Project Management Solutions For Architects (The Ultimate Guide)
Creative service industries such as architecture benefit greatly from project management, particularly in cases when architectural projects are being carried out at a large scale within a firm. As well as keeping track of construction and design projects, architectural firms need to have a clear overview of company-wide processes, performance, and employee workflows – all of which can be met through effective project management.
With the rise of modern technology, architectural firms no longer have to rely on outdated project management techniques like spreadsheets or manual time-tracking. Software can now be utilized to get the job done more efficiently and accurately than ever before.
Here, we’ll take a deep dive into project management for architectural firms, exploring the benefits, techniques, and software available.
What is project management?
Project management is the use of knowledge, skills, processes, and combined experience to achieve project objectives. Since every project has a budget and a timeline, project management always has a defined ‘end.’ The purpose of project management is to produce the final deliverable – a result, product, or service – on time and within budget.
Project management for architectural firms
Architectural firms need to focus on two key areas when it comes to project management: operations and projects.
While project management at an operational level is fairly similar to that of any other organization (employee time-tracking, scheduling, capacity, and utilization), the stages, processes, and techniques for managing individual architectural projects will be unique to the architectural industry.
Phases of project management for architectural firms
During this phase, the project scope is determined to gather as much information as possible about the resources needed and the timespan of the project. As part of this process, architectural firms will need to understand their client’s individual tastes, requirements, and resources. These are all factors that will contribute to the design of the client’s space, including the ‘look’, the number of rooms, and whether that space will change or develop over time.
Determining the project scope also involves analyzing what the client wants against conditions or requirements that they’re not immediately aware of. This can include:
- Functional requirements
- Physical requirements
- Material requirements
- Design requirements
- Regulatory requirements
To determine these, an architectural firm may carry out preliminary research on the existing area where the project is set to be built or designed. This could mean carrying out a site visit, running a survey of the surrounding land to inspect conditions, or measuring existing structures.
2. Schematic design
Once an architectural firm has all the information to hand – on the client’s budget, resources, timespan, and objectives – they can move on to schematic design. During this stage, designs are drawn up so that architectural teams can test out different layouts, looks, and spaces.
After taking on feedback from the client, architectural firms will start planning the project around their resources and budget, ensuring they have everything they need to produce the final deliverable.
This planning stage usually consists of the following activities:
- Identifying materials needed
- Identifying suppliers
- Determining the project budget
- Identifying any risks to the project timeline
Identifying potential problems from the outset will give architectural firms the insight they need to mitigate risk. Not only does it give them time to come up with workable alternatives, but it also gives them a chance to communicate with stakeholders about any possible delays or budget adjustments.
3. Project scheduling
Developing a project schedule is a core component of any architectural firm’s project management plan. As well as ensuring that the project gets completed on time, a project schedule will account for all the activities that take place and the resources needed to complete those activities.
A project schedule is the foundation of the entire project – without it, teams won’t be able to track resources, time, or costs.
Architectural firms can develop a project schedule by:
Determining the activities needed to complete the project: This includes all tasks related to the construction, design, and build; for example, paintings, drawings, brickwork, and interiors.
Determining the workflow sequences: Arranging activities in the order they will be completed. For example, a roof will not be tiled before a foundation is built.
Estimating activity timelines: Using the team’s technical knowledge to create a rough estimate of how long each activity will take.
Determining dependencies and contingency plans: Certain activities are dependent on specific departments; for example, tiling will be dependent on the materials supplier and construction department. If something goes wrong within a department, delays can be more easily managed if contingency plans are in place.
Assigning resources to activities: For example, human resources and financial resources.
Maintaining clear communication with project stakeholders is one of the most important aspects of an architectural firm’s project management plan. With so many departments and players involved, communication is essential to ensuring everybody is on the same page and up to speed on the project’s budget and timeline.
This essential phase involves developing a transparent communication plan – a plan that tells an architectural firm what information every stakeholder needs, when they need it, and how that information will be delivered.
Architectural firms can develop a communication plan by:
Making a list of all stakeholders involved in the project: This includes everybody from the direct client to the construction and engineering teams.
