ArchiOffice Project Management Software for 15-person Firm

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!

Jul 18, 12 12:53 pm

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.

Jan 25, 13 12:57 am  · 

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

The only downside of LP is that it's a cloud-based service.

Jan 25, 13 2:01 pm  · 

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.

Jan 25, 13 3:15 pm  · 

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.

Jan 25, 13 4:23 pm  · 

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.

Jan 25, 13 5:15 pm  · 

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.

Jan 26, 13 1:52 am  · 


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:

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.

Jan 26, 13 7:53 pm  · 

Sklar and other discussion forum members:  I'm not sure if Mr. Burns has pointed out but he is one of the ArchiOffice Software developers so his comments are a bit bias towards ArchiOffice.

ArchiOffice  - do NOT purchase.  Waste of time and money.

Jun 19, 13 11:07 am  · 
1  · 

To the point made by AnyaRose, it is no secret that I am associated with ArchiOffice. Any visitor to the site will easily see this and my credentials are available here on Archinect. Her point does make it clear that in the future, I should point out my relationship so readers would understand the context. My apologies for not making this clear up-front.

The most important thing to consider when evaluating software to help manage your firm, projects and finances is to due your due-diligence. I tell everyone who attends my weekly live demos of ArchiOffice that this is critical. Just like it's important that your own clients don't hire you without interviewing other architects first to make sure that this is the right fit for them. After-all, the client-architect relationship will last for many years and  you want to be sure that you will be happy together. The same holds true for your management software. So please, do all you can to demo the software, contact existing users (references), and make sure the pain-points your firm is experiencing can be helped by the suite of tools the software includes. It's not the type of decision you should do lightly.

I know that not every solution out there solves the needs for everyone. Conversely, not everyone uses all the tools included in any software package. Just make sure that what you need is included and will work the way your firm expects.

AnyaRose is entitled to her opinion about ArchiOffice, but more than a thousand firms would disagree. Please do your own assessments of all packages that might work for your firm. If you follow a good process, I'm sure your firm will make the right decision that fits your needs.

Jun 19, 13 11:47 am  · 

Steven, you're also entitled to promote your software, despite it not being that great and in the face of the criticisms leveled against it here by users. However, this is not an advertising site, and your original posts did not link back to your Archinect ID and the ArchiOffice connection indicated there.

Jun 19, 13 12:05 pm  · 

Dear Mr. Burns,

thank you for your response.

We did our due diligence, evaluated the software for over a year and participated in the demonstrations.  We became interested in the product when it was with OrangeSoft and then was acquired by BQE whose main product is BillQuick.

My response is based upon hundreds of hours of utilizing AO 2011, AO 2012 and AO2013.  All three versions have evolved over 13 months so it has been an interesting progression.

The software based upon the demo would be perfect but that is not the actuality.  

If you are a small Firm where staff in many cases are wearing many hats, then you understand time is $$$.  Be prepared to spend alot of your billable time loading data into ArchiOffice for initial training, setup, preferences, patches, and upgrades....and then system loss, duplicate projects, etc. 

We just completed the Upgrade to AO2013 and ALL most of the vital HR data/charge rates, settings and preferences were lost. So I've been re-entering since yesterday. 

When we upgraded from AO2011 to AO2012 we had database system wide problems but BQE was supportive and resolved the problems within a week.

If you are considering purchase:  Wait....Talk to other Firms who use ArchiOffice and not just the end user who is entering their timesheet.  Talk to the Administrators at the Company who use all functions of the software....Then make your decision.

My favorite feature would be its accessibility from mobile devices.  This is quite useful. 


