James Kent on Boiling Up Social Media and Web Content via Thornton Tomasetti’s Intranet

James Kent

This interview with James Kent, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at Thornton Tomasetti, a leader in engineering design, investigation and analysis serving clients worldwide on projects of all sizes and complexity, was conducted and condensed by Christopher Parsons.

Christopher Parsons: I’ve looked at hundreds of architecture and engineering intranets over the last year and a half. I’ve never seen this much content. This is really exceptional.

James Kent: Thank you. Our intranet is divided into two broad areas: links to firm-wide resources and what journalists would call “the news hole,” that is, various kinds of editorial content. The news hole is divided into four kinds of content: We have a lead feature story front and center, with a big image; below that we have three news stories with smaller thumbnail images; below those we have four elements you might call “departments” and in the right rail are very short, newsy items, including an “image of the week,” which employees across the firm submit. We update the site once a week, unless there is something really urgent, which goes up right away.

The feature is usually the longest, most important, and most timely element. News stories generally run shorter. We have five “departments:” Sustainability features anything related to our green efforts; Tech Talk is the most technical engineering element, like mini-seminars; Project Spotlights generally feature two key projects per week in 200 words or less; Media Mentions is what others are saying about us in the press and on blogs, etc., and Talks & Papers is presentations we have made or papers published. Nearly all the editorial content is generated by one editor, with help from another part-time writer, so it comes from 1.5 writers.

Taken as a whole, this is our corporate knowledge, right? We’re generating all this stuff, and capturing all this information. What else can we do with it?

What we do every week is sit down, the three of us — the intranet editor, the web manager and me — and say, “OK, of all this stuff on the intranet, what should we boil up to the public site, to our Facebook page, to YouTube? What should we tweet about? Which should go on the public website?”

We basically share everything that is not proprietary or confidential. We don’t share information that we think is a competitive advantage. But we share all other information that we think may help clients, business partners, students, and anyone else interested in learning about our work or the AEC community.

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Posted: August 4th, 2011 | Filed under: All Posts, Interviews | 2 Comments »

Alex Serriere on Research and Development at TEECOM Design Group


This interview with Alex Serriere, Director of Research at TEECOM Design Group, which offers telecommunications, security, and audiovisual systems engineering services nationally, was conducted and condensed by Christopher Parsons.

Christopher Parsons : Was there a research role before you joined TEECOM or did you create it?

Alex Serriere: I was hired as a Junior Design Engineer into a research role that wasn’t really defined at all. The intention from the beginning was to have a research group, but at the time, no one was really sure what that meant. We created the position with the hope that something interesting would develop. I would certainly say in the last three years, something interesting has developed. However, at the time I joined TEECOM, there was definitely nothing concrete in terms of what I was to do; how I was to do it; how was I going to integrate that into our process.

CP : Was the research group created to be a differentiator or did you feel that TEECOM needed to create a research group to keep up with your competition?

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Posted: August 4th, 2011 | Filed under: All Posts, Interviews | 2 Comments »

Hobson Hogan on Measuring the Value of Knowledge-Based Firms


This interview with Hobson Hogan, principal at ZweigWhite, which offers management consulting and valuation services to the architecture and engineering industry, was conducted and condensed by Christopher Parsons.

Christopher Parsons: What’s different about the way that we do valuations and acquisitions in architecture and engineering compared with other industries?

Hobson Hogan: Architecture and engineering is a very people-oriented business. The true assets are the very bright people who are designing, managing projects, and getting the work done; they’re the assets. People don’t really reside on the balance sheet from a financial perspective. You see their work manifested in the income statement, but there’s no really good financial way to measure what they bring to the table on the balance sheet. That’s different than an industrial business that has a lot of fixed assets.

From a valuation standpoint, and especially in transactions, it tends to make architecture and engineering firms a little more risky and difficult to value, because people have free will and can leave at any time. While some firms do have some intellectual property, the true value of most architecture and engineering firms is the ability for the people to get work and do the work, over and over again. That means happy clients and happy designers.

CP: Tom Stewart has written two excellent books on knowledge management, Intellectual Capital and The Wealth of Knowledge. Stewart’s taxonomy for looking at intellectual capital is broken into three types: human capital, which is the people themselves; structural capital, meaning the databases, the process, the patents, and the knowledge firms put into systems; and then the relational capital, meaning all of the clients, consultants, partners, and vendors. Is analyzing structural and relational capital part of your methodology for valuing architecture or engineering firm?

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Posted: July 18th, 2011 | Filed under: All Posts, Interviews | Comments Off on Hobson Hogan on Measuring the Value of Knowledge-Based Firms