Creating a communication matrix: This is a document that highlights the project stakeholders, their contact details, and preferred communication method, as well as their expected deliverables.
Now that timelines, resources, budgets, and project schedules have been developed – with clear, consistent communication between the architectural firm and stakeholders – the project team can move on to executing the plans they have in place.
6. Quality control
As the architectural team executes its project management planning, it will need to continuously inspect, monitor, and verify all services, supplies, and resources that are being used in the project.
This is known as quality control, a process in which an entity (in this case, an architectural firm) reviews the quality and performance of factors involved in a particular project.
The quality control process requires in-depth research and consistent input of data from the project management plan, key metrics, employee performance data, and quality checklists.
An example of quality control in action is construction administration (i.e., the stage at which the project team carries out site visits) as this gives them insight into any potential red flags or problems with the project ahead of time.
7. Project closure
The final stage of an architectural firm’s project is the project closure. During this stage, the team will introduce the final deliverable (the client’s anticipated result; for example, a house, a design-build, or an office space).
As part of a project’s closure, an architectural firm will also:
- Seek formal sign-off from stakeholders
- Complete and settle all contracts
- Archive the project objectives
- Release all resources
Project management methodology for architectural firms
While every architectural firm will have its own unique set of processes, most firms will follow the same project management methodology – the waterfall approach.
Waterfall projects are linear in nature, having a clear beginning and end. This methodology is one of the most popular ‘traditional’ methodologies – alongside PRINCE2 – and follows a structured set of processes.
Waterfall projects cascade down from one process to the next, and hinge on careful planning and documentation; an approach that architectural firms benefit from. Once construction has begun, for example, implementing any design or structural changes to the project can be very costly. This is why the waterfall’s structured approach works so well for architectural projects.
The waterfall methodology follows six stages:
- Define requirements
- Design workflow system
- Implement workflows and build
- Test elements of the service
- Deliver the service
- Ongoing maintenance
Benefits of project management in architecture
Successful project management ensures projects are delivered on time and meet all objectives. However, there are many other benefits of project management for architectural firms.
As part of project management, architectural firms will carry out a risk analysis ahead of time to pick up on any potential problems or red flags. This could be anything from a supply delay to a change in budget and is usually always done during the predesign stage. This helps mitigate risk and gives firms enough time to come up with viable solutions or communicate with stakeholders about possible changes.
Gives a clear overview of company-wide processes
By tracking employee workflows, capacity, and utilization, architectural firms can get a clear overview of company-wide processes. Not only does this help them assign the right amount of resources and time to a project, but it also gives them the insight needed to make smarter decisions.
Good project management will get everyone on the same page, aligning workflows and processes with wider company objectives. This means employees will clearly understand what they need to deliver, when they need to deliver it, and what steps they need to take to produce the final deliverable.
Project management techniques for architectural firms
Alongside the waterfall methodology, architectural firms can also make use of a plethora of different project management techniques.
A risk analysis is a technique used to identify any potential problems or risk factors within an architectural project.
A risk analysis will usually cover the following:
- Conditions of the existing site
- Potential problems or delays with suppliers
- Potential changes to the budget
- Risks or problems with the client’s proposed plan (structural, regulatory, or design issues)
- Cost risks
- Physical risks
- Technical risks
The earlier risks are identified, the more effectively they can be dealt with and at a lower cost. Contingency plans can be drawn up, actions can be corrected, and clients can be informed ahead of time about any possible changes. Many architectural firms will outline their methods for dealing with risk in a dedicated quality control plan.
The Gantt chart is a bar chart that displays activities and tasks against time, illustrating the project schedule at large.
The left axis of the chart showcases all the activities while the top of the chart presents a time frame. Each bar represents a certain activity, with the length reflecting the duration and end date of each activity. In short, a Gantt chart highlights what activities need to be completed and when.
Architectural firms can use Gantt charts to:
- Schedule architectural design projects
- Plan for resources
- Connect tasks with dependencies (i.e., the sequence of activities and in what order)
- Get a clear overview of their entire project schedule
- Assign tasks to specific team members or departments
- Improve the planning accuracy of future projects: Once a project has closed, architectural firms can take a look back at the historical data and compare original and final charts to see what was completed on time, what wasn’t, and why.