Jun 19, 13 1:04 pm  · 
1  · 

This in old topic but my frustration with this company still runs wild...not so much software but the company. I was one of the early admirers of the AO idea and became a customer in their early days. As AnyaRose mentioned after the very first (and only) CD install we went through numerous patches, “upgrades” and glitches to finally find somewhat stable platform to work on. Being a small firm (two of us) we purchased, I believe it was called Golden Support Package, as we could not a full time IT staff due to our size, but we had AO issues. During every call I made to the tech support (through all the patches and upgrades) I was routed to paid classes even though the problem was not a user’s fault but technical problems with constant software upgrades. I guess we were not big enough for them to care. Money was wasted, not even mentioning the time spent to find our way out of the situation. Very soon, as the number of their customers grew, so was their price… going through the roof with a very steep incline. They did not care about number of users and did not have a subscription option for small firms. We decided not to get upgrades and stuck with the desktop version we had. After realizing their mistake, and probably losing customers like me, the phone calls started. Now they were willing to offer smaller cost for up to 5 seats but at that point we were fed up with the treatment and decided not to use their services anymore. Once established the software itself was enough for what we needed, simple management and billing, although some aspects were still very counterintuitive and occasionally the software acted on its own. Even after all of this I like the idea of this program. If they have spent more time fixing it before the release, and if they were more consciences and self-aware of their downfalls and used customer’s experience as a base for improvement and not the base for raking more fees, they would have had a great product. I don’t know what is happening with the product these days, and honestly am afraid to find out…

Apr 22, 24 4:50 pm  · 

Wouldn't MS Project and Quickbooks be just fine?

Jun 19, 13 9:12 pm  · 

Wouldn't MS Project and Quickbooks be just fine?

Probably would be for most small offices. Though MS Project is a poor tool for scheduling and planning design work and Quickbooks is not well adapted to doing project-based financial management.

The point of PM/PPM software is to make it easier to track and complete complex work in a demanding, fluid environment and give transparency to the status of projects in as close to real time as you can. MS Project works for highly-linear, well-defined production processes, but is very brittle. Plans created with Project and similar, Gantt/Critical-Path scheduling models have no room for explicit uncertainty or iterative development processes. Since architectural design is full of both uncertainty and iterative exploration, PM software that forces us into a linear model is worse than no plan at all: it misleads us into thinking we understand and are in control of the process when we're not. It also creates an additional level of complexity in the requirement to constantly update and revise the plan to reflect all the changes that have occurred as part of the natural course of the design process. As a practical matter, because it is an onerous time-sink to do it, that almost never happens. Thus we wind up with sharply-defined work plans that are obsolete the day they are created, set targets that are never re-evaluated and almost inevitably missed, and inspire panic when the project naturally deviates from the original plan.

There's a similar sort of problem with the extensive time tracking that goes on in most architectural offices (and which Mr. Burns seems so keen to defend). The vast majority of architectural employees are compensated on salary, not hourly. Therefore, architectural firm labor costs are pretty close to being fixed on an ongoing basis. Regardless of what those employees are doing or how much they are working on anything, the amount of money that has to go out the door in paychecks every week or two is essentially constant and known in detail. The other side of that equation, fee revenue, is mostly dependent on work completion, delivery of work products, and meeting critical milestones. If you've delivered a set of design documents, you can bill for them. If you haven't, you can't.

So, on the one hand, we have a bunch of money going out the door every couple of weeks in paychecks, rent, etc. That has to be offset by revenue from completed work. How many hours somebody has worked on a particular project or job number is, at best, only secondarily and tangentially connected to that key financial reality. Employees mostly don't get paid for how many hours they work, and the vast majority of architectural contracts are not written or billed on a Time & Materials basis (which is a horrible way to run a practice anyway). What matters is that stuff gets done, deliverables are delivered in a timely fashion, and key contractual milestones are met. Do that, and the money becomes Accounts Receivable to offset your Accounts Payable. The faster you can convert your contracts and work to AR, the more profitable you will be. If you take any one point away from this little rant, it should be that one.

If, on the other hand, I am basing my project accounting on labor budgets and diligently tracking time cards and hours spent, I can wind up with some really perverse results and fool myself into thinking I'm profitable when I absolutely am not. This is a common failing in architectural practices, which adopted time-based accounting from lawyers back in the 1970s and cling to its Labor Theory of Value logic with grim determination despite its obvious problems. For instance, a few years ago during the darkest days of the downturn, one of my project managers was bragging about how one his projects was in the black by a large margin. He had accomplished this by reducing his team size to just two people and getting time extensions on several key deliverable milestones so he could reduce the number of hours spent on the project in any given budget period. As a result, he was showing a metric of hours spent way below budget, and thus claiming this as a highly profitable job.

