For AEC Firm UMC, Robust ROI Follows Fast CRM Implementation

Management team meeting

For UMC, a century-old construction firm known for taking on some of the most complex, ambitious, and challenging projects in the business, from Seattle’s Space Needle to Amazon’s Spheres, there’s no settling for “good enough.”

That standard applies not only to the quality, aesthetics, and safety of the built environments UMC creates, but also to the systems its people use to manage and grow the business. And it’s why UMC’s leadership decided it was time to move away from the clumsy, outdated, and ill-fitting generic customer relationship management (CRM) product the firm had been using.

“It was far from an elegant solution for a lot of the things we were trying to do,” Bob Frey, UMC’s Director of Sales and Operations, says of the big-brand, off-the-shelf CRM product the firm had been using for about six years.

Having grown weary of the system’s high cost, unreliable overlayed customizations, disjointed user experience, data blind spots and spotty vendor support, sticking with the legacy CRM product became untenable for the firm. Frey and the UMC executive team needed a CRM system designed specifically for construction firms that would reinforce the firm’s culture of innovation and collaboration.

The CRM Solution

A thorough due diligence process led UMC to choose Unanet CRM by Cosential, a solution purpose-built for architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms, and one that is highly rated by users across the AEC industry. “I was familiar with Unanet,” says Frey, “I’d seen it work really well for other companies in our business.”

Unanet CRM emerged as the best choice for UMC because:

  • As a system purpose-built for construction firms, it’s well-suited to rapid implementations. Following the selection of Unanet CRM, it took a mere four months to get the system integrated and fully operational.
  • It’s a fully integrated CRM, providing a single, stable environment and data resource for the entire enterprise and its multiple divisions, without cumbersome third-party overlays.
  • It provides all the capabilities and visibility that marketing, sales, and business development teams need to work efficiently, from contact management to proposal generation to pipeline visibility and beyond.
  • It offers the strong reporting, forecasting and account planning tools and capabilities that UMC sought, as well as a products module that enables quoting for the firm’s reality-capture and manufactured products directly from the CRM.
  • It’s dashboard-driven to cater to a visually oriented business, enabling people throughout the firm to measure performance, identify trends and draw insight from key data in real time.


UMC quickly saw benefits for bottom and top lines of its business, including:

  • At least one fewer full-time employee – no longer did the firm require a full-time employee to maintain its CRM system, nor did it need to invest in a third-party overlay to make its CRM work
  • Improved communication, collaboration, and inter-departmental support – thanks to modern automation features for proposal creation, résumé trafficking, and more
  • 30% growth of the firm’s contact base
  • Zero reporting lag time for dashboard-based reporting (vs. the usual 24-hour wait with the old CRM)
  • Organization-wide alignment

“People are finding uses for CRM that they could never imagine before,” Frey said. “Every bit of information that people need to know about what’s happening within the company is there, at their fingertips, in Unanet CRM.”

Keys To Success

Frey offers the following suggestions to guide AEC firms that may be considering a similar CRM upgrade:

1. Look for a CRM solution you can roll out and use enterprise-wide. Don’t settle for piecemeal products — a contact-management product here, an e-mail marketing product there — when an integrated end-to-end solution could well be your best, most cost-effective option. A patchwork approach could drag a firm right back to the inefficient, siloed and opaque world it sought to escape.

2. Seek a purpose-built solution. As UMC discovered, a CRM that’s designed specifically for AEC firms should be simpler and faster to implement, and, because it maps directly to the processes and workflows unique to project-based construction businesses, more readily embraced by users.

3. Find a true CRM partner, not just a vendor. The best CRM outcomes are those in which the provider of the solution supports its clients with service that’s as high-quality as the solution itself, that invites, listens to and acts upon customer feedback, that is attentive and accountable rather than indifferent to customers, and that provides guidance to customers long after the initial sale and implementation — in short, all the things a generic, off-the-shelf CRM product and vendor typically aren’t.

4. Prioritize tools that make it easy to measure, analyze and act in real time. Having a single source of trusted data, along with powerful tools to analyze and provide newfound visibility into that data, helps to sync marketing, sales and business development — and the entire firm — to goals, strategies and values. “It helps people stay on track, so they know where they need to head for the whole company to be successful,” Frey says.

5. Prioritize a solution that comes with robust, ready integrations. Plug-ins and prebuilt integrations between Unanet CRM and other key software systems on which the firm relies are enabling UMC to build an entire integrated digital ecosystem.

More than 3,700 project-driven organizations depend on Unanet to turn their information into actionable insights, drive better decision-making, and accelerate business growth. For more information, visit

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