The Solution: A CRM purpose-built for AEC firms
Since 1959, Ayres Associates has specialized in delivering creative architectural and engineering services and solutions to companies in the general civil, geospatial, and environmental industries. Since its founding, the firm has expanded into many more service offerings, including planning and development, river engineering and water resources, structural design and inspection, telecommunications and SUE, and transportation.
The Challenge: An outdated, cumbersome CRM system
Like many AEC firms, Ayres was faced with a big decision when Deltek announced it would no longer be supporting the marketing module within Vision – something Ayres depended on heavily for their proposal generation.
“We were no longer going to be able to generate proposal documents directly,” said Sue Leith, Marketing Director. “For us, that would have caused a very big efficiency issue, creating manual workarounds pulling project sheets and resumes together for proposals.”
And there were other challenges, too.
The CRM module was not user-friendly, so the staff—including engineers and project managers—refused to use it. Without complete information in their CRM system, Marketing was forced to try to build a pipeline manually, making it nearly impossible to track new business opportunities and determine how best to support the firm’s goals.
Business development was also taking a hit. There was no visibility of the firm’s pursuits and no easy way to get a comprehensive overview of business development activities for each client. Creating reports was also difficult.
The ability to communicate seamlessly with Deltek’s accounting modules without costly custom programming, providing the marketing team with the information they need from other departments and saving time and effort
The ability to generate branded proposal documents, including project cut sheets and resumes, quickly and in the preferred format (InDesign, MS Word, or PowerPoint)
Native integration with Microsoft products, including Outlook and Teams, allowing the marketing team the ability to promote the new system internally with ease
Easy-to-use dashboards and reporting for personalized visibility of marketing and BD activities
Streamlining proposal and document generation
“Because we eliminated Vision immediately to incur no further costs, the first capability we needed was producing RFPs out of the system,” said Sue. “So, instead of starting with business development, we started with marketing and then proceeded with business development. We create on average around 650 submittals a year. With aec360, we’ve gone from about 16 hours per proposal down to 13, so we’re saving nearly 2,000 hours per year.”
“We created templates to merge information directly into InDesign,” added Sharon Whitman, Database Specialist. “We also have templates that merge into Word so our administrative assistants can help with the workload when needed.”
“With aec360, we’ve gone from about 16 hours per proposal down to 13, so we’re saving nearly 2,000 hours per year.”
Creating a pipeline where there was none before
“The first thing I will say is there would be no way we would have a pipeline today if it wasn’t for the simplicity of aec360,” said Sue. “You could, in theory, create a pipeline in our old CRM, but that would not have been practical. It was cumbersome and required a lot of maintenance, and it couldn’t track important details, for example, whether a client is public or private.”
In addition to being able to build and scale the new business pipeline, Sue has also refined it as aec360 helps them ensure project managers are pursuing the most appropriate opportunities. Based on their new data, Ayres was able to identify trends around which proposals they were winning and losing. This helped them to focus their energy on pursuits that had a higher likelihood of winning.
With aec360, Ayres teams can also set goals and create business development plans at the project manager level that align with the firm’s one-, three-, five-, and 10-year strategic plans. They can then set up meetings, calls, and other business development activities within the system, which will send reminders through Outlook.
“Our system uses goals in aec360 to set divisional, group, and project manager goals and then roll the project manager goals up into the divisional goals”, explained Sharon. “We've created dashboards to monitor this, so the project managers can see how close they are to reaching their goals throughout the year.”
The pipeline is not only automated, but it also accounts for changing conditions like economic shifts or government funding being pulled.
The result: A living business development plan that evolves and is always up to date.
Improving data access and reporting
Clear, easy-to-read dashboards and the ability to create reports are other areas where aec360 has delivered benefits. The firm’s previous dashboards were virtually unusable and a “nightmare” to export data into a spreadsheet.
“We do complicated things with our data. Even the HSO team agrees that it’s not the norm,” said Sharon. “It was so cumbersome before to get the data out, and then there were manual processes behind doing anything with that data. But with aec360, we just let the system do all the work. Just recently, one of our executive VPs wanted to compare the owner market to our client market. We would have been unable to do that in Vision, but in aec360, it’s a completely automated, fast process.”
Sue also pointed out the firm’s ability to drive more accountability: “You know at the glance of a dashboard what everyone is doing—or not doing. aec360 enables us to hold people accountable, and it’s quick and easy.”
Because of the availability of information in aec360, project managers are now realizing they can uncover opportunities to cross-sell new services by seeing how other staff are engaging with clients they want to target.
“You know at the glance of a dashboard what everyone is doing—or not doing. aec360 enables us to hold people accountable, and it’s quick and easy.”
The aec360 mobile app is also a hit. The aec360 app is popular and has been adopted quickly because its interface is exactly the same as the desktop version. Their marketing and business development information are always available on the go, and the voice-to-text option became a surprising time saver, encouraging employees to capture more detailed information that comes in handy in building relationships.
Driving user adoption
One unexpected benefit of aec360 is its flexibility to accommodate how different project managers work, depending on their comfort level with the system, to drive user adoption. Those who have had time to settle in with aec360 are actively creating and managing their pipelines without prodding from marketing. They’re entering activities, tracking appointments, and bringing emails from Outlook into aec360. Some have even enabled their administrative assistants to enter opportunities for staff to help ease the burden of initially populating the system. Regardless of where they are in the learning and adoption curve, the project managers are realizing the benefits of working with aec360.
A partnership with industry experts makes a difference
This success story would not have been possible without a strong partnership and the expertise of an industry-focused consultancy like HSO. “We've gotten to work with and are still working with a lot of great people,” said Sharon, and Sue agreed: “Every project has its ups and downs, but regardless of what is happening or who we are dealing with, it is always professional and collaborative and continues to be so. Kudos to the HSO team.”
Discover more about aec360