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Episode 024: Productizing Your Services for Success in AEC

Today’s episode of the AEC Leadership Today podcast features Gregg Yanchenko, a practicing architect and co-founder of both HELENE·KARL Architects and the AEC Tech platform, BidDocs ONLINE. We dive deep into what it looks like and what it takes to successfully innovate and productize a service in AEC. 

Productizing Your Services for Success in AEC

Whether we are looking to provide greater value to clients, differentiate in the marketplace, or scale our business, there’s so much opportunity to succeed in the productizing space – but it takes more than just a good idea. In this episode, Gregg walks us through both the strategy and the actual steps taken to produce an innovative and truly problem-solving product that sets its users up for greater success in an industry that is often slow to change. Like so many of our episodes we cover a lot of ground and, after listening to our conversation, I’m convinced you’ll begin to see work and the opportunities to innovate in whole new ways. 

“Our industry, as I always like to say, we’re slow to adopt, slower to change.”

—Gregg Yanchenko

In this episode, we discuss:

  • How Gregg got his start in the Airforce before entering into the practice of architecture, and how Gregg entered the world of entrepreneurship – first by co-founding his firm, HELENE·KARL Architects, in the early 1990s and then by co-founding the AEC Tech platform, BidDocs ONLINE, in the mid 2000’s.
  • Why the AEC industry is slow to adapt to new tools and technologies. “If it worked before, why change it” is a pretty common and accepted refrain amongst consultants, agencies, and owners. And although there may be legitimate hesitation for straying too far away from “tried and true” design solutions, there’s also the real potential for missed opportunity.
  • How Gregg’s idea to first automate and then productize began. Out of a frustrating experience he saw a need to systemize and digitize the way certain processes were being done. In order to make things less laborious, administratively intensive, and error-laden, he co-founded BidDocs ONLINE. Gregg walks us through BidDocs’ origin story, how he got approvals and critical support, and how he began to expand it.
  • How to best productize parts of your own business. One important thing you need to do is evaluate the processes that are currently in place. Ask yourself: are they really necessary; and are the associated tasks the highest and best use of somebody’s time?
  • That technology solutions need to advance and enhance our work experience and productivity, not take things over and add to the work. To be effective, technology solutions also need to understand and account for all the necessary work requirements. In this sense, there’s tremendous value to having industry “insiders” lead product design,  versus having to rely solely on outside developers.
  • The framework and function of BidDocs ONLINE and the various ways in which it has grown from a tool to an entire project support platform over the years. Gregg walks us through the various specific needs that arose not just in his own company, but in his clients’ organizations, and how BidDocs repurposed and expanded platforms to strategically and innovatively cater to those needs.
  • How Gregg’s deep and direct “insider” knowledge as a practitioner, along with his quest for process excellence and user success, drove product development and results. Gregg also shares how he’s been able to effectively use his firm as an “R&D lab”. 
  • What an appropriate “MVP” – minimum viable product – needs to be for AEC, and why that’s different from the Tech world in general.  One prime difference is the fact that the AEC industry is more contractual than collaborative and, as such, deadlines and “bugs” take on much greater significance. 
  • The necessity and importance of cannibalizing your own products. Today’s product is only a tool to solve a problem the way it is seen today or was in the past. We need to continuously keep our eyes on the more “global” issues and problems that need to be solved by those we want to serve. Only by being able to look past how we think and work today will we be able to see the better ways to think and work tomorrow. 
  • Why we need to be both hungry and fearful everyday to make it in Tech. Although there are tremendous opportunities for success, Tech moves at an incredibly fast “nano second” pace – not something most of us are used to in AEC. 
  • How our products can differentiate us in the marketplace, especially at a time when clients are looking for innovative approaches that help them succeed in ways relevant to both today and the future. 
  • Gregg’s advice for those interested in productizing. We need to look around and see all the changes happening in life, business, and technology. All these need to be understood and leveraged. When it comes to our product, we need to be persistent, maintain a narrow focus, and make sure we have mass target market appeal in order to have success. 

“See if there’s mass appeal, see if people are really having this problem, and what are people willing to pay for it.”

—Gregg Yanchenko

Gregg sees both the big picture and the specific details that lead to success for his clients and the industry at large. Gregg is also an innovator and advocate for project outcomes that work and provide value for all parties – especially project owners, the party who both initiates and funds our projects. I am very appreciative that Gregg came on the podcast to share his thought-provoking insights and specific experiences into the emerging world of productization and AEC Tech. 

About Gregg Yanchenko

Gregg Yanchenko, AIA, co-founded HELENE·KARL Architects, Inc. in 1991. Before that, he got his BS in Architecture from the University of Virginia in 1983 and then moved on to get his Masters in Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania in 1985. His project focus consists of institutional, higher education, government, industrial, and public housing.

After seeing a need for systemized document management in 2006, he co-founded BidDocs ONLINE. BidDocs is an Owner focused cloud-based process management system that automates the entire construction procurement process using a fully integrated suite of applications to guide all participants to compliance, mitigate risk and ensure business continuity.

Transformative, BidDocs asserts the Owner’s leadership role in the process by providing situational awareness and data driven decision making.

BidDocs assimilates the collective knowledge of the industry participants into an expert system.

Thanks for listening to the AEC Leadership Today Podcast!

I sincerely hope you enjoyed today’s episode. Be sure to check out Gregg Yanchenko’s contact information and the website links in the resources section below for more information. If you like what you heard, leave a review on iTunes and share the podcast with your friends and colleagues. Look forward to seeing you in the next episode!  

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About the Host

Peter C. Atherton, P.E. is an AEC industry insider having spent more than 20 years as a successful professional civil engineer, principal, major owner, and member of the board of directors for high-achieving firms.  Pete is now the President and Founder of ActionsProve, LLC, author of Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners, and the creator of the I.M.P.A.C.T. process. Pete works with AEC firms and leaders to grow and advance their success through modern and new era focused strategic planning and implementation, executive coaching, leadership and management development, performance-based employee engagement, and corporate impact design.

Trace the steps to preventing and reversing burnout in you and your team.

Trace the steps to preventing and reversing burnout in you and your team.

Episode 024: Productizing Your Services for Success in AEC