Being an architect in times of economic disruption is disorienting. Many projects may be suspended, while others may actually ramp up. With no easy way to determine when or how circumstances will change, one of the most effective ways for new firms to stay solvent through a crisis is by increasing efficiency in their day-to-day operations. Even as businesses begin to reopen after lockdown, uncertainty remains at an all-time high.
Time-consuming tasks such as billing, time tracking and business analysis become infinitely more important during tumultuous periods, which makes this a good time to start using business management tools made specifically for architecture firms. Cloud-based platforms, like BQE’s Core, are especially suitable for architecture firms operating remotely, which has quickly become a necessity throughout the industry.
To help aid businesses in the coming months, we’ve identified some of the best time-saving strategies architects can employ to keep their firms going, allowing more time to focus on active projects or sharpen their competitive edge in the search for new work.
1. Maximize Project Efficiency
Managing an architectural project comes with unique challenges, especially when you’re trying to maximize every penny in a stringent economy. Intelligent project management tools let you check a project’s schedule against actual progress, or costs against a budget. If you’re truly savvy, employing a cloud-based system means all project data is live, reflecting changes as they’re made while allowing easy remote access.
2. Make Connectivity Easy
Perhaps one of the most disruptive aspects of the current crisis occurred when businesses were forced to mobilize their entire staff to work from home in a matter of days. In cases like this, where desktop connectivity may suddenly become limited or impossible, cloud-based mobile apps can pick up the slack by providing detailed access to databases of project management, time tracking and business analysis.
3. Speed Up Project Billing
In a slow economy, billing clients as quickly as possible is critical to a firm’s survival but can only happen as fast as your staff records the time they spend on a particular project. Using cloud-based time and expense tracking, with auto-fill features carrying over from week to week and always-on remote access, can be a boon to both employees and managers.
4. Make It Easy to Get Paid
Income is essential for staying afloat in a downturn, so the last thing you want your clients to face is a difficult process for paying your invoices. Use a billing system that’s intuitive and easy to understand, and make sure it includes online payment processing, allowing your clients to pay you with one click. Better still, BQE Core is specifically designed for architectural projects, so you can bill against time, deliverables or project milestones.
5. Automate Your Cash Flow
Streamline essential accounting functions by drawing information from every aspect of your firm’s work. An integrated business management platform can automatically generate staple accounting metrics such as cash balance, profit and loss, and can be linked directly to your firm’s bank accounts, allowing deposit tracking and check writing to be handled with a single, central interface.
6. Keep an Eye on the Big Picture
With today’s ever-evolving conditions, it is vital to utilize digital dashboards to get a simple but detailed overview of your firm’s key performance metrics. The best dashboards are easily modifiable, allowing you to edit or add new ones as the information relevant to your situation changes. Drawing real-time data from numerous inputs, intelligent dashboards let you make informed business decisions quickly, and if they’re cloud-based, you can use them from anywhere.
7. Keep Your Staff Informed
In times like these, transparency breeds trust. It’s important to ensure employees have an accurate understanding of firm performance. Customizable reporting of business data allows you to generate different sets of metrics for different employees, and can even empower them to generate reports of their own and deliver them to the appropriate recipients thereby boosting your firm’s collaborative brainpower.
8. Mine Your Own Data
Practical applications of artificial intelligence are gaining a foothold in business administration, and are now capable of delivering insights you might not see at first glance. This technology can also take the form of a voice-driven interface — part virtual assistant, part business coach, able to answer questions about your business and make useful recommendations as it learns the workings of your firm over time.
9. Focus on Your Employees
Even in today’s era of lockdowns and closed offices, human resource management involves a lot of work. There is the endless administration of personal information, legal compliance, and PTO and salary tracking, to name just a few. Using a powerful, cloud-based HR tool can automate many of those clerical functions, allowing HR staff more time to focus on what they do best — being a reliable resource for your employees during a crisis.
10. Create New Efficiencies
Adding new digital tools to your firm’s workflow often means adding a layer of complexity to existing systems, but you can avoid this roadblock if you use tools designed to be integrated with a variety of project management, accounting and information storage programs already popular with architects. Integrating your business management platform with programs like ArchiSnapper, Quickbooks and Dropbox removes the need to duplicate data entry, breaking down silos and creating new, streamlined workflows between existing systems.
In times like these, it’s important to stay focused on what’s critical for your firm. With business unusually erratic across the AEC industry, it’s important to work as efficiently as possible not just to get through these difficult times, but also to set your firm up for success when good times inevitably return.