and market reach. For the next step of our Going Glocal blog series, I’d like to explore another common afterthought post international expansion—managing human capital—and offer some tips for planning ahead. Common Afterthought: Managing Human Capital As professional services firms, one of your most important assets is the knowledge and expertise of your staff.  But keeping tabs on this knowledge and expertise, and effectively leveraging it to pursue and deliver work, is a challenge for many firms.  An already difficult challenge is made even tougher when existing staff become more dispersed and new staff is added. How can you better prepare for this challenge? Go Digital: One key to addressing this challenge is to find ways to digitize your talent pool.  How can you capture and store your employees’ qualifications in an electronic manner, so that their education, registrations, skills and project experience are readily accessible when you’re looking for the right expertise to position in a new market? Human capital management can greatly assist here, particularly when integrated with the marketing, project, and resource management functions of your core business systems.  Having employee qualifications available to the folks in your firm who are pursuing, scheduling and delivering work can greatly improve their ability to leverage talent even as the firm expands. Develop Cultural Skills: Beyond technology, it’s also important to think about other ways to develop staff as the firm looks to enter new markets.  If a new market means a new culture for the firm to understand, look for ways to grow cultural awareness amongst your staff, as well as build skills related to working with different cultures and being on diverse and dispersed project teams.  There also may be a need to grow your staff’s language skills, and perhaps add or develop multi-lingual staff. Uncover Leaders: As you develop your staff and better understand their qualifications, be on the lookout for leaders that you might tap to seed an office in your new market.  While an essential part of going glocal is leveraging talent local to a market, you will certainly want to ensure that there are experienced staff in your new market that are well-connected throughout your firm and well-versed in your firm’s operating practices and methodologies. Find Balance: Going into a new market often causes firms to think about adding staff.  For most firms this becomes a discussion of build vs. buy – that is, should we grow our staff organically via recruiting, hiring and development, or should we grow via acquisition of another firm who is already operating in the new market?  A growth-oriented firm might consider a balanced approach, leveraging recruiting, hiring and development to nurture long-term retention, while using acquisition to strategically open up new markets in an accelerated manner. Effectively managing human capital is essential to going glocal. But whether or not you are thinking about expanding your firm’s footprint, it’s always a good idea to look for ways to better leverage your talent.  After all, as a consultancy, your human capital drives your expertise and your brand, which in turn help you grow your staff and your reach. Have you had success with any of these techniques? Tell us more in a comment below! Author’s Note: This is the fourth article in a series on glocalization as it relates to the architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting industry.  

The Future of Architecture and Engineering: A Q&A with AJCE Secretary General Yoshi Yamashita

Yoshi Yamashita
YoshiYamashita
Secretary General
Association of Japanese Consulting Engineers (AJCE)
In an industry centered around innovation, the question always remains – what’s next?  To help answer this, we’ve launched a series of blog posts exploring the past, present, and future trends in architecture, engineering, and construction consultancies. Over the next few months, follow along with us as industry leaders share their thoughts. In this post we spoke to Yoshi Yamashita, Secretary General of the Association of Japanese Consulting Engineers (AJCE), headquartered in Japan. Yoshi is a trained civil engineer and works to enhance the status and competence of private Japanese consulting engineers through his work at AJCE. Q: What do you think is the most significant trend that will impact the future of the AEC industry in your region over the next 5 years? A:  Keeping the economic growth rate up--which is linked to budget on public works In Japan, the maintenance and renovation of social infrastructure from the past 50 years of development will be a significant project. Strengthening alliances and development through mergers and acquisitions (M&A). In Japan, there is a decreasing trend of young professional engineers’ participation in our industry, coupled with the aging of tenured engineers. Q: How do you see the current role of AEC firms shifting, what do you think is causing that shift, and how must AEC firms react to survive? A:  From domestic to global. The demand and capacity of the domestic market is limited, though the domestic market is safer and easier in terms of long term survival. This makes AEC firms act protectively and conservatively. It’s important to remember that escaping from challenges cannot guarantee success in international markets. While the domestic market is in good condition, AEC firms should invest in business development in the overseas market – human resources, tools and systems (and know-how), experience, and investment. To be successful, AEC firms need a specialist’s advice, alliance with overseas firms, development through M&A, etc. Q: Knowing what you know today, are there things you would or could have done differently to prepare for or react to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008? Are there things that you are doing differently now because of the GFC? How have you evolved your processes or policies post-GFC? A: This is a difficult question. We should train ourselves to distinguish if we are doing or going to do something beneficial to people, not for money. However, proper service remuneration is necessary to keep firms sustainable and to gain rewarding future opportunities for young engineers. Q: What is the biggest challenge you are currently tackling within your firm or association? A:  Consolidation with related associations to better represent our industry to the client and to society. This will also create business opportunities. Education and capacity building of young professionals who can compete in the international market. Involvement in political decision making processes--this is a very tough challenge. Q: How has your office environment changed, and how is your firm continuing to evolve your workplace environment, procedures, and technologies, to accommodate the evolving demands of the incoming millennial workforce? What considerations and changes are you making regarding collaboration, efficiencies, work/life balance, technologies, etc.? A:  The effort of our association (AJCE) is to promote the opportunity of capacity building for young professionals and business development of member firms through an exchange program with overseas FIDIC Member Associations. FIDIC tools and trainings are used to facilitate challenges. Business development or deployment in domestic and international markets are basically in the hands of each firm. CEO’s policy and strategy are key to success. Association’s support on this matter is limited. To become a stakeholder is one of the most important objectives in future. Government has been leading and controlling the infrastructure market in Japan. To get out of this difficulty, we must expand our business overseas and increase competence of professionals. How? Education in school and firms (English proficiency, international way of thinking, more exchange with foreign people, business debates, risk awareness, integrity, etc.), alliance with FIDIC Member Associations, training of young professionals in foreign firms or through overseas projects, successful mergers and acquisitions (M&A), etc. Above all, motivation, seriousness, middle-long term strategy, and a financial perspective from CEOs are deemed to be the most essential factor. Author’s note: These answers are my personal opinion, and thus do not represent the opinions of AJCE. This post is part of a question and answer series with global industry leaders on the future of the architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting industries.

