Forecasting Projects


I work for a midsize firm.  My boss is interested in getting more organized in the way in which we forecast time and projects at the firm in order to help make executive decisions like hiring new employees, distributing jobs to those that need work and making sure we have projects in the next 4 months, 8 months, etc.

I'm not sure if a software is the way to go - we use a few right now (timesheets and CPM) but I would be interested to know how other firms do this.  Is Excel capable of doing so?  I know it has a "Forecast" function but I think it's geared more towards sales.  Any advise or recommendations would be much appreciated!   

Sep 4, 19 7:58 pm

I created a xcel spreadsheet.  Basically, I'd take the fees, take out consultant costs and profit.  Then assigned the various phases to various positions.  Example 15% of the fee would be SD, out of which a PM would spend 20%, a PA 40% and a Designer 40%. That'd give me manhours needed.

From there, a second spreadsheet would reference it.  I could reference in how much time I'd allocate.  Like a PM would be juggling 5 projects so they could devote no more than 20% of their time; 

So using the above, for SD, a PM would have 15% of the project budget for that Phase, times 20% of that for his time, which would set 'how much' divided by his cost per hour to the firm to understand how many manhours he should spend.  40 hour work weeks/20% allocation = 8 hours per week max which would tell me how long to get to the end of SD's and set the milestone. (do the same with the rest).  That's why you might tweek it so you'd discover you'd need something more like 40% of his time to meet the deadline.

I'd run through it for every proposal to insure I had adequate staffing and assemble the teams.  It was throughout the project as a backcheck for the PM's to track their team's time.  If they met the manhours, the project would be profitable.  

I know it sounds sort of complex, but once you get the base template setup, it was just putting in the fee structure and making adjustments to fit the schedule.  What I never got around to doing was a master template for the entire office to link it over to.  It was also used to track the project and profitability with the timesheets so I could keep the PM appraised.

Sep 5, 19 1:22 pm  · 
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Oh.. and for forecasting; Once I had these filled in for each project, I knew who would become available when.  My job then was making sure I had another project lined up to avoid those high/lows.  Additionally, when I put together proposals, I'd know if, and when I might need additional staff.  Since I was small (staff of 8-15), I just sort of tracked it in my head and on a calandar to know what I could or could not take on.  If I had grown larger, a master spreadsheet would have been required to show the firm allocations. 

And the only reason it was Excel is that is what we started with... and it just grew and grew as we fiddled with it.  I tried MS Project once, but the learning curve hindered it.  My office managers, PM's, and even the receptionist knew Excel and could work with this spreadsheet too.

Sep 5, 19 1:31 pm  · 
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I worked in a mid-sized firm where there was something similar to what mightyaa describes:  Take past projects' actuals in terms of hours and fees, breakdown the distribution of hours based on phase and track overall fee and manhours.  The partners and accounting would review monthly with PMs where the projects stood to try and keep track of overages and shortages; the PMs in turn would try to keep staff up to date on expectations (and to check how realistic deadlines were).  I believe the intention was always to have a few 'flexible' projects and a few hourly-rate projects as filler to allow for stretching of work load.

Incoming work is hard to predict, though having some idea of hit rate on proposals can help.

Sep 5, 19 3:28 pm  · 

I've used Deltek for this at large firms, but I'm not sure how expensive it is.  They have a few products for architects: Ajera, Vantagepoint, and Vision.  We used Vision, but it sounds like overkill for you.  I don't have any experience with the other packages. has been blasting me with marketing on social media recently.  Might be worth a look.  I don't have any experience with them.

BQE Core might be another option.  I don't have any experience with them.

I will say that the biggest hurdle with any software you chose is getting your project managers to put their workplans into the system and then keep them updated week-to-week.  When it works (and everyone is keeping things updated) it is great and the information is invaluable.  However, the insights are only as good as the input.  And architects hate to spend time updating their workplans.

Sep 5, 19 7:51 pm  · 


I'm learning BQE Core now.  Anyone have experience or thoughts on this software?  I messed around with Deltek at my last office, so have some familiarity.

These databases make managing information a little easier than excel.  You can put in information by project and pull it out by employee.  Also, the different projects can communicate with each other easier, rather than a new excel file or tab for each one.  It's easier to see if I have someone on too many projects. like if they're at 60 hours a week 6 months from now.

Aug 5, 21 2:23 pm  · 

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