But it was a financial disaster. Why? Two reasons. One: by delaying all the work and slowly feeding hours into it, he had effectively tripled the overhead cost on that project (because it was going to be active in the office for much longer) and dramatically delayed revenue inflows to billed from it. In effect, he had throttled the cash flow from AR on that job way down. Two: even though he'd reduced staff hours on his project to low part-time, we still had to pay those staff full time. Just because he had them billing only 10 hours a week on that job didn't mean we didn't have to pay them for 40. In the boom times, this problem was masked because slack staff get picked up to do other work as soon as they're available (or even before). In the downturn, many other projects had gone on hold, so those staff wound up being idled.

Now, when I suggested to him that we take four almost fully-idled staff from elsewhere in the office and have them all put in a crash effort to get that project done immediately, the PM had a conniption. Putting all those people on his project would blow the budget, he claimed. He didn't want to be responsible for losing money on a project he was responsible for.

Wait... what?

Rather than taking available staff to get his project finished quickly, so he could bill for completed contract amounts in the near future and thus bring a much-needed cash flow into the company to offset ongoing fixed costs (such as the staff salaries, including his own team members), he was fixated on the metric of managing his hours budgeted vs. hours spent. He was convinced that he was profitable, when in fact he was responsible for the company hemorrhaging money due to labor-accounting myopia.

To be fair, this was a rational response on his part. Why? Because the accounting and project management systems and metrics being used in the firm measured his success as a PM against his project hours budgets as a proxy for profitability, and did not take percent completion, periodic milestone billing, or AR conversion into account AT ALL.

That's why I warned against adopting PM solutions that are heavily time-accounting based for an architectural practice. I know that a lot of architects do it, to the point where it's standard practice in the profession. But that doesn't mean that it makes any sense to do so. Mostly, it's just habit, and a really bad one at that.

Let me ask you this: if your firm quit tracking hours and filling out timesheets tomorrow, would it really, I mean REALLY, change your cash flow and profitability situation? If not, why are you still doing it? Everybody hates it. Punching a timecard is for burger flippers, not professionals. It's wasteful of both time and resources. It focuses employee attention and behavior on poor metrics of financial performance, and gives them perverse incentives.

The answer is probably that you track time because someone told you once that that's what architects have always done to manage their business. Well, not only is that not true (prior to the 1970s, it was extremely rare), it's not a sensible way to make decisions about how you manage your work and pursue profitability.

Jun 20, 13 2:47 pm  · 

Greg, all of what you've said makes a lot of sense. However, don't many practices still bill their clients based on time, or hours (not lump contract-sums)?

Jun 20, 13 3:17 pm  · 

I don't know of any offices that bill time and materials who are not doing a lot of government work (many govt agencies require time accounting statements even if the contract is lump sum...this is the number one reason to avoid doing government work). There are few things that make sense to bill T&M, but the vast majority of firms bill either percentage of construction cost (more common for small firms in niche markets) or lump sum contracts. T&M is a very poor business model.

On a broader level, if your firm IS writing a lot of T&M contracts, you should stop right away and switch over to lump sum. Your profit margins will thank you.

And, frankly, why on earth would you ever want to work under a system where all hours spent are treated as fungible and equal in value? Is the 30 minutes you spent coming up with a great idea for a project design equal in value to the 30 minutes you spent retroactively concocting the fiction of your time report out of fantasy and foggy recollection on timesheet day? No.

Jun 20, 13 3:53 pm  · 


If your Firm uses ArchiOffice, please contact me.

We would like feedback.  We would appreciate the opporutnity to discuss your experience and learn if it has been useful to your Firm and if you have any tips to help us in its use.

thank you.

Jun 20, 13 4:29 pm  · 


now i totally agree with you, but i know that when you bill by the hour you can sort of "soften" the numbers for your client, and then when its too high say "well, that's what it cost." its so competitive you kind of have to give a lower number and adjust later (at least with smaller projects) so you actually GET the project.  i don't agree with this, but its seems to be what people are doing

Jun 20, 13 10:15 pm  · 

We are a 9 person firm in the Atlanta area that has been using Archioffice since 2008.  Since that time, there have been a lot of growing pains.  However, over that time, I've also spent time with Tech support, bent ears and learned a lot about the program.  I've now been a beta tester for the past two years, and have seen the product evolve greatly.

