FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS  
     
 

WHAT BENEFITS ARE FIRMS LOOKING FOR BY HIRING YOU?

One of the principal benefits of working with us is the cost savings. We’re about 50-60% less than in-house production. But for some firms, using us enables them to hire more intelligently as well. In a boom period, a firm can direct some of the work to us, rather than staffing up for a single large project or for what might be a twelvemonth boom period. Thus, the firm avoids incurring the additional costs of permanent employees, including assuming liability for more real estate, healthcare, training, etc. When things slow down, as they always do, the downsizing is a much easier and natural transition. Another important benefit of the cost savings is that it allows firms to spend more of the fee on design rather than on production. A number of firms use us just for this reason: they can invest more hours in design. Businesses expect their design firms, as well as their other suppliers, to aggressively pursue efficiencies to keep prices low, or to make sure that they are paying for value-added services.

HOW DO WE NURTURE AND TRAIN OUR OWN JUNIOR STAFF IN-HOUSE WHEN PRODUCTION WORK IS NOW BEING EXECUTED OFFSHORE?

Each firm comes to terms with the amount and type of work it will offshore. In some cases that might be 5% of the firm's production work; in other cases, more than 50%. In each case, core production staff are maintained and nurtured in-house in order to ensure the evolution and propagation of firm culture needed to guarantee the longevity of the practice. There are many factors which can influence the amount of work to be off shored: the nature of the work itself, the quality and capabilities of the service provider, the communication and organizational strengths of project architects on both sides of the ocean, etc. Going forward, architects working in your offices, rather than being replaced by architects working overseas, will instead as a part of their basic training be educated in proper procedures for off shoring production work, as they were when CAD products were introduced 15-20 years ago. In fact, we are not aware of any firm that we have worked with actively having dismissed in-house staff after securing long-term arrangements with us: instead, we find that the increased competitiveness and high-quality of work that we produce enables our clients to grow in size rather than reduce.

HOW DO YOU ADDRESS CONTROL, COMMUNICATION, QUALITY, AND DELIVERY?

CONTROL: Your projects are directly supervised and controlled by you. You control your studio; we manage it and ensure the end product. Just as you would work with the production team in your own studio, you give our team in our office specific instructions on a regular basis as the drawings develop from schematic design through construction documentation. At all times, you control the process, from sketch design interpretation to technical detailing.

COMMUNICATION: Communication lies at the heart of the remote production process, and its success is a direct function of the quality of the communication regimen adhered to by our clients abroad and our teams in India. Whether a combination of email, ftp links, phone calls, we will adapt to your communication preferences in order to ensure.

QUALITY ASSURANCE: Each project team complies with strict quality assurance measures which address three principal areas of concern:
 
GRAPHIC ACCURACY: Our designated Architect makes sure that our CAD drawings maintain the same presentation standards as your own drawings generated in-house. Our drawings look as though they were produced in your own studio.

CAD ACCURACY: Our designated Architect will ensure that the all CAD layering systems, line style and lines weights, layer management standards, etc. have been followed.

TECHNICAL ACCURACY: We are responsible for ensuring that details work within the larger context of the entire drawing set, and that all drawings are duly coordinated. If we find inconsistencies or have concerns about specific drawings or details, we will alert you prior to moving forward.

HOW DO YOU ENSURE CONFIDENTIALITY OF BOTH THE WORK PRODUCT AND THE RELATIONSHIP ITSELF?

Confidentiality and discretion are important concerns for both the firm and its clients around the world. We are very particular about how we protect your information, maintaining strict confidentiality deeds with clients and employees, as well as a state-of-the-art secure network with access granted only to current Team Leaders. Your data is safe in our hands, and is always available to you on request. Moreover, in the interest of respecting your right to privacy, we do not publish the names of our client firms or their projects, nor your proprietary renderings or technical drawings, without obtaining your prior approval in writing.

WHAT ABOUT CODE ISSUES?

When required, our clients provide us with relevant sections of building codes to assist us as we develop their drawings. Responsibility for verifying code interpretation, however, lies, with our client firms.

HAS ACCEPTANCE OF YOUR BUSINESS CHANGED OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS?

Two years ago there was some natural caution about working with us. We had a couple of pioneering firms who felt it might be interesting, took a step forward and gave us work, but they were few. Two years ago we might have gotten a 10% response out of a hundred contacts; today we get an 80% response. Two years ago we could get meetings with only two of the top fifty firms in the UAE; today, we’ve had meetings with almost all of them. Even in the last year, we have seen a huge change in the attitude of the industry. I have been called to meetings with major firms in the UAE, BAHRAIN, QATAR, SAUDI ARABIA and UK to give presentations. Almost all of my presentations today involve the total senior management of a firm, and, usually, I make presentations in multiple offices of the same firm. Invariably this conversation happens only at the top, the owners of the firm. Most firms are establishing connections with us in some way, and some of them have actually created programs with us to offshore regular work. I believe this is now an irreversible trend in our industry. It will probably take another three or five years before it becomes commonplace, but I can already see that happening and it’s just a question of time.

HAVE CLIENTS BEEN SATISFIED WITH THE OUTSOURCING ARRANGEMENT?

As a company, we have been 100% paid for all work we have done, with almost no write-offs. Part of the reason is the fact that we deliver what our clients ask us for. The second reason is that we have effective regular communication with our clients. This is not a process where we simply toss data over a stone wall and let the folks on the other side worry about picking it up from there. Our wall is more like a chain link fence that allows us to pass information readily between us.

WHAT KIND OF COMMENTS HAVE YOU RECEIVED FROM CLIENTS REGARDING YOUR SERVICES?

