We conducted interviews with architecture firm managers to understand the specific challenges they were facing. Here are the 6 most prominent ones.
Architecture firms typically work on a large number of projects with outcomes that are hard to predict. Changes regularly disrupt the normal course of activities, and teams must be able to adjust at all times. Time tracking also poses specific challenges, because quality takes precedence over respecting estimates. Teams must put in the hours required to finish the deliverables, even if they end up taking more time than originally planned.
As Jean-Loup Patriarche, president of architecture, engineering and urban planning firm Patriarche : "You can't simply hold up your pen and call it a day when you go over your time estimate."
The sentiment was echoed by Marie-Laurence Rudelin, managing director and partner at Chabanne + Partenaires: quality is too important for teams to stick to rigid estimates. However, deadlines must be met. All deliverables must be shipped on time, even if it requires working twice as hard to get there.
What Are The Main Challenges?
Architecture firms face unique management challenges, and these are the most salient.
Managing billable utilization
Managing billable utilization is one of the biggest challenges for services firms, and architecture firms are no exception. First, due to the inherently creative nature of the job, the time that will be spent on a given activity is hard to estimate.
Moreover, planned and actual time aren't always compared because of the lack of adequate tools. (Beeye was created in part to address that need.)
However, that information is crucial to running a services business, because it defines whether a project will be profitable or not, why some projects run over budget, how estimates can be improved in the future, and so on.
Visiblity over projects and resource availability
It's not always easy to know who's available to lend a hand to a project team. The process largely relies on manual coordination done by project leads.
Independent schedules are managed, but most of the time, nothing provides visibility over all of the ongoing activities of the business (another problem we dealt with in Beeye).
Like many other businesses, architecture firms have tools to manage large projects in detail, but they have no ability to see how their organisation as a whole.
But a project is not isolated from the rest of the organisation, and it requires input from people who also work on other projects, which impacts them in turn.
Without a global view of everything, harmonizing projects can quickly become a headache, especially during crunch time.
Delay and changes
Many unexpected events can occur that impact the project schedule: a construction permit comes in late, a client pushes back the approval process, and so on.
To avoid that problem, coordination meetings are held weekly to reassess schedules and assignments for the most pressing tasks. That’s why it’s imperative to remain flexible to account for the unexpected.
When we understood the dynamic nature of resource assignments in architecture firms, we created a new view to allow quick assignments in one click, so employees can be reassigned to different projects quickly based on changing priorities.
That workflow satisfies the needs of services firms who encounter many weekly or even daily adjustments of that kind.⁂