We intially got into the software to get out of the spreadsheets.  With all the lost mileage, printing and other reimbursables we were missing, it easily paid for itself.  Then we got into the time tracking, reimbursable tracking, joint address book location, productivity reports, shared calendar, and most importanly - billing.  Recently, we have gone paperless (well as much as an architect can be) and begun using the document management aspect.  Shop drawing, submittal and RFI logs are also somehting our project managers have begun using recently.

Overall, if an architects office does it, there is some aspect of Archioffice that attemps to recreate it.  Albeit, you may have to adjust your method a bit to accomodate Archioffice's method.  The program can also be highly customized, i.e. of your shop drawing approval designation dont match the defaults, just add your to the avaiable slections.  Many areas are this way.

Then there is also remote access to the program.  It is internet based, inside your office.  Because we use doncument management also, all that is also remotely accessible.  Recently one of our project managers used their iPad to access Archioffice from the job site to call up a spec section to read it to the contractor (a contractor without his specs, what a surprise!).  But we can also call up RFI, submittal status, check contact info, etc.  All from the office, home or on the road.  Just need the IP and a web browser.

It syncs relatively well to outlook.  It Syncs to Quickbooks, but that is an area that we have decided not to use.  (we decided quickbooks was to be pure accounting and Archioffice can manage everything else)

Our experience is that it has taken us time to adopt the whole program to our methods, and likewise our methods to Archioffice.  But each year we pick up more of what it does.  Always more than we intially bought Archioffice for.  One of the best side benefits is that it has forced an office standard upon ourselves, forcing everyone to do their process roughly the same way.

We have done several upgrades from V8 to 2010 (ouch) all the way to 2013.  Only once did we have problems.  But Tech support is awesome!  Easy to get hold of and rarely do I have a problem not solved that day.

Would I get Archioffice again?  Sure thing.

Jun 21, 13 10:03 am  · 


I think you'll find that doing away with time accounting, writing lump-sum contracts, and eliminating all cost-related statements or information from your bills to clients will reduce disputes with them over fees considerably.

Honestly, how much time you spent doing the work or how much it cost you to do it is none of the client's business. It's yours and yours alone. Price on value, manage on cost. The only pertinent issue for fee billing is: did I provide the value and products I promised to provide for the price we had agreed on in the time frame I promised? Yes? Fine. Pay me.

Jun 21, 13 12:44 pm  · 
Gwharton what do you use to plan? Thinking your ideas are stellar but curious how to plan them-still need to have some idea how many staff to task to a project for how long to complete it, etc...
Jun 21, 13 11:00 pm  · 

great discussion --- you make some very compelling points, gwharton.  i agree with gruen.  i would like to know what you use to plan.

also, i have some questions about your points. for instance, i agree that tracking time is an imperfect way to measure progress, particularly if the work is new, complex, has lots of logistical issues, etc.  but tracking time is still essential, yes? 

To develop the fee, the time and logistics of completing the project are the primary basis for the fee estimate, yes?  To put it in the terminology you were using, to estimate accounts payable to complete a project, since most of it is salaried (fixed) overhead cost, the estimator has to estimate the amount of time salaried employees will take to complete the work.  this then is the basis for developing the fee (accounts receivable).

And then to assess how well one anticipated the needed time to complete the work (accounts payable) --- you have to track their time.

If you don't need the time on task info to manage the project while ongoing (which is a valid point in many instances), it is valuable to figure out how well the project was estimated, or if the estimator is getting more accurate over successive iterations of estimating a particular project type.  Do you agree with that, or am I missing something?  and it is still marginally valuable for the PM while the project is ongoing b/c if someone is way under or way over his/her time, it is a rough indication of potential issues.

Also, with respect to projecting needed staffing to complete work, it helps to know how many hours of work are projected over the next week/month/quarter/year and if the staff exists to handle the work.  This is all primarily based on time estimates. 

