How To Future-Proof Your Architecture Practice

Posted by deltek on October 8, 2018

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New technologies that streamline admin processes and improve financial oversight can help architecture firms position themselves for future success, according to industry leaders.

Recent Deltek research identified five main areas of concern for architecture practices, including: increasing complexity of projects, stakeholder management; managing highly bespoke services; managing commoditised services; and margin squeeze from client procurement.


 

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John Held, SA President of the Association of Consulting Architects (ACA), adds that pressure on fees is another major challenge. “That was the subject of a lively debate recently amongst architects on social media,” Held says.

“This is compounded by procurement models where architectural services are a commodity, rather than the architect being seen as a trusted advisor,” he continues. “Those procurement models shift risk to other parties, rather than working towards reducing overall risk.”

Held cites “time-scope creep” as another challenge, adding that architects are sometimes reluctant or unable to claim for changes to scope.

”Coupled with the natural tendency of many firms to keep refining the design, allocated time budgets are often exceeded,” he explains. “Many architects are not particularly good at detailed project planning, and the introduction of new technologies such as integrated BIM modelling is also changing workflow patterns, milestone targets and project sequencing.”

 

'Many architects are not particularly good at detailed project planning'

 

 

Held says that some architects are ill-equipped to tackle these issues head-on, for a range of reasons. “For many, the lack of good profitability means they are wary about large investments in new technology and need to be convinced of the returns from that investment,” he says.

“For smaller practices, the directors often are so engrossed in project work they do not spend sufficient time in planning and strategic thinking. They often don’t have a good view of project performance and which types of projects are the most profitable.”

Held says the ACA works hard to help practices improve their business skills and practice management procedures, and advocates for better professional environments in which to practice. “Better business skills and well-run and managed practices enable architects to produce better buildings and environments, which is to the benefit of all,” he asserts.

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Andrew McKay, Deltek’s Senior Sales Director, Asia Pacific, observes that potential customers in the architecture profession find it hard to weigh up the options when it comes to procuring IT solutions.

“Often the initial time and cost it takes to implement a new system can be a barrier to firms adopting technologies that can help streamline their business,” McKay says.

But, having seen how transformative Deltek’s Vision and PIM solutions have been in firms of all sizes, McKay urges architecture practices to treat IT procurement like any other project, and to start with a comprehensive briefing phase.

“Involve all the stakeholders in the business and clearly define in advance what the business-critical issues are,” McKay says. “Map out the business processes that will help achieve your business goals, and then select an industry specific solution that will meet the requirement.”

“To make adoption successful, it is also critical to get buy-in across the business, to ensure people clearly understand what outcomes you are looking to achieve, why you need to do this, what impact it will have on them and the value to the entire practice in making the change,” he continues.

McKay says that most Deltek customers who successfully adopt new IT solutions notice profitability increases of between 2 and 20%. “We also see considerable returns in productivity gains, with clients reporting very high returns in time-saving across multiple areas of their business,” he adds.

“This time can be turned into a variety of different quantifiable benefits, from increased billable time to boost revenue; the ability to produce more work with the same staff levels to keep overheads lower and manage growth better; and more time for business development.”

 

'Deltek customers who successfully adopt new IT
solutions notice profitability increases between 2 & 20%'

 

 

Customers often report an unexpected benefit too: improvements in employee morale and satisfaction.

“Giving staff the best tools available to achieve their professional goals – by reducing wasted time on mundane admin tasks, gaining better insight into the performance on their projects and also enabling mobile working – not only assists in retaining the right talent,” McKay explains, “but also has considerable benefits in attracting the right new talent as businesses grow.”

For ACA President Kieran Wong, Director at Cox Architects and user of Deltek’s Vision, technology is an important part of the quest for improved profitability and performance.

“The ACA believes that good design and high-quality architectural services should be complemented by good business practices, something that architects are not necessarily trained for,” Wong says. “We need to convince practices that good design and good business management are complementary; and both are required to create sustainable practices, and therefore guarantee the future of the profession.”

The ACA offers free tools to its members – such as the Time/Cost calculator, which uses historical data to forecast project time-frames – to help improve practice admin processes.

For more information about the pressures facing architectural practices and how to tackle them, go to www.deltek.com to obtain a free copy of Deltek’s Insight to Action: The Future of the Professional Services Industry report.

 

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