How to find the best project management software for your practice

In an architecture practice, we effectively have three types of resources.  

We’ve got people, we’ve got the work that we have to do, and we’ve got money. 

These three types of resources need to intersect so that we achieve the optimal mix of our resources.  

To do this, you need a resourcing plan.  

A resourcing plan that will lead to satisfaction for your clients because you’ll be able to deliver in accordance with their expectations, expectations that you set.  It will also lead to greater job satisfaction for your team. People like to feel that they’re part of a well-organized practice that isn’t in a constant state of chaos and panic. 

Now unfortunately, there’s not a one size fits all approach for every architecture practice. We’ve seen many different approaches to resource planning over the years, including a multitude of different spreadsheets matching people to projects.  

Whilst we can’t prescribe the best approach for your practice, we can give you some guidelines that will help you in developing your resource plan.  

We get that architecture projects can be difficult to plan, that timings blow out when other consultants or clients don’t meet the agreed timeline, but many other industries face similar constraints. We can’t use this as an excuse for not having an adequate resourcing plan. 

Your resourcing plan needs to align with your financial and sales plans. Have you got the capacity and the resources to deliver the sales that you’re predicting? 

Prepare your list 

Using quality software will be essential in helping you prepare and manage your resourcing plan as spreadsheets will only take you so far.  

Good software that’s a fit for your business will create huge economies in terms of time and effort.  

We wish we could tell you which software package to use, but every practice has different needs and what we’ve found is that some software packages are stronger in some areas and lacking in others. 

Before you embark on signing away thousands of dollars on software licenses, we recommend that you internally create a list what you want your software to do.  

That list should include two columns; what you need it to do and what you want it to do, or what is a ‘nice to have’ feature.  

It’s important to get clear on the needs for your practice before you start talking with software sales people who may try to sell you features you don’t actually need.  

When preparing this list, make sure you consider the following: 

  • How are we tracking time in the practice? We can’t recommend strongly enough that EVERYONE in the practice be tracking their time, from you as the leader, right through to the new grad architect. 

  • Does the software allow us to communicate with other project consultants and clients? 

  • Do we even want our clients to use this software? If we do, it should integrate directly with their email so they can receive and respond straight from their email account without having to remember logins or work out how to use a new platform.  

  • Is the software user-friendly? If we don’t intuitively know how to use it without a bunch of training then the reality is that people in the practice WILL NOT use it. You’ll invest a ton of money only to find you’re pushing a barrow up hill to get the team on board. 

  • What basic reports do we need to manage our resourcing? Be clear on what data you need the software to spit out, rather than compromising with what they provide. 

  • What accounting software are we using to issue quotes and invoices? Does the project management software we’re considering integrate with this? 

  • What level of customer support is offered with the software? Can you pick up the phone and call someone or jump on live chat if there’s a problem? And are they in your time zone? 

  • When you’re looking at how different software integrates, you ideally want it to integrate directly. You don’t want to be mucking around with third party integrations. 

Too often, we find architecture practices are driven by the clients or their projects, and at the end of the month, they don’t have an adequate amount of work that can be invoiced.   

You need to tie your financial plan and invoicing to your team’s capacity and to the work requiring to be completed to ensure optimal results. 

As the practice leader or owner, don’t expect that you can manage the resourcing for your practice on your own. It is a large, time-consuming job and you may have to involve other people. 

We teach architects about how to improve their resourcing in our Practice Improvement Formula program. To get on the waitlist for our highly successful program, click here.