What’s better than designing the built environment? I think we can all agree, apart from cake and cuddles perhaps, that the answer is nothing. Architecture, engineering, and construction design businesses create our physical world and give us places to make the cake and have the cuddles anyway, so, you know.
That said, the nature of this industry is that it’s one driven entirely by projects. Projects are our business. And very detailed, very complex projects at that. Here, we’re going to check out the four big pain points of managing built environment projects, and what’s needed to ease them.
Portfolio planning can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. In this instance we’re going to think about it in terms of grasping your entire portfolio of projects and what that means to your architectural, engineering, or construction design (AEC) business as whole.
Firstly, there’s a need to be able to visualize and report on the particular elements of an operating AEC business. These elements are commonly broken down into:
- Your opportunity pipeline
- Your current work
- Your ability to report on and analyze the work you’ve completed
So, we need some tools that help us quickly establish where the opportunities are — because you don’t know that much about them in their early phases. Then, as an opportunity progresses, we need to be able to embellish the project data with what we’re learning along the way. And eventually develop it to the point where we can establish a ‘go/no go’ on whether we actually pursue that project by submitting a proposal or a tender.
That’s really important because an AEC business is predominantly labor driven. You have to be able to project your labor capacity-loads into the future as accurately as you can. You need to be able to do that so you have sufficient lead times to hire suitable staff for the envisaged work to come.
For our built environment businesses, lead times to secure suitable staff typically take anywhere from six to 12 weeks. You need to know that well in advance so you can initiate the actual hiring of those people or reach the point where you can decide you need to outsource that work. You need to make an informed decision about it.
The crux of this pain point is that the AEC industry, by nature, requires you to have an understanding of your current portfolio and where it stands — because this is an industry that is project oriented and labor driven.
Your business is made up of projects, you need to know what those projects’ needs are, and the needs typically revolve around your labor and your sub-contracted labor. There are things like supplies to be considered every now and again, but it’s a very much labor driven business. Now, that’s good because it employs lots of people. But it’s also bad from the point of view that it means you have a heavy reliance on access to those personnel or staff that are needed. You need to ensure you’ve got people when you need them — that’s the whole deal.
Conversely, you need to be able to have a look at the labor capacity on the other side and say, ‘have I got enough work for the people I have?’ Both sides of the question are equally important to your business. Because you need to know how to gear the management drive of the practice so that you achieve what you’re looking to do. Maybe that’s growth. Maybe that’s maintaining the status quo of your business. And if you want to ensure that your practice doesn’t contract, you need to make sure that you can supply ample work for the staff you have.
That’s pain one — portfolio planning so that you have enough staff for your work, and enough work for your staff, to meet the objectives and goals of your business as a whole.