So can you clarify your points with respect to these questions/comments?  are you referring to project management while the project is ongoing or are you making a larger argument that tracking time is not useful?  and in either case, as gruen asked, if you don't mind sharing, how do you suggest to do it?

Jun 23, 13 10:52 am  · 

btw, i have been evaluating these tools for the last 6-7 months for use as a sole practitioner (for now).  ideally, i would like to use newforma or a deltek solution.  however, i cannot afford these solutions.  for now, i looked at praesto, archioffice, liquid planner, and solo.  i found liquid planner to be a very well-designed application - i would go so far  as to say it is the best time tracking and day to day project management and collaboration GUI i have tried so far -  but the cloud-based-only nature of the service ultimately became a reason not to use it - i am just not comfortable with all of my data being hosted externally by a third party and i think it is a weakness when selling services.  if liquid planner offered a locally hosted solution, i'd jump on it.  i found archioffice to be a solid product and marginally more full-featured than praesto but significantly more expensive and my experience with the sales person was not that great.  solo just didn't take for me.  it is simple and clean but for some reason, it just didn't seem as useful to me as the other options.  i settled on praesto.  it offers a lot of value for a very reasonable price and it is hosted locally, but accessible remotely.  i continue to find more and more useful functionality in it.  and the developers are helpful, engaged, and the type of independent company that i feel good about supporting.  the interface needs a refresh and it needs much better collaboration tools.  but for a basic aec pm package that is locally hosted, it is solid and useful.

Jun 23, 13 11:08 am  · 


Tracking time is NOT essential. In fact, it's a distraction and tells you nothing of value from a business or financial management standpoint. Our profession is wedded to doing it simply because we've been doing it for 40 years and everybody thinks that's how it's done (basically, lawyer-envy).

Your example of needing time tracking for fee estimation illustrates a big part of the problem with time tracking quite well. I've posted about fee calculation elsewhere in the forums. You can read more of my thoughts on the subject there.

Essentially, where you price your fees should NOT be based on your presumed cost. It should be based on the value of what you're providing to your customer. You should Price on Value, and Manage on Cost.  Those are two completely different things. Profit comes out of the interaction of the two, but only if you do both of them right.

Cost+profit fee structure is based on a bunch of deeply flawed economic premises (primarily the belief in intrinsic value) and will almost always result in either over- or under-pricing your work relative to its value to your clients. Frank Stasiowski FAIA wrote a book about this 20 or so years ago, and it's still as good and relevant today as it was then. Ron Baker has written a couple of excellent books on the subject (pitched more at accountants and lawyers) that I highly recommend (here's a good summary).

Most architects don't understand the basics of pricing strategy and market economics, which is why you see the Labor Theory of Value so prevalent in their fee structures. Simply put, your work has no intrinsic value. It's only valuable relative to what your clients value it for. Is Starbucks able to charge $4 for a cup of coffee because it costs them so much to make it that the high price is a function of that cost? Is that $4 espresso intrinsically worth $4? No. Do you think Starbucks would be the profit monster it is if they charged cost plus a fee for every cup of joe they produce? Not a chance. They use value pricing, and so should you.

This is probably the number one contributing factor in the downward price pressure and poor profit performance in architectural fees over the last 30 years. By adopting the cost-plus fee model, you immediately make yourself vulnerable to commodity price competition and lowballing. You're starting right out the gate with pricing position that is at your minimum estimated profit threshold based on a belief in an intrinsic value floor, and you have no room for error on that. That's a bad place to be. I could go on at length about this, but let's leave this for the moment as the "Price on Value" side of the equation and move on to "Manage on Cost."

As I mentioned above, labor costs for most architecture firms are close to being fixed in proportion to staff size. In fact, almost nothing in an architecture firm's overhead is variable. Print costs and consultant fees are about it, and those are directly tied to project progress (more about that in a sec) and thus immediately reimbursable as those costs accrue.

Which means that there is a cost associated with simply opening your doors on any given day that is known with relative precision. That's your "burn rate": the rate at which money is flowing out of your business over time. Your revenue over the same period of time needs to exceed that number, or you're in trouble.

