Architecture and engineering firms throughout Europe and the Asia Pacific are embracing technology but still have much to do in order to fully exploit opportunities which can be unlocked through digital transformation, the latest survey suggests.

In its second annual Deltek Clarity Architecture and Engineering Study for the EMEA and APAC regions, enterprise software and information solutions provider Deltek surveyed more than 600 senior personnel from architecture and engineering firms across Europe and the Asia Pacific to identify trends and benchmarks across the design sector in 2021.

The study shows that architecture and engineering firms have made progress in advancing their digital maturity since the beginning of the pandemic.

This year, 18 percent of participants indicated they are either mature or advanced on the digital transformation maturity spectrum.

This compares to just percent last year.

Nevertheless, there remains an ongoing disconnect between technologies which firms say are important and their actual level of current deployment.

Whereas two thirds of firms say that data science, big data and machine learning are either somewhat or very important, only around one third are deploying these technologies across a wide range of business functions.

A similar disconnect can be observed across technologies such as internet of things, artificial intelligence, geolocation, natural language processing, robotic process automation, wearable technology, blockchain, AR/VR and digital twins (see chart).


(image source: 2nd Annual Deltek Clarity Architecture and Engineering Study)

There is also a discord between current levels of digital maturity and long-term aspirations.

Whereas only 18 percent of firms are digitally mature or advanced today, 56% of participants  indicated they expect to reach ‘digital maturity’ within five years.

Firms which have reached the ‘mature’ stage of their digital transformation have moved beyond ad-hoc execution of digital initiatives. Many such firms have integrated their IT strategies with their broader business strategies and are delivering digitally enhanced products or services on a continual basis (see chart below).

Those in the advanced stage see digital transformation as a strategic focus and are driving a culture of innovation which is leading to higher revenue, greater client experience and better operating margins.

Challenges cited in technology uptake include cost, a need to prioritise technologies which are most applicable to the business and a lack of employee education about technology trends and how these apply to the industry.

(image source: 2nd Annual Deltek Clarity Architecture and Engineering Study)

The latest survey comes as A/E firms have undergone transformation during the global pandemic.

Across those surveyed, architecture and engineering firms say that four out of five projects have been affected by the pandemic in some way.

All up, respondents say 49 percent of their projects have been either delayed (27 percent) or cancelled (22 percent).

Conversely, one in five (20 percent) projects has been accelerated.

In response to the pandemic, firms have adopted measures to adapt how they work. These include closer coordination with clients, shifting to remote or electronic processes where possible and adjusting processes.

The survey also found that:

  • Challenges in delivering projects on time and within budget remain. Only 30 percent of those surveyed are ahead of schedule on half or more their projects whilst only 33 percent say that at least half of their projects are on budget.
  • Whilst most (between 87 percent and 91 percent) firms have between moderate and very high confidence in their firm’s ability to report accurately on schedule, budget, actual cost and overall project performance, as many as one third still fail to track important project-focused KPIs. These include net revenue, on-time delivery, profitability, billing rates, schedule variances and client satisfaction.
  • Issues associated with competition remain at the top of business development challenges. All up, 38 percent of firms ranked greater competition as being in their top three business development challenges. Meanwhile, 37 percent nominated greater costs of competing for projects as a top three challenge.