Unfortunately, there is not one perfect way to manage an architecture firm.
Like businesses in many industries, architectural firms can also face limited formal management training.
On top of that, there is also a lingering need to manage scarce resources across multiple projects at the same time.
This environment can create a few ongoing challenges. However, for every issue that comes up, there’s a solution — as any great architect knows.
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Top challenges for architecture firms
Architecture and management practices have come a long way, but some of the most common challenges are related to outdated processes and tools.
Let’s take a look at the biggest challenges these firms face, and how to solve them.
1. Client retention and new business development
Retaining and securing clients is a big focus for any architecture firm.
You might have a dedicated team or role that includes responding to RFPs, as well as finding and retaining clients for future projects. Even with a dedicated team, the whirlwind of work that’s attached to gaining a new client can disrupt ongoing projects or slow down workflows.
On top of that, the statistical win rate for each RFP is close to 5% Just imagine that out of 20 RFP responses sent, you have a chance of winning only one. That can impact how often you submit proposals, and how much time you spend.
To address this concern, many firms are turning toward other approaches to business development or using modern software to improve efficiency. This also means embracing change and looking for ways to evolve your internal processes for better productivity and success.
2. Lack of internal alignment on projects
As architects take on leadership roles, making sure teams are aligned becomes part of their daily responsibilities.
Architect firm leaders interact with clients, work to keep everyone in the loop, and make sure project requirements are thorough, as well as shared across the team.
The success of the project is also dependent on an architectural design brief.
This document helps teams gather the requirements from the client as early as possible. It also makes sure that the client and the architects are aligned throughout the process and don’t stray away from any of the requirements.
Without a thorough brief, all architecture problems only get amplified as there is a lack of agreement and alignment among team members.
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3. Deadlines or budgets that can be limiting to the goals of a project
Sometimes, client requirements may not match up with the budget. It’s the job of the architect to communicate this, and find solutions. When this happens from the start, it’s easy to correct.
However, it can also come up as the architects work on revisions or changes to the original blueprint. It can be hard for teams to track all these small changes in relation to the larger-scale budget at the same time.
Time and budget tracking apps such as Hubstaff keep an accurate record of all the time recorded to a certain client or project. Managers can check in at any point, or get automatically notified as budget limits are approached or reached.
By relying on software to automate your budget tracking, you can focus more time on clients and moving projects forward.
4. The management of the billable utilization
Since the role of an architect in a building project is inherently creative, it is hard to put a price on every dash. However, most architecture firms still measure their efficiency in terms of billable hours (time spent on payable projects).
Low utilization and billable hours are a clear sign that architects’ roles and responsibilities are not distributed fairly or efficiently. For instance, some employees may be spending more time on admin work, while others are overloaded with client projects.
Another issue might be having too many or too little resources assigned to a task.
With too many professionals on one project, some may have extra time in their day that will go to admin work. As a result, utilization falls below the ideal threshold of 87%, indicating that workloads may need to be better balanced.
Last but not least, if the firm has many teams, one or several of them may be less busy than others. Or, some of them may be posting their work hours inaccurately. As a result, billable hours are not reflected properly, and the firm’s efficiency becomes questionable.
Challenges related to architects’ roles and responsibilities in construction
Now that we’ve covered architect personnel and firm-related challenges, there’s the issue of how architects are involved in the construction process.
The role of an architect during construction is to keep clients updated and be able to adjust plans, as directions can change really fast.
Here are some of the most common challenges for this phase, and how to deal with them before they turn into larger issues.
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Managing project costs and budgets
The lead architect is often responsible for three important tasks: planning, budgeting, and cost control. Issues occur when the expected delivery timeframe isn’t met, and costs exceed what was budgeted
To avoid this, it is necessary to work with contractors to ensure estimates are accurate, and to communicate with clients should things change.
Architects need to understand how much what they’re designing will cost so that they’re not setting client expectations too high, or having to fix blueprints later.
Architectural project management software solutions
As you can see, most major challenges come down to communication, collaboration, and planning.
The good news is that the right processes and tools can address all three.
Firms that embrace change, try out different solutions, and improve workflows can see these challenges resolved quickly.
One answer is project management software for architects.
Architecture firm managers can easily see who’s working on what, how much of a client budget has been used, and issue payments to team members or invoices to clients.
You might even find that Agile project management software is the best fit for your firm. This approach offers visual workflows, smoother collaboration, and the ability to assign detailed tasks to the relevant team members. This makes it easy to see where a project is at any point, and if it’s at risk of missing its deadline.
There are several useful, free solutions, like these floor plan software tools, ready to help give your practice a little boost with less cost and training-time than you might think.
Kickstart architectural office management for your own firm
With the necessary tools and people at hand, managing an architecture business can go much smoother.
Having the right experiences and surrounding oneself with useful software are the necessary steps to assigning architect roles and responsibilities in construction and tracking them efficiently.