Architects know that efficient work processes are the keys to successful project delivery. That’s why organizing your workflow and maintaining strict compliance is crucial.
But according to the 2019 AEC State of Technology Executive Report, 40% of architects say project workflow is the biggest project management challenge they face. What’s more, 42% of architects say admin tasks (searching for emails, finding project info, reviewing RFIs and submittals, etc.) is their top technology challenge.
A quick Google search for “project management software” yields more than 253 million results. Yet managing project workflow and admin tasks with technology are major pain points for architects.
While not every project management software option will fit your firm, the right software can help you simplify, automate, and streamline project workflows. Here’s how to pick the best solution for your firm.
Determine your firm’s core needs
Every business wants an easy-to-use, fully functioning project management software. Using paper to-do lists isn’t sustainable with growth. But architecture project management software must shine in areas such as document management, collaboration, and accessibility. And when it comes to your firm, your needs will be even more specific.
A one-size-fits-all software may solve problems, but it won't necessarily solve your problems.
Before you start looking for project management software, consider what your firm needs. Once you have an idea of what those needs are, start exploring the different features and options.
Project management features
You’re looking for project management software, which means “project management” tools are at the top of your radar. The main features you should look for include:
- Multi-level approval processes - Multi-level submittal and approval processes are essential for managing expenses, budgets, estimates, vendor bills, and invoices.
- Smart tools for efficient time management - Gantt charts and other smart tools can help you with resource scheduling, allocation, and utilization.
- Workflow tracking - Your software should make it easy to manage and track submittal-approval, drawing and RFI workflows.
- Project accounting - Project accounting tools will help you stay on budget and track the profitability of your projects.
Additional useful features
While project management might be your top goal, many software options also offer additional benefits. When looking at architect project management software, ask yourself questions about these features as well:
- Anytime, anywhere access - Does the software include mobile capabilities? Is it cloud-based?
- Usability - Are there customizable dashboards and KPIs? How long will it take you to learn how to use the software? Are there multiple features you won’t need but might confuse users?
- Time and expense tracking - Does the software allow you to easily switch between timers and record expenses in multiple currencies? Are there multiple ways to track time (daily, weekly, hourly, etc.)
- Billing - Can you customize billing templates and send automatic invoices at your desired frequency?
- Business automation - Does the software memorize invoices and reports? Can you put your business processes on autopilot, with automatic billing, recurring invoices, and other repetitive tasks?
- Accounting - Can you automatically download bank feeds and get clear insights on profit and loss?
- Reporting - Does the software leverage a wide variety of customizable reports? Can you view breakdowns of utilization, realization and billable work for employees and consultants?
Explore review sites
Once you have determined which features are most important, start to explore review sites so you can get a feel for the pros and cons of the different architect project management software.
Some of the main review sites architects tend to frequent include Capterra, Software Advice, and G2. You can also look at Google Reviews or the software sites themselves.
Try the software out
Most architecture project management software companies offer a free trial or walkthrough. A walkthrough (sometimes called a demo) is a personalized demonstration of the software. When you’re first acquainting yourself with software, it’s good to start with a walkthrough because the demonstrator will point out valuable features you might have overlooked and can answer questions you may have.
After you attend a digital walkthrough, consider a free trial. Almost all software companies will offer you a free trial. After all, who wants to buy a car without a test drive?
Test the customer support
It’s always a good idea to research customer support options for potential software. Will you have to pay each time you need help? Is support open 24/7?
Try calling customer support to see how long the wait time is and what a typical interaction may look like.
Always improve your own processes
While project management software can help your firm in many ways, it’s always a good idea to continually reassess and improve your processes. Are you making mistakes that are hurting your projects’ efficiency and profitability? Click below to download our eBook on fatal project management mistakes and how to prevent them.