Also as I mentioned, your revenue is dependent on task or milestone completion as well as delivered product or value to the client. If the work is done, you can bill for it. If it's not, you can't. Note also that it tells us utilization rates don't have much to do with profit. If your pricing is good and your milestones are getting hit, you can have a significant fall-off in your utilization and actually increase your profit, making more money working less hard (something the conventional time-accounting methods say is impossible).

That tells us what our management parameters are and how we should plan our projects.

First, rather than assigning hours budgets, assign a percentage of your overhead as your cost structure for the project and for resource allocation. This should not be done in fine increments when it comes to staffing. Employee A's work for a period (never less than a week) is assigned fractionally to a project (e.g. this week, 50% on Project Z). Never assign less than 20% of a staff resource to anything, and preferably no less than 40%. Now, whether or not that employee is working precisely 50% of their time on Project Z isn't that important. What matters is that 50% of that employee's cost has been assigned to the overhead burn rate for the project over that time. Think of this as the project "carry," just as our developer clients have to the pay the carry on their properties while their developing them.

Second, establish your milestones and delivery points. These are your key revenue source triggers, since when you hit them and complete them successfully, they generate money for you. Your contract and work plan should have these spelled out in detail with specific criteria (be careful putting specific dates in your contract unless you're SURE you can hit them on time, however). Compare these to the projectede project carry cost over time to make sure you don't wind up in the hole as you go, and front-load them as much as possible. You want to get as much of that revenue coming in as early as you can. The further out in time it's projected accrual is, the less it's worth to you in present-value terms.

Third, relative to the planning and management of the accomplishment of this work, you must shift away from hours spent to priority work completed. This means fully adopting a task-based planning and management system with priority assignment (I think liquidplanner is a pretty good tool for this, but YMMV). Start by identifying key tasks, milestones, and deliverables, give them relative priority for work focus, then work down into what's necessary to get them accomplished. Then figure out who's going to do the work and when. This ties back into your overhead assignments for the project and allocation of labor resources on a percentage basis. This is the point, by the way, where the people who are actually going to do the work should have some feedback on what's being assigned to them. This becomes much easier to do as a staffing management system when you abandon hours tracking, because every employee has a clearer idea of what their actual planned workload is on a task basis. The emphasis shifts to getting the work done timely and well, rather than hitting utilization targets and hour budgets.

Note also that by using task- and deliverable-based project planning, you will be able to pitch your value to and resolve fee disputes with your clients MUCH easier. It's no longer about "we worked on it this much." It becomes more about "this is what we did for you." That may seem like a subtle difference, but it has a huge impact on perception of your service. It also cuts off most arguments about money before they get started. But in case you're still having trouble getting paid at that point, go watch this.

The biggest advantage of a prioritized task-based plan is that, unlike hours budgets, it remains viable as a management tool after it's created. As employees do their work, they check off tasks completed and work delivered as they go in an integral process of getting it done in the first place. It doesn't matter how much time it takes them to do it, while at the same time you can clearly see at any given point how far behind or ahead you are in reaching work completion goals. Also, if new work is added, it either happens as sub-tasks of work already contracted (as the plan evolves and is fleshed out during the work), or becomes a new task/deliverable set. Any time a new task/deliverable occurs in the work plan, it automatically triggers an additional services negotation. No work gets assigned or done unless there's some sort of fee agreement associated with it. This makes it much easier to handle billing for changes while the project is going on (and please note that this is exactly what GCs do to us and our clients).

The firm management level, PPM (portfolio project management) also gets easier by following this model as well. Staffing becomes much simpler: based on the assignment of resource overhead costs proportionally to project revenue streams rather than trying to create a holistic hours budget for every employee on every project. Accounting becomes an order of magnitude simpler, particularly for larger firms. Firm leaders can see the progress of the project portfolio by looking at metrics of task completion progress versus billable revenue versus the project carry cost. It's much easier to see that work progress is being made and the project is generating revenue to offset its costs.

Further, by looking at the performance of actual work completed over time versus actual revenue, measured against the same metrics as planned, you can get a much clearer idea of how good the original plan was and refine future plans based on that knowledge.

