According to architecture business leaders, project control systems can help firms maintain profitability and sustainability, while they deal with existing and emerging challenges.
3 July, 2019
Architect-turned-business management consultant Jennekin Dicks believes there are more challenges facing architecture practices now than ever before. “In our industry, where profit margins keep shrinking and complexity is rising, we need better efficiencies, which means we need to find flow in our work,” she asserts. “We need to create connected, systemic environments to create that flow.”
As founder of Management in Action, Jennekin works with architecture practices to improve their profitability and sustainability. “The clients I have results with have shifted their mindset, so they are all working together with their people to create and sustain profitability,” she explains. “Essentially it is about asking: ‘How do we build a healthy business together?’ and then establish the right circumstances for positive exchange of information.”
The two main elements that underpin this transformation are a collaborative, impact driven workplace culture and access to meaningful data, she says, and these two elements are ideally given simultaneous exposure at regular employee meetings. Jennekin therefore recommends that firms refocus the agenda for weekly meetings to encourage problem-solving and foster innovation.
“It’s essential that everyone brings their latest data to the meeting, and the key decision makers need to be in the room so they can provide input and make decisions in that moment,” Jennekin says. “Then, frame the discussions around finding solutions, so that if a target is missed or a problem arises, there is a genuine group effort to find solutions together.
“People then begin to trust the intention of those meetings, and they are motivated to make the best use of the time,” she continues. “Both the data and the discussion forum become valued, because people are treated as valuable to this process, and the organisation becomes fully collaborative as a result.”
Fender Katsalidis – which was founded in Melbourne but has opened studios in Sydney and Brisbane, and a sister studio in London – has benefited from this type of approach over the past decade. Director Mark Murphy says the introduction of project control software ten years ago now provides a complete view of the firm’s activities around Australia in a single platform, including client, project and financial details.
“We aim to maximise efficiency, responsiveness and profitability of multiple major projects while protecting cashflow,” Mark says. “Project control systems give us the stability and foresight needed to build and sustain a strong and viable practice.”
One of the main benefits is the ability to deeply analyse data and set performance benchmarks, including fee standards and efficiency targets, Mark says.
“The main advantage is in optimising our overall resourcing levels – and detailed resource allocations – to provide client service excellence consistently, within scope and on budget,” he says. “And to then bill for the services provided in a timely manner, with a high probability of that account being paid within the set terms.”
FK recently switched software providers to roll-out Deltek Vantagepoint. “Our ability to remotely access and use or interrogate the system is a significant focus for our next phase of development,” Mark explains.
For the past decade, project control systems have provided FK with the stability and foresight needed to build and sustain a strong and viable practice, Mark says. “Our systems have provided a foundation for significant year-on-year growth in turnover and profitability,” he says. “It is broadly trusted and relied upon to sustain and grow the practice.”
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