Osterlund Architects Redesigns Small Business Success with Deltek Ajera
An Interview with Andrew Osterlund and Kristen Osterlund, Principals at Osterlund Architects
When Osterlund Architects, a small architecture firm with offices in Raleigh, NC and Superior, WI, wanted to leap to the next level of performance, they knew they had to up-level their processes and technology.
Osterlund and their accountant were using BQE Core and QuickBooks® to manage their firm's financials and projects ─ but later realized it was not sufficient to support their direction and long-term goals. In addition, Osterlund wanted to elevate the professionalism of their firm, so they selected a project-based accounting package, designed specifically for the A&E industry. While Andrew and Kristen knew that a more robust solution would require commitment from their team and would change some day-to-day processes, they understood the payoff would be worth the effort.
"It was time to grow up from QuickBooks and BQE. We needed to improve our business management and closely track billable time."
– Andrew Osterlund, Principal, Osterlund Architects
Changes for the Better
"Options are limited when it comes to software tailored to architecture and engineering firms,” Andrew explained. Osterlund’s firm opted for Deltek Ajera in the Cloud to empower their team with access to the solution whenever and wherever they need it. Going on to say, “We liked the fact that, in essence, the industry had ‘tested’ the product for us ─ our research showed us that a large percentage of firms use Deltek software. So, we determined that if Deltek could support their success, it would support our success, too.”
For Osterlund Architects, the area most impacted by implementing the all-in-one solution is their business management. Andrew says, “With our previous products, we didn’t know much more than our bank account number and whether we had submitted an invoice to a client. While we had a general idea of how much time we spent on each project, we focused on deadlines. Our main success metrics were project completions and available capital.”
That all changed with Deltek. The firm can now better manage their business with full insight into project profitability and performance. Time reporting and project monitoring are much easier. With accurate project time readily available in easy-to-digest dashboards and reports, the Osterlund Architects team has more fruitful conversations about historical and forward-looking project time allocation, billable hours and resource utilization, allowing the team to make adjustments that increase productivity, client satisfaction, and profitability.
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One data point that Osterlund Architects finds particularly useful to track is resource allocation by hours. Knowing how many hours are available on projects and which people are available to work on projects allows them to better allocate staff time against budgets and deadlines. Kristen and Andrew check in with their team every week, using Deltek Ajera to review and optimize project schedules, resource capacity and allocation of project manager time. Kristen says, “Everyone’s more invested in projects when they have control over them.”
"We get actionable insights that help us schedule more efficiently and effectively, and it’s much easier to see projects booked for the next few months."
– Kristen Osterlund, Principal, Osterlund Architects
More Efficient Billing
When it comes to better business management, Andrew and Kristen share that streamlining the invoicing process has had the biggest impact to their business. Deltek Ajera has greatly reduced the time needed to issue invoices, allowing Osterlund Architects to invoice on time every month.
Andrew says, “With our previous software, purchasing against a particular project was a real challenge. With Ajera, we know exactly what to include on invoices. We see each project’s precise material and resource needs and reimbursable/non-reimbursable expenses. We can track multiple layers of consultant firms, the consultants in each firm, and their expenses. Since time is our revenue source, that’s huge.” In addition, project scope changes can be managed more easily with precise resource reallocation, time tracking for additional scope, and accurate invoicing for every change.
Kristen points out, “The solution creates invoices that clients readily understand, reducing billing inquiries, the time to research answers, and potentially difficult conversations to justify invoices. We now have complete confidence in invoice accuracy. This opens up opportunities for government work, with its emphasis on regulations and accountability. It also provides us the necessary tools for larger commercial projects, which require many consultants and moving parts.”
Andrew also notes that streamlined invoicing frees up the firm’s designers and project managers to do the work they excel in ─ designing and delivering successful projects. “That boosts our performance and enhances our professionalism,” he says.
Better Project Estimates
With more accurate and precise project cost details, Osterlund can now create more specific project estimates for proposals. Their proposals are based on construction costs, and they want to keep their percentages the same, even as the market changes.
“I now use data from comparable projects to write proposals for new business,” says Andrew. “Deltek Ajera helps us determine which projects are worth bidding on, which opportunities we should turn down, and which prospects we want to work with. Profitability metrics help us see the kinds of projects that are worth our effort. The data also helps us prepare better proposals that communicate to prospects the value we provide on the construction site as well as in consulting and service.”
Empowering Project Managers
Part of the firm’s culture is project ownership, so now that they have Ajera, they’re encouraging project managers to set up and track their own projects. Project managers can configure the dashboard to their own needs, which helps them manage and own projects to a successful conclusion. “Successful projects lead to a true sense of accomplishment, which motivates everyone even further. We know it also leads to job satisfaction and employee retention, so it’s a win all around,” shared Kristen.
The added insight into project performance allows Osterlund Architects to more effectively evaluate their fees to ensure they are in line with industry demands and firm goals.“ We use metrics to drive growth and serve clients more efficiently, but we don’t let metrics rule all decision-making,” says Andrew. “We want to retain our culture of being a creative firm.”
Setting the Stage for Growth
“Deltek Ajera was the right choice,” says Andrew. “We have found new levels of productivity, client satisfaction, profitability and success,” he adds. Osterlund Architects uses Ajera throughout the entire lifecycle ─ from proposal, design development, construction documents, engineer and contractor coordination, and contract administration, to setting the final roof tile. They can see where their projects stand, view outstanding invoices, and measure performance ─ all in one place.
"With Deltek Ajera, we have a platform for incremental, organic and smart growth."
– Andrew Osterlund, Principal, Osterlund Architects
About Osterlund Architects
Osterlund Architects focuses on green, urban and smart architecture with offices in Raleigh, NC and Superior, WI. Founded in 2008, this team of 10 focuses on civic, residential and commercial and studio projects. The firm is passionate about serving and creating communities, designing with thoughtfulness, integrity, persistence and technical excellence.
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