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Mastering A/E Project Management: A Checklist for Selecting the Right Software for Your Architecture Firm
August 2, 2023
Selecting the right software can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Making sure the software you select meets all the needs listed below will help ensure you select the project management software that is right for your business.
1. Realtime Budget Status
Properly managing projects requires visibility into the status of the hours and budget that has been expended and what is remaining. This point is #1 because it is where most stand-alone Project Management tools fall short. Properly planning work and scheduling resources is next to impossible without this information. Systems that provide this information as part of the planning process significantly increase the likelihood that budgets are met, and project profitability is in the optimal range.
2. Timelines Visibility Across Projects
Having a central place where your team can view the timelines across all projects is an important aspect of any quality project management tool. Systems that require you drill into projects to view the details of the timeline can be cumbersome and frustrating to the managers. Once you can see all your timelines with a glance, you gather valuable information regarding the current and future status of your projects.
3. Resource Scheduling by Person or Project
When scheduling resources it is important to understand how busy a person is and easily have visibility into everything they are assigned to. Systems that don’t provide this make it difficult to understand how changes to the assignments on one project will impact other projects. When your firm can easily flip between scheduling by person or by project the process of resource scheduling becomes much faster and accurate.
4. Integration of Phases, Milestones and Tasks
Firms typically have major phases of a project, milestones that represent key dates or steps along the way and tasks that must be performed to complete the phases or milestone. If these items are not connected, modifications to the timeline of the project can be time consuming. Connections between these items reduce time spent setting up and modifying tasks while providing greater visibility into the status of each project.
"The right project management platform is essential to enhance collaboration, efficiency, productivity, and ultimately an A/E firm's overall success."
5. Earned Value Tracking
Earned value allows your firm to visualize the progression of a project by comparing the planned, spent and actual completion of the project. If this information is not available, project managers can have difficulty predicting that the project will exceed its budget. Project Management tools that show Earned Value allow project managers to see issues early so they can correct course to get the project back on track.
6. Subconsultant Billing and Payment Tracking
Project managers often play a part in determining when subconsultants should be paid. Tracking this information manually can be time consuming and mistakes can hurt the cash flow of the firm and strain relationships with partners. The tool you use should make it easy to track this information and tell you when subconsultants should be paid.
7. Revenue Forecasting
Project managers are often asked to help forecast revenue by indicating the amount of the remaining budget will be completed in the future. Using spreadsheets or other manual methods can be time consuming and provide inaccurate information. When the project management software is tracking budget and timeline information revenue forecasts can be easily generated.
8. Separation of Firm and Subconsultant Budgets
One benefit of project management software designed specifically for architecture firms is that they allow the portion of the project fees attributable to subconsultants to be broken out from fees for the firms services. Without this ability it is impossible to properly plan resources. Understanding the remaining budget excluding subconsultant fees, provides accurate data for effectively scheduling resources and forecasting revenue.
9. Visibility into project profitability
Being able to easily see profit across projects is a critical feature of any project management tool. Without this information the firm will struggle to determine what works and what does not work when improving project management processes. When your project management software allows you to view profit at the project level, you will understand the primary ‘why’ behind the firm meeting or not meetings its goals.
10. Document your Project Management Process
While all of the above features are important considerations in selecting the right software, you should always start by documenting your process before implementing any software solution. You should have a consistent and measurable process that identifies the what, who and how often of your project management process. Documenting this process will make it easy to select software that will allow you to be successful and make sure that you check all the right boxes.
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