Ask any architect what it’s like to manage a construction project, and they’ll tell you it’s nothing short of complex. From small firms to large architectural offices, every job requires an ordered and planned assembly of materials and workers to complete the job on time and within budget. To make matters more complicated, bad weather, supply delays, and scheduling conflicts are just a few factors that can throw construction projects off schedule. And, with so many people involved and with a broad list of paperwork to complete, from field reports to written estimates and site permits, things can quickly become overwhelming. The single best way to keep on track is by investing in project management software for architects that can handle the complexity of an architectural project.
With the right tools, tracking employee time, budgeting labor and construction costs, and prioritizing tasks are made easy. Not only will this free up your time and allow you to focus on other aspects of your business, but you can also say goodbye to late nights logging in timesheets and expenses, sending invoices, or figuring out who is doing what and when.
As defined by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Five Phases of Architecture commonly referred to throughout the industry are Schematic Design, Design Development, Contract Documents, Bidding, Contract Administration. These phases contain a multitude of different tasks which need to be structured in chronological order, assigned to workers, and followed one after the other.
To make project planning more manageable, construction tasks need to break down into smaller subtasks. One way to do this is with a Gantt chart. A Gantt chart is a type of bar chart that displays tasks and milestones scheduled over a certain period. It is a common practice among many firms because it is visually accessible, easy to use, and satisfies the requirements for most architectural projects.
While it might seem like a good idea to make progress by doing certain tasks before others, this only increases the risk of errors. You can’t put a roof on a house if it doesn’t have walls! That’s why a task dependency feature is so useful when it comes to task planning. For example, the first segment of a project may be site construction — this segment is then broken down into smaller subtasks, such as site development, excavations, and foundations. Then the second segment may be structural framing and consist of work like columns, beams, and roof slabs.
The best way to understand how time is spent is with a built-in timer to record time as work is in progress. Time tracking is a reliable source of transparency between an architect and a client. With time tracking, you can easily track hours and then create a report to present it at a moment’s notice. These numbers can help establish trust as it allows the client to see how they are being billed as well as how the work is progressing or if there are any obstacles that may delay the project. Additionally, you can add costs associated with total hours worked, add time on behalf of employees, track billable and non-billable hours, and see how much revenue each person brings in vs. how much their time costs, and more.
The field of architecture requires precision, full legal compliance, and strict adherence to deadlines. To fulfill these requirements, everyone involved needs to be aligned with the same vision and goals. But how? As mentioned, many parties and design disciplines are involved in a construction project. With more hands-on deck comes an increased risk of misunderstandings and miscommunication, which could result in costly errors and frustrating delays.
It goes without saying that regular site visits and precise field reports (site reports) that clearly state who should do what and when are needed for a successful project. They reduce the chance of errors and delays, which in turn increases the profitability of the project.
Project management software can strengthen team collaboration already outlined by field reports. With a system in place, you can see all tasks, actions, and deadlines and easily share this information with everyone involved in the project. Users can also comment on tasks, receive notifications when tasks are modified, and share documents. At a glance, the team can know:
- If work is being carried out correctly and according to plan
- Which adjustments or improvements need to be made
- What agreements have been made
- If additional work is needed
Billing and Invoicing
As you already know, architectural firms work with a variety of suppliers in various capacities at different stages in the construction project. When it comes to billing, the process can quickly become complicated and disorganized. Thankfully, all-in-one project management software makes it easy for employees to keep a detailed record of what they’re working on, assign different rates per project, create milestones for deliverables, and accurately assess building progress. Unlike inconvenient paper timesheets that create silos, this data is used to simplify invoice creation and automate invoice tracking. The user can bill for specific project phases, additional services, reimbursable expenses, and more. Today’s billing and invoicing features allow for the following:
- Invoice based on a fixed fee, hourly, construction costs, more
- Provide subtext for each item being invoiced
- Log and apply client payments across multiple invoices
- Enter partial payments
- Apply receipts to specific invoice line items
Looking to invest? Project management software can be the key to the success of your projects, and of your business as a whole. Automating what you can in your workflow will take your firm to the next level by allowing you time to focus on your creative side and fulfill your clients’ needs to the best of your ability.