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COVID-19 changed how we do business in the blink of an eye. While the AEC industry is quickly evolving, ongoing labor and supply chain restraints—plus uncertainty around the federal infrastructure plan rollout—make charting a path forward difficult.

Some professional service firms have transformed their operations with advanced digital technologies. Those who hesitate will find themselves less able to adapt to the changing marketplace, risk falling behind more tech-savvy competitors, or find their business models outmoded and irrelevant.

Hinge surveyed 136 business executives and decision-makers representing the six core professional services industries to create The Digital Transformation Imperative—a research report that explores the key trends impacting digital transformation now.


The results were eye-opening. More than 70% of professional service firms struggle with efficiency, inconsistent and disorganized data and manual processes.

AEC firms lag all professional service industries in digital transformation—68.4% of those surveyed work with outmoded processes and lack automated workflows. Only 26.3% of AEC firms have an established plan for improving their business processes.

It’s not too late.

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation reimagines an organization’s functions, such as operations, marketing or HR, for the digital age.

The most common goals of digital transformation efforts fall into four broad categories:

  • Improve the client experience;
  • Improve the efficiency of business operations;
  • Automate or streamline business processes; and
  • Increase revenue and profitability.

While some AEC firms are just beginning to realize artificial intelligence (AI) will change the way they do business, high-growth firms are turning their attention to virtual and augmented reality, Big Data, green infrastructure and cybersecurity. A new generation of architects and engineers are beginning to use real-time 3D technologies and immersive construction tools to help clients and employees visualize design better and increase productivity and innovation in building.

The Benefits Outweigh Upfront Costs

Clients today demand faster feedback, automated dashboards and real-time updates on their projects.

That’s why the fastest-growing AEC firms are turning to robust customer relationship management platforms and AI. These firms also utilize marketing automation software and digital marketing techniques to stimulate growth, build brand awareness and increase visibility among buyers.

The results are clear. Digital transformations improve top- and bottom-line financials. The annual revenue of professional service firms that have undergone a digital transformation has increased by 63.7%. Meanwhile, profitability is up 60.6%.

Don’t shy away from the cost of digital technologies. The financial benefits are likely to surpass the upfront costs greatly.

Seven Tips for Success

Contractors have buy-in from the decision-makers in their firm, and they’re ready to go. But before starting, consider these tips.

  1. Document the vision. Will efforts advance operational efficiency? Client satisfaction? Revenue? Set realistic goals and document the vision.
  2. Learn as much as possible about current systems, processes and approaches. Use existing research or commission new research to answer target audience needs and buying behavior questions. This information is critical to designing a plan that will get results.
  3. Consider the internal team. Is there adequate staffing? Will additional training be required? With today’s fierce competition over top talent, finding people with the right skills and experience may be difficult. 
  4. Enlist the help of a third-party vendor with proven skills to increase the odds of success. Outsourcing the project can help speed delivery, build a quality user experience and lower overall costs.
  5. Put people first. Too many companies fail because they focus on “shiny objects.” Ensure there’s a digital skills framework that can be leveraged and shared to gain employee buy-in.
  6. Implement the project in phases. Solid success at the beginning of the project sets the stage for more ambitious steps and builds organizational support. Track performance to optimize results and identify at least one key performance indicator for each business goal.
  7. Test and test again. Invest extra time to test the system as much as possible. You never know what may be discovered before going live. 
Now’s the Chance

In the next few years, digital advances will be critical for every firm’s survival. And, since many AEC firms are hesitant to begin a digital transformation, organizations have the chance to set themselves apart from competitors.

Digital transformations will increase a firm’s prospect pipeline and ensure they don’t miss out on new business opportunities. All it takes to start is a vision and proper planning.

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