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Project Management Essentials for AEC Firms

Your firm features the best and brightest employees - architects and engineers who have their technical skills down cold. Your workers have won awards, been recognized, graduated summa cum laude, etc.

What if I told you that while smart employees are a key part of running a successful architecture or engineering firm, it’s not the most important ingredient?

Yes, having great employees is vital. Finding and keeping great clients is even more important. But the most significant component of running an AEC practice? It’s project management. Having the best clients and most dedicated professional staff won’t do your firm any good if you and your team can’t make a profit on each and every project.

Here are three ways to help your firm become even better at project management.

Staying Within Scope

Your firm and the client must be crystal clear on the work that is to be completed. No gray areas. Spell everything out. Your project management software should highlight each phase of the project and what will be accomplished in each phase.

Staying within scope doesn’t mean that change orders should be avoided. They are, in fact, a part of life for AEC firms. But if something in a project needs altered, the modification needs to be agreed upon and spelled out by both parties before the changes are actually made.

You Need to Get Paid

Most disagreements over money are because of surprises, not how high your fees are. Don’t overlook this important phase of project management during the planning stages with your client.

There are many different forms that project fees can take: Is the overall project fee based on hours worked by your firm or a flat fee? Should you ask for a deposit? Are multiple payments expected from the client based on a percentage of project completion?

Once payment terms are agreed upon, provide the client with frequent updates that highlight which project phases have been completed and when the next payment is expected by. The most effective way to avoid surprises is constant communication with your client.

Track Those Hours

Have your firm and the client agreed on a deadline? Daily reports from your time tracking software is essential if your team is to remain on track to complete a project by the date promised.

Accurate time tracking reports also help you communicate to a client when a payment is due. For example, you and a client agree to a deposit, followed by a second payment when 50% of the project is complete. Once the project completion percentage hits 40%, send your client a detailed report generated from your project management software that shows where the project is at – 40% – followed by a timeline of when the project will hit 50% completion – and the next payment is due.

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