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By Jeannie Chapman

Any professional services firm needs to effectively and efficiently manage resources. This is especially true in architectural firms where multiple projects involve both the staff, outside contractors and clients. Unfortunately many managers are not as effective as they could be because they rely on a pieced together system for management. That is where architecture project management software can help significantly, and add to a firm's profitability.

Many firms piece together email, generic pm programs, spreadsheets, documents and a shared drive to manage things. And while this will get you by, you will not be best utilizing resources. Specifically designed architecture project management software blends together all the key components of the these programs into one easy to use interface. Since it is designed with architects in mind, the workflow, terminology and reporting are all tailored to the industry so there is little downtime in switching to the system.

Using specific software means that there is a very quick learning curve. All terminology, reports, templates are specific to the needs of a professional architectural firm. They are designed through close consultation with architects and staff who have real-world experience. This makes things simple, intuitive and much easier to learn. This also means training staff is easier, which means the company will more quickly adopt using the new system.

A management program is only as good as the core task system. These tools allow easy entry of all phases, tasks, deliverables, timelines, dependencies, and resources. Once entered, the project can be easily tracked and managed through a variety of visual tools such as calendars and Gantt charts. They also facilitate easy editing as resource needs change. The bottom line is that these programs make organizing, coordinating and managing a team's work much simpler than traditional methods.

Another important aspect is resource tracking. With all firm's emphasizing the maximization of resources and billable hours, it is imperative that the PM have quick access to resource allocation. These tools have many different reports that allow quick analysis of an individual's workload. It is also easy to spot where certain tasks need more attention and shift resources accordingly.

Another important feature of many of these programs is proposal and contract management. This simplifies the work flow for developing RFPs, submittals and any other key documents. Most allow for collaboration and provide version control so edits and inputs are not lost. This document management extends throughout the work, keeping track of things like addendums, change directives, contract changes, change orders all the way to the punch list.

Once projects are finished, they are often only cursorily reviewed in order to improve the process going forward. Oftentimes this is because the review is done without reliable reports. With comprehensive architecture project management software, reporting and analysis is integrated into the system. This allows executives and managers to see in detail how resources were allocated, actual task duration versus planned and planned versus actual budget figures.

In today's competitive world, the best concepts and designs do not always lead to a successful architectural firm. Architecture project management software provides PMs with a solid foundation on which they can perform their job. It also takes the full burden off their shoulders and lets each resource be accountable for their own tasks, responsibilities and billability. Check out a demo or a free trial and you'll be amazed at the time savings benefits you will receive. You won't regret the switch to the new system and your firm will surely benefit.

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