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Listening to the Architect

Living with the New Speed of Business

06:38:11 AM on 04/14/2010

About a month ago I attended a panel discussion, “Trends in Leadership”.  The panel consisted of a group of executives from Atlanta-based companies who were answering a list of questions submitted by the audience. When asked about new trials faced by leaders today, the panelists agreed that the increasing speed at which we do business is a challenge  - also my biggest daily challenge. 


There is no doubt that the speed of business is considerably faster than it was a few years ago and will continue to increase in the coming years.  I remember when the fax machine entered our offices and we were able to send letters instantly. And with the advent of cell phones, we are able to stop and contact associates any time. It’s amazing how often during the day, or when helping the kids with homework at night, I have a question that can get answered by a simple Google search. The availability of so much information on the Internet has raised our expectations that questions should be answered immediately.


The tools that we use today have done a remarkable job of speeding things up for the architectural community.  Building Information Modeling (BIM), for example, is accelerating the speed of architectural drawing by allowing designers to immediately gather and utilize data to instantly answer questions ranging from thermal performance and weight of a system, to labor and product installation. 

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Tools that accelerate the speed at which we do business are fantastic conveniences; however, they often raise the expectation that instant answers are the norm across the board.  Even today, some questions still need to be worked out step-by-step and answered by a human. I would say about 60 percent of the questions that Kawneer’s Architectural Services Team (AST) receives doesn’t have an instant answer.  These questions require gathering more information; seeking additional drawings; asking design intent goals; performance considerations and structural surround conditions.  All of this is information that needs to be overlaid to calculate the correct system suggestions; details; anchors; end reactions; performance levels and specifications.  This is a process that involves calculations and evaluation.  Needless to say, since each project is unique and requires so many details, these questions do not fall into the instant answer category. 


Because the speed of business is increasing, we are all making adjustments to meet the demand of this new pace.  New processes and methods need to be created, tested and executed. As the manager of Kawneer’s AST, I recognize that I manage a group that still functions within a high-touch environment.  While I am amazed and excited that technology has allowed us to keep pace with the accelerating speed of business in many functions, I can’t deny that some steps still require a human to gather, sort and calculate the data to come up with accurate details and a final recommendation. A critical recommendation that will have huge downstream impact must be correct when given the first time.  These detailed evaluations take time.


I often wish my function could join the age of instant answers. If the time comes for us to be replaced by a program, we will keep up with the speed of business but the industry will lose a high-touch relationship with a knowledgeable person to question, sort and shift to the correct data needed to produce an accurate recommendation.  Until then, we will double down the effort and do our best to keep up with the accelerating speed of business today.  I look at our process daily and try to find ways to speed up our deliverables. It’s both my goal, and Kawneer’s, to deliver architects and customers with quick, accurate answers and personalized service. 


As always, if you have any ideas or something specific you would like us to examine, please do not hesitate to contact me or any member of Kawneer’s AST. 


AST-1 Click on the link to view contact information regarding the Kawneer Architectural Services Team.


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Best regards,
Henry Taylor


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