Critical path method (CPM)
The critical path method (CPM) is a technique that architectural firms can use to identify critical tasks that need to be completed in order to deploy the final deliverable (i.e., the project result).
As well as helping firms identify any possible scheduling crises, CPM can also be used to develop an effective and realistic project schedule.
A communication matrix is a framework used to pinpoint how to communicate with stakeholders and when. It is a great way for architectural firms to keep everyone in the loop – from clients and team members to suppliers.
What is project management software for architectural firms?
Project management software is software used to facilitate the planning and management of projects.
Managing architectural projects is a complex job with many moving parts. With so many processes and people involved, things can easily get lost in translation. To stay ahead of the curve – and remain as efficient and effective as possible – firms can’t just rely on static files such as spreadsheets and Google Docs. This is where project management software comes into play.
Scoro: the leading project management software for architectural firms
Scoro is the industry-leading end-to-end project management software that helps creative and professional service industries – including architectural firms – streamline projects, optimize utilization, manage project schedules, and so much more.
- Drag-and-drop task boards
- Automated billing
- Utilization reports
- Real-time Gantt charts
- KPI dashboards
What’s unique about it: Unlike other software providers, Scoro brings all its features together into one application. No more toggling between different apps – now team members can have access to everything they need from a centralized location.
Pricing: Free 14-day trial, paid plans from $26 user/month
Case study: Benefits of Scoro for architecture firms
Scoro provides architectural firms with a powerful toolkit to plan, track, and monitor projects and operations with ease.
One of the many architectural firms that have benefited from Scoro is Mallol Arquitectos, the biggest architecture firm in Panama and Central America. After testing different project management tools, Mallol found Scoro to be the top fit for its business needs.
Benefits of Scoro for Mallol
Customizable, easy-to-use, and all within one digital platform, Scoro presented a suite of unique advantages to Mallol:
Synchronized information and processes
Before Scoro’s implementation, Mallol was using multiple project management tools across different departments. As a result, tech silos arose and the potential for miscommunication and inaccurate data increased. Since Scoro accumulates all data within one single platform, Mallol was able to bridge the gap between different departments and facilitate more cross-collaboration.
“Scoro helped us create these bridges between creative, analytical, and finance people – something we weren’t doing before. It really has had a positive impact on our culture.”
– Monica Fernandez, COO, Mallol
Organized workflows and processes
Scoro helped organize workflows and streamline company processes, enabling Mallol to develop a standardized way of managing and delivering projects to clients. Not only did this ensure everyone was working against a dedicated set of processes, but it also meant everyone was ‘speaking the same language’. These standardized processes were also used as a marker of quality and a reference for how tasks are to be carried out company-wide.
“The switch to Scoro helped us realize the gaps we had in our workflows and documentation, which we initially believed to be complete.”
– Monica Fernandez, COO, Mallol
Delivering a plethora of performance-tracking tools – utilization reports, Gantt charts, and progress tracking – Scoro gave Mallol a greater overview of company and employee performance. Performance and projects could be tracked end-to-end, highlighting wins and achievements at an employee, department, and company-wide level. This empowered employees and gave them a greater sense of accountability and purpose, driving them to keep up their performance and develop even further.
“A creative environment isn’t necessarily very accountable, but Scoro has shown us the upside of that and given people the tools they did not have before.”
– Monica Fernandez, COO, Mallol
Moving away from spreadsheets, Scoro enabled Mallol to incorporate all its data into one single workflow. Providing a clearer overview of company processes and performance, Mallol was able to develop more realistic, data-driven goals.
With so many processes and departments involved, effective project management is key to ensuring every aspect of an architectural project runs smoothly. From predesign to quality control, project management ensures architectural firms meet their project objectives on time and within budget. Though there is a lot to take in and learn, project management software makes it easier to implement new processes and techniques, bringing even more benefits to an architectural firm’s services, clients, and overall operations.
Scoro delivers end-to-end project management software, built on a suite of tools designed to maximize the efficiency and success of creative service projects and operations. Try your free 14-day trial today!