The most impressive comment is that every client we've ever started with has become a regular client. This may not be something they broadcast, but they're very happy and we can see that by the volume of work they give us and how they treat us. Our challenge, of course, will be managing quality as we grow, and that's what we are now looking at as a major challenge in this business.

HOW SMALL A PROJECT WILL YOU TAKE AND HOW LARGE?

The way our company is structured now is that our Office comprises of a group of small studios, with each studio working exclusively for one particular client. So, most of the time it’s not the size of the work but it's the regularity of the work that is important, simply because it takes time for our teams to move up the learning curve and develop the necessary working relationships there's an educational process involved. Generally speaking, then, the clients we have give us regular work. Does that mean that we turn away one-off projects? No, we do them where the size of the project justifies the up-front man-power investment. We do work for many of the largest firms in the Gulf. One client is a 150-person firm. But we also have some two or three-person firms among our clients. Ideally, we prefer not to turn

anything away. It's really more about the working relationship that we establish with individual companies than the size of the company.

HOW DO YOU ESTABLISH A RAPPORT, A COMMON UNDERSTANDING; HOW DO YOU CONVEY TO YOUR CLIENT FIRMS EXACTLY WHAT YOU CAN DO AND WHAT YOU NEED FROM THEM?

Most of the time we meet clients personally. Often, we'll have a couple of meetings where we present our capabilities and our work process. These presentations can be done, in part, through documents as well, but it's not as effective, and the relationship aspect is too important to be handled only through long distance exchanges. Clients want to know who's going to do their work. There are all kinds of service providers in this business, some of whom only act as brokers. For example, a broker might take a smaller project, say a house, and farm it out to a service provider in the Philippines or in Thailand or in India; when they get the work, they send it back to the client. That's not how we work. That model does not work for the more sophisticated client. We insist that our teams be in direct touch with the client team and that the teams know each other. That's how this process works. Architects, designers, and engineers need to feel they have direct control; they need to feel like they know the people who are doing their work and that they are comfortable with them.

WHAT DISTINGUISHES YOUR OPERATION FROM OTHERS IN THE FIELD?

We are not brokers; our work process has evolved out of well-developed working relationships with leading firms worldwide and we have to date completed more than 200 projects. To boot, we have invested in our own state-of-the-art facility, and believe that our quality assurance, operational and human resource systems, and product delivery systems, thanks to our collective experience and the help of our experienced board, is the best in this industry. Lastly, we excel at design interpretation . . . 100% of our people are architects or engineers; we're very competent at understanding and interpreting design intent. We get involved much earlier in a simple construction and into the design development and schematic design phases.

HOW DO YOU ASSESS COSTS PER PROJECT?

We have experienced architects who examine the scope and assess the deliverables in each project and then develop an estimate of the hours the team would require to complete the drawing package.

DESCRIBE YOUR WORK PROCESS SO WE CAN SEE HOW IT WORKS:

As our day ends here our final drawings are uploaded. Principal Consultant’s offices can then begin the process of downloading our drawings to further refine them. Then they upload theirs at the end of their work day, and so on. We accept drawings in many forms: sketches, various types of media or other image files that are uploaded to an ftp site. We'll process that information and prepare the cad files using the information we have. Once we have done as much work as possible, we'll upload those files to be reviewed the next day by the client firm. The more assumptions we can make regarding a project, based on our past experience and the guidelines given to us, the less work the client firm has to do. Firms have preferences they share with us, and we use that information as we create construction documents. Some firms prefer a certain kind of glass, a certain type of stone, a certain type of curtain wall, so a database of manufacturers for a particular project can have a large impact on the final product. Often clients refer us to their preferred manufacturers' websites for specific information on details, etc. Once the project is identified by the client, we receive the initial set of drawings in the current stage. Clients may send a completed reference set from a similar project to help us understand what they expect in the way of final deliverables. We'll also develop a drawing list to make sure there is a common understanding of what our scope of work is. We'll then put man-hours on the drawing list and figure out how much time it's going to take us to do the work, and that will determine the fee. From there, there is a back and forth process as work progress.

HOW IS DATA TRANSFERRED, MEANING DO I UPLOAD DRAWINGS ONTO YOUR SERVER OR WOULD I HAVE TO MAIL THEM TO YOU, OR HOW DOES THAT GET MANAGED?

We can organize drawing uploads to our ftp site dedicated for each Principal Consultant.

ARE THE PRODUCTS YOU SEND TO THE FIRMS EDITABLE FILES, CAD FILES AND THE LIKE, OR PDFS?

Usually we exchange PDF files; uploading CAD files is actually quite tedious, especially when you have a multiple x-ref attachments, and generally it is only done either on demand or for a submission where the firm has to plot everything out on their side to take it to the client.

CAN YOU TELL US FROM EXPERIENCE WHEN OR HOW CAN THINGS GO WRONG AND WHAT SHOULD WE AVOID?

First, it is critical that the firm decide to take the proposition of off shoring with seriousness, and that they assign the right individual in their firm to take up the responsibility for coordinating the effort form their side. The Principal Coordinator should be more a task master than necessarily a great designer, as a great project manager who enjoys the details. He or she should also be a very strong communicator. Whenever the process has gone wrong in the past, it has to some extent resulted from the wrong person taking up the work. At the outset, it is also critical for the client firm to give more information rather than less. As we come to terms with each firm's working style, we do begin to develop shorthand for communication and data transfer, though initially it is better if expectations are fully laid out and all information made available. I would also suggest that it be emphasized that the scope of work must be made clear by the client providing a detailed drawing list in advance of asking for a quote as well as a good reference set defining the deliverable.

     
 
 
 
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