I was accidentally “thrown” into the architecture and engineering (A&E) industry in 1989 when I worked for a CPA firm in charge of growing their management information systems (MIS) practice. My job was to help our clients determine their requirements and find the best accounting system for their business. Up to that point, I had worked with generic software systems that were focused on accounting features, functionality, and reporting.
But when one of our clients, Gorove/Slade, a successful transportation consulting firm in Washington, D.C., asked me to help them find a new system to manage their 50-person engineering practice, I soon learned that vertical software, designed specifically for the A&E industry, was a much better approach. The difference was in how projects are handled in the software and the need to understand profitability by project rather than just departments or profit centers, which is the focus of most generic accounting systems.
In the process of evaluating the top four or five systems on the market at that time, I helped them select the Wind2 system. We picked Wind2 because of its flexibility and deep focus on project accounting, billing and employee profitability reporting. As a result of my experience with the implementation of Wind2 in 1989, I ended up leaving my CPA firm to become an independent reseller and consultant for the Wind2 system in the Washington, D.C. area. Over the following 15 years, I built a team of software and industry experts solely focused on working with A&E firms. Because of our unique location in the United States, we also became experts in government contracting, which crossed industries including, A&E, information technology (IT) consultants, defense contractors, and other project-based consulting firms.
In addition to back-office accounting, time and billing, and project management functions of the Wind2 system, we also worked with the AE Marketing Manager system that was later purchased by Wind2 Software. This was one of the original Client Relationship Management (CRM) products on the market specifically developed for A&E firms. It helped manage opportunities, and produced SF 254/255’s. We also became experts in helping A&E firms manage their marketing and proposal efforts.
In 2005, Deltek bought Wind2 Software, and my firm, which was, at that time, named Jewell & Associates, became a Deltek partner. Deltek acquired the top three products on the market, Harper & Shuman’s Advantage (formerly CFMS), Sema4, and Wind2 between 1996 and 2005. It had amassed market share and dominance in the industry with more than 12,000 architectural, engineering, and environmental firms as clients.
In 2000, Deltek developed a new and more technologically advanced system called Deltek Vision. What differentiates Deltek Vision from any other product on the market today is that it is a fully integrated, web-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system built solely for project-based businesses.
What all of our clients had in common were projects. And in working with more than 700 firms over the last 22 years, I have come to develop recommendations for improving the business management practices of our clients and helping them to realize a return on investment (ROI) from their software systems.
My passion is to help our clients succeed by improving the way they manage employees, projects, processes, and technology. I have seen so many examples of poor business management over the years and the sometimes devastating effects that bad business decisions have caused for our clients.
One of the biggest mistakes I have seen is not leveraging technology to improve marketing, project management, and employee/resource management. Too often, the decision to buy software is based on the lowest price rather than how it can be a strategic tool to help the A&E firm owner to grow their business.
By taking the right approach to managing your business, you can make more money and have happier employees and clients. If you believe “how you have always done it” is better, I am hoping to show you that you can always improve and squeeze every last dollar from your business.
Do you need help implementing any of these ideas? Or just want to bounce some ideas off of someone outside of your inner circle? Reach out and let me know what your biggest challenge is, and I’ll see if I can help or point you in the right direction.
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