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I have recently joined a 15-person architecture/interior design firm in New York, and I'm tasked with improving our project management. Currently, everything is done with Quickbooks and a bunch of complicated Excel spreadsheets.
I've begun researching architecture-specific project management software, and the product that seems to have the best combination of functionality, ease-of-use and price is ArchiOffice. But maybe that's just good marketing... Does anyone have experience with ArchiOffice? Does it really simplify management and improve productivity? Is it worth the expense?
Thanks for any insight!
I'm curious what you ended up going with. I'm doing the very same search right now for our office and have been leaning towards Praesto by Base Builders. It looks like it has some extra architecture-specific but am not keen on its relative lack of offsite accessibility.
By "Project Management" software, what exactly do you mean? That can cover a lot of different stuff, from full PPM enterprise solutions all the way down to file and transmittal logging.
If you want a lower-cost, top-notch, all-around tool that does scheduling, time tracking, task assignment, issue tracking, and a bunch of other stuff in a full social-media type environment (e.g. with threaded discussion capability), then take a look at liquidplanner.com
The only downside of LP is that it's a cloud-based service.
You should look into either ArchiOffice. It's a solution which operates on both PCs and Macs.You can even access it from an iPhone, iPad and Android device. It was created by Architects, for Architects, and has continued to evolve to meet the needs of a growing customer base world-wide. More than a thousand architectural firms use ArchiOffice.
ArchiOffice takes all the disparate pieces of information in your office and organizes them in a most remarkable way. It brings order to your firm.
Basically, it integrates contact management, time and expense tracking, project management (including checklists/tasks), document management, submittal, RFI tracking, invoicing, accounts receivable, calendaring and reporting in one affordable package.
I used to work for a small office of 8 that used ArchiOffice software. As the employee, I used it as my time sheet to add my time to projects that I was working on. I would also use it to keep track of vacation time, run reports to see how much time I've spent on a project, and to see how much time I have left before the project becomes unprofitable (on lump sum projects).
The owners used it to run financial reports, create invoices for projects, and other information I was not allowed to access.
Hope this helps.
I haven't found ArchiOffice to be all that impressive actually. Its actual scheduling and PM functionality is primitive compared to a lot of better packages, it doesn't allow for much by way of collaboration tools (a must for serious PM software), and its heavy focus on time-based accounting is kind of huge warning sign that it's predicated on a poor business management model.
Interesting, i hadn't thought about the style of accounting inherent in these software packages. What is an example of an alternative to 'time-based' accounting?
As for 'what is PM software', i'm still trying to figure that out and am open to hearing how other offices deal with the many facets of running an office. Certain things need to get done in an arch office and the question really becomes how much does one program do? My assumption (which may be erroneous if there is some other style of accounting that i'm not aware of): track of employee time, create project budgets, create invoices, manage tasks, run reports on efficiencies and profitability etc. A 'nice to have' would be tracking of submittals, RFIs, change orders so I can tell the client that I reviewed the steel shop drawings on that date but that the structural engineer sat on them for 2 weeks. I'm also in Canada and we have this quirk of certifying payments to the contractor for the client (along with lien holdbacks etc) and it would be amazing if that tied into it as well (though I know thats highly unlikely).
I've seen a bunch of elegantly designed PM programs out there that do basic stuff like invoicing and time sheets very well, and a handful of architecturally specific programs that include arch-specific features at the expense of some UI elegance and usability (archiOffice, Praesto). Its hard to know without actually using what the real tradeoffs are.
I'm not sure what gwharton is referring to when he implies that time based accounting is indicative of poor business management, but this is precisely the way professional service firms have managed themselves from the Stone age. Our firm has used ArchiOffice since it's inception and has grown from 5 employees to 15 in spite of the economy. So to say that we're running a poorly managed business or that the ArchiOffice system is archaic is flippant.
While it does not do a superior job as some other systems out there in submittal and RFI tracking, those systems are pretty much dedicated to that singular function and as such provide more robust tools. But as a holistic program, that allows us to have all of our staff have access to a single database that manages nearly all our business functions is worth the tradeoff.
It's imperative that your staff complete timecards. And the ArchiOffice system is brilliant in making this easy. It even hooks into the projects checklist/task system to let employees select from a list of tasks that are still incomplete. These tasks can be budgeted in hours and costs and we can monitor real-time how the staff is performing against our expectations.
The document management features in ArchiOffice used to be better in a previous version but I understand that they are working to get these tools back. I think the loss of features for doc management have to do with the change in the underlying technology which now allows us to access ArchiOffice through a browser and not by having to install software on each employees computer. So we're waiting for this feature to come back in full force sometime soon.
If what you are looking for is Submittal tracking as a standalone then I recommend the Submittal Exchange. You can check it out here: http://www.submittalexchange.com/public/
But for time tracking, project budgeting, invoicing and monitoring this as well as seeing instantly what the profit is on a project, ArchiOffice is the way to go in my humble opinion.