Maximizing ROI & Strategic Advantage with Proprietary AEC Tech

Maximizing ROI & Strategic Advantage with Proprietary AEC Tech

Nate Olson
minute read

Among leadership of large AEC firms, technology is far too often seen as a necessary evil and a cost center. What if it became a revenue generator? What if you had a portfolio of smart investments in your own proprietary technology that allowed your company to grow, thrive, and withstand any environment?

Let's think about how software investments are capitalized. When you decide to make an investment in your company by building proprietary tech, you’re developing an asset for the business. 

Assets sit on the balance sheet and can be capitalized over their useful life. Similar to buying a new building or piece of equipment, you aren’t simply vaporizing cash.  You’ve turned that cash into an asset that has retained value. 

When you use a one-size-fits-all software platform, you’re expensing the cost in the year incurred and that’s it. Your balance sheet doesn’t grow, you don’t get tax advantages, and you don’t build a competitive moat around your business.

Here are some other important advantages that come with owning your own tech:

Customization and flexibility

  • Proprietary technology can be tailored to meet specific company needs and workflows, offering a personalized approach that generic solutions cannot.
  • Provides the flexibility to evolve the technology as the company grows and its needs change, ensuring long-term relevance and utility.

Competitive advantage

  • Owning unique technology can set a company apart from competitors by offering innovative solutions and services not available elsewhere.
  • It can also lead to the development of new business models or service offerings, further distinguishing the company in the market.

Efficiency and productivity

  • Custom solutions can streamline operations, reduce project timelines, and enhance productivity, leading to significant efficiency gains.
  • Case studies and data often show that companies developing their own tech solutions benefit from improved operational efficiency.

👉 We've partnered with one of the world's largest construction companies to revolutionize their pre-construction process, resulting in significant improvements to their design-to-budget workflow.

Risk management

  • In-house technology allows for better control over data security and intellectual property protection.
  • Proprietary systems can be designed with specific compliance and risk management features, especially beneficial in industries like AEC where regulatory compliance is critical.

Cost savings in the long run

  • Despite the initial investment, owning technology can be more cost-effective than perpetual licensing fees for off-the-shelf solutions.
  • Long-term savings are achieved by eliminating subscription or license fees and gaining the ability to customize and adapt the technology without additional costs.

Leveraging data for strategic decisions

  • Ownership of data through custom technology enables deeper insights into operations, project performance, and customer behavior.
  • Facilitates data-driven decision-making and predictive analytics, offering strategic advantages in planning and market positioning.

It's important to look beyond the immediate convenience and cost of off the shelf solutions and consider the strategic benefits of proprietary tech as a savvy investment strategy. Understanding how you win and building a competitive advantage around those key areas and around your data long term will serve you well. 

As all AEC firms slowly realize they are going to become more of a technology company than anything else, it's important for leaders to have these internal conversations about the potential for technology development. You’re going to need the technology. So ask yourselves: what parts of your tech ecosystem will be yours, and what will be someone else's?

Where do you begin?

Building software is a big investment upfront, so my suggestion is that you don’t tackle it in one fell swoop. A great starting activity with AEC firms is to look at the one spreadsheet that everyone misuses across the organization, and think about what it would look like to turn that spreadsheet into a small application. 

It's a thoughtful exercise that helps standardize inputs, versions, and streamline communications and permissions. Apps can be small, they can be low code/no code. They can be dashboards that show KPIs. The opportunities are endless, but you need to determine what makes the most sense for your firm, customers, and the natural assets you already have. 

Last updated
Apr 3, 2024

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