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The shifting culture around commerciality in the AEC industry

Keeping up with ever-evolving industry dynamics is one thing, but how can the AEC industry take advantage of these changes—not just to benefit themselves, but also their staff, clients and community?   

In our latest webinar, our panel of AEC industry experts discussed some of the most significant changes they’ve noticed and the shifting attitude towards the “p” word: profit

Balancing flexible working

For Joe Emanuele, Head of AEC at CMap Software, the biggest recent change in industry dynamics is remote working. 

While it’s likely there’ll always be a need for face-to-face meetings, it’s also likely that some form of flexible working will continue to exist. “It’ll be inevitable going forward.” 

Global architecture practice Grimshaw aren’t just adapting to this switch to remote working—they’re “making it more profitable”, says Tanya Quelch, Head of Business Systems. 

Flexible working has benefited many of our people. “With less time being spent on travelling, it’s improving work-life balance,” Tanya said. 

Tanya recommends changing the way you spend your time. “The days you spend in the office can be utilised for discussions, meetings, and brainstorming sessions. Meanwhile, the days you work from home offer a good opportunity to crack on with projects uninterrupted.”

Time in the office is also ideal for professional development. An opportunity for senior individuals to impart their knowledge and help more inexperienced staff. 

Changing attitudes toward profit

Compared to other professional services industries, “profit” is less embedded as an accepted part of the culture in AEC. However, as a part time lecturer, Joe believes this is changing. He’s noticed a significant shift in attitudes within professional education, with a much greater awareness of profitability developing in the last five years. “Profit is not a dirty word anymore.” 

While attitudes toward profit are improving, they still have a long way to go—especially at the individual project-level. “We need to be more open with our staff about what we’re targeting to achieve, why we’re aiming to achieve it, and the figures involved.” 

Tanya has noticed a shift, too—which she attributes to education. University programmes are focusing more on the financial management of projects, and practices are more actively involved in training staff on how to manage projects. “It’s one of the things we teach at Grimshaw.” 

For Tanya, education doesn’t just need to increase on profitability, it needs to increase all round. “There needs to be even more education around the financial aspects of project management.” 

A greater willingness to embrace and discuss financial data enables companies to become more resilient and make more confident decisions about what it wants to achieve in the future.

To watch the full discussion, click here.