Managing an architecture practice involves the simultaneous pursuit of several key ambitions, each of which presents unique challenges. To succeed, legal firms need to find ways to:
Grow revenue and profits
Connect your growth strategy with your business practices to win more profitable business
Guarantee project success
Deliver advice and support on complex issues within tight timescales, in scope, and within budget
Provide superior service
Exceed expectations with more focused, informed, agile and responsive teams
Architecture firms have always had a complex job, requiring employees to keep track of multiple multi-part projects that involve different teams at different stages. However, while project management isn't what many architects got into the business for, it is a crucial part of ensuring a firm stays profitable. At the same time, when working on a building, a lot can change and costs can easily spiral. Effective admin can help identify and address these issues but using valuable architects’ time for this is a cost in itself.
Achieving this balance can be challenging. But, by taking full advantage of the latest technology advances in professional services automation/project services automation – such as the Unit4 PSA Suite and broader enterprise software such as Unit4 Business World – it is a goal that is firmly within the reach of a well-run architecture business.
What challenges do architecture businesses face?
Architects have always faced certain challenges. Firms find themselves taking on complex projects that vary wildly, from bridges to schools to skyscrapers, and communicating with various teams of people within their own company and others.
However, today’s architecture firms face a range of additional challenges, including:
- Rapidly advancing technology – while BIM and CAD software make building design much easier, they need to be combined with effective project management tools in order to realize their true potential.
- System silos – having lots of information isolated within separate systems can lead to confusion, delays, wasted time, lost productivity and even important data getting lost.
- Planning and utilization – it can be hard to achieve the right degree of visibility over the various ongoing projects a firm is dealing with. From resource availability to cost and delivery forecasting, accurate insights are vital for making better-informed decisions.
As a result, many firms are harnessing the latest technology to improve coordination, planning and efficiency, while also enabling better control and transparency.
Key architecture industry trends
Unit4 offers a range of innovative solutions for architecture firms, to help them rise to the challenges they face today, and respond proactively to many of the key trends that are driving the future of the industry:
Like any other company, architecture firms are in business to make money; to do that sustainably means you can’t afford to stand still.
However, it can be tricky to decide at what point to take on new work, hire staff and grow the company. It can sometimes be hard to see the best next step forwards.
At the same time, Architects have to take care of a range of administrative tasks that are not only time consuming but also not at all what they went into architecture to be doing. If these could be reduced or even eliminated, then more work could be taken on and profit margins would increase, allowing for business growth.
Win more business
Thanks to the professional services automation that Unit4's software enables, this is all readily achievable. Admin tasks can be streamlined, automated and left for the software to complete, leaving architects free to focus their skills and energy on the core activities that will deliver the firms’ commitments and help build its future. This can make a big difference to morale, productivity, profits and the flexibility to grow.
Architects need to deal with an ever-increasing range and amount of specialized data for each project, from CAD or Revit files for a building, to providing structural teams with the details of everything from cavity depths to column locations. Communication and coordination are both vital in this process, and the same applies to the management of the project itself.
When information is fragmented and split across different databases, hard drives and inboxes, it can get lost, forgotten about and miscommunicated. This can easily lead to project delays, increasing costs for all involved.
Instead, architects should make use of a centralized project services automation solution to ensure this does not happen.
Execute profitable projects
Unit4's software solutions can provide just this, giving architects the tools to keep on top of all aspects of monitoring and managing each project Cutting-edge technology boosts the efficiency of vital processes and delivers the insights and control to know where everything and everybody is at all times – helping to ensure that the right decisions and actions are reached and projects can be carried out both competitively and profitably.
Managing time in today’s architecture firms requires a mixture of proactive and reactive thinking. Estimating how long a job will take is extremely important, but those estimates also have to be continually adjusted as a project progresses and the real-life situation emerges.
Doing so is key to effective resource management. However, managing a team of architects – each with ever-changing projects and increasing and decreasing delivery times – can often leave you with a lot of plates spinning at once.
This makes optimum utilization of your teams’ skills a constant challenge and it’s also difficult to assess future availability for estimating whether or not the firm is capable of taking on new work.
Staff more effectively
The visibility that Unit4's software solutions offer is key to solving this issue. Project managers can have everyone's time and availability visualized in front of them, enabling them to better plan and manage their firm's workload and ability to seize opportunities. They can also be used to keep track of skills, appraisals, work experience, compensations and benefits, helping legal workers to develop and grow within an organization, and allowing the employer to reap the benefit of their talents for years to come.
Keeping track of progress can be extremely difficult in a collaborative project as complex as a building.
Working with different teams can lead to delays if information is not communicated effectively and if it is hard to see what stage each team is at.
Poor visibility and coordination can also have implications for project budgets and the firm’s cash flow and bottom line if costs are not quickly visible or captured, so that they can be allowed for and (hopefully) recovered promptly.
Bill with precision
Unit4's software can provide the overall visibility that architecture firms require, giving give managers a complete overview of all ongoing projects, making it easy to keep track of resources, outsourcing and billable costs, as well as generate financial statements, produce detailed budget reports, manage invoicing and retain a direct overview of their bank balances and cash flows at all times.
Helping architecture staff at every level
Unit4's solutions deliver real value to everybody in an organization, from the CEO to entry-level staff. Here is how your entire architecture firm can benefit from Unit4 software:
Executives and Managers
Unit4 solutions make it easier to oversee the company's strategic direction.
Leaders and decision makers will gain access to new tools that will help them enhance profitability while identifying new business opportunities.
Unit4 solutions make it easier to budget, report and forecast more accurately, giving the finance team full visbility of their organization’s cash flow and profit margins, for better informed forward-thinking and planning for growth.
Unit4 solutions deliver better visibility over every element of complicated building projects, enabling architecture project leaders to allocate work with more accuracy and leading to much-reduced downtime.
Unit4 solutions help companies to maintain and match the right skills to current and future projects. As well as ensuring the most suitable staff can be allocated for their skill set, HR teams can monitor each person's overall development and training needs to keep them engaged and up to date with the latest industry developments.
Unit4 solutions help reduce the time taken up by complex bureaucracy and manual form-filling, enabling architects to focus their energy on the tasks for which their skills are needed most.