The Future of Architecture and Engineering: A Q&A with STD-företagen Managing Director Magnus Höij

Magnus Höij
MagnusHöij
Managing Director
Swedish Federation of Consulting Engineers and Architects
In an industry centered around innovation, the question always remains – what’s next?  To help answer this, we’ve launched a series of blog posts exploring the past, present, and future trends in architecture, engineering, and construction consultancies. Over the next few months, follow along with us as industry leaders share their thoughts. In this post we spoke to Magnus Höij, Managing Director of the Swedish Federation of Consulting Engineers and Architects (STD-företagen) headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden. Magnus joined the Swedish Federation of Consulting Engineers and Architects in 2014. He was previously editor-in-chief for several publications, including Computer Sweden and Internet World, covering topics on IT and online services. He has great interest in the technology, marketing, organization, and personal skills needed to make a successful business and has penned several books on IT and business. Q: What do you think is the most significant trend that will impact the future of the AEC industry in your region over the next 5 years? A: Globalization and digitalization will probably be two the trends that we will talk a lot about and that will have big impact for our industry. The processes and legal frameworks will be increasingly global, which will lead to a global market for expertise and knowledge. Digitalization will not only help us work more efficiently, we will be able to construct new things and we will be able to participate in the dialogue with customers and other constructors in the building process even more than today. Q: How do you see the current role of AEC firms shifting, what do you think is causing that shift, and how must AEC firms react to survive? A: The need for innovation in the world of construction and infrastructure is huge. As companies, we need to meet this need with a higher degree of new and provocative ideas, based on our deep understanding of the technological framework. But we also need to bring in new perspectives from not only engineers, but also architects, behavioral scientists, statisticians, political analysts, etc. in order to tie these trends and insights together. Q: Knowing what you know today, are there things you would or could have done differently to prepare for or react to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008? Are there things that you are doing differently now because of the GFC? How have you evolved your processes or policies post-GFC? A: I wasn’t in this industry at that time. However, I think that our industry is working with issues that could in many ways be needed to avoid this kind of crisis. A good infrastructure is a foundation of a modern society. Without it, the society is more vulnerable. Our ability to tell that story to politicians and decision makers will also determine how well we will manage the next financial crisis. Q: What is the biggest challenge you are currently tackling within your firm or association? A: Our ability to adopt to the rapid changes in the marketplace. Our companies are quickly becoming both more global, crossing borders to other industries and facing challenges from totally new players in the market. As an organization, we need to keep up with these changes, understand the new landscape, and try to lead the way for the industry in to the future, not be dragged there. Q: How has your office environment changed, and how is your firm continuing to evolve your workplace environment, procedures, and technologies, to accommodate the evolving demands of the incoming millennial workforce? What considerations and changes are you making regarding collaboration, efficiencies, work/life balance, technologies, etc.? A: The most important part of taking care of younger staff is about leadership. We must make sure that each and everyone can find his or her best way to contribute. Teamwork is so important in the modern work life. That could, in part, be done by adding new tools, hardware, physical planning of the office, work hours, etc. But everyone is unique in so many ways, that each leader must be able to adapt to each situation. Investing in leadership skills is priority 1, 2, and 3. This post is part of a question and answer series with global industry leaders on the future of the architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting industries.