So, I disagree strongly that time tracking is valuable from a project planning and project management standpoint. It's not. In fact, it interferes with good planning, management, and profit at nearly every level.

Jun 24, 13 1:55 pm  · 


thank you very much for such a thoughtful, thorough, and well-written response.  I also really appreciate that you have provided references.....very generous of you.

i'll have to think about it some, reread this post, and look at your references before responding.  but in principle, i see your points and they resonate. 

Jun 24, 13 3:27 pm  · 

Hello guys,

For those of you interested on architectural management programs take a look at these please.

Jul 20, 13 8:59 am  · 

Very Interesting post, it made me laugh when the guy from Archioffice was caught, after that he change his profile and everything, another thing that call my attention was the post by fsfarch, a new user that only created it's profile to post about how good is ArchiOffice, lol.

We don't complicate very much things around here, we pay $124 monthly to Frank Project Management, they provide us with unlimited users, 40 GB of storage and it's strictly oriented to Architects. We were not looking for expensive licenses like AO and NF, and we searched for a very intuitive software, we didn't want to spend thousand of dollars training our staff

Aug 27, 13 3:09 pm  · 

Relative to the ArchiOffice thread I suggest a thorough review of the platform before making the investment.

Our firm is a 30 person landscape architecture and urban design practice and about a year and a half ago we decided to move from a mix of Quickbooks, Excel and PM software to a more integrated platform.  We evaluated a variety of packages including Deltek Vision and after a fairly intensive review of AO we decided that it would be a good step toward a fully integrated accounting and project management platform, but wouldn't require us to completey transition from Quickbooks and retrain a bookeeper who has been with us for a decade.  In the end, the integration with Quickbooks has been tedious and has complicated rather than streamlined our management, invoicing and accounting processes.  After a year we still haven't achieved full functionality, certainly not for a lack of effort and investment. In short, the software is buggy, requires constant support and is cumbersome at best.

Jul 9, 14 1:42 pm  · 

I'm currently looking at different products (that integrate with QuickBooks and aren't web-based) and wondered if any of the previous posters had any updates or anyone else wanted to chime in on their experiences.





Apr 9, 15 3:55 pm  · 

Hi.  Our 11 person firm is currently looking at PM software.  I could use some updated advice.  We are reviewing Ajera/Deltek and Archioffice.  Any advice or comments are appreciated.

Jun 9, 15 7:56 pm  · 

we are looking for a good time sheet software for a small firm. any suggestions?

Jun 19, 15 4:06 pm  · 
OMNIA Architects

Our firm ruled out Ajera/Deltek, Mavenlink and Archioffice as being too expensive.  I am currently looking at Big time and a few others based on some suggestions.

Jun 20, 15 7:42 am  · 

anyone use Actitime for time sheets? seems reasonably priced. 5 users for $35 per month.

Acrhioffice is $20  per user thanks

Jun 24, 15 3:12 pm  · 
OMNIA Architects

Our firm is looking at BigTime now...which is $149.99 per month for 10 users.  $15 per person. It appears to have a smooth transition with Quickbooks.  Keep us all posted.

Jun 25, 15 6:18 am  · 

Hi. folks!

I just joined on as the controller of a 15 member architect firm out in Boise, ID. This company is mainly using Quickbooks 2014 and Excel for its accounting and project tracking needs. One of the reasons I was hired to replace the part time bookkeeper was because the owner wanted more information than Quickbbooks and Excel can give him. Let's face it, Quickbooks 2014 and Excel are clunky ways of doing things in an architect firm.

I know know one has posted on this forum for a year and a half, but I would like to know the experience people have been having with the latest releases the software they are using. Evaluating software on the software company's website isn't all that reliable. 

I like the idea of PM and accounting software geared specifically toward architect firms (Quickbooks integration is key as well). I am looking at the following:


Praesto (BaseBuilders)

Big Time 

Any insight you can provide would be great!

On a side note, Boise is experience a building boom, and I have little doubt our company will be expanding soon. Our boss is amazing to work for, and seems to care about his employees. Just saying...



Jan 5, 17 11:39 am  · 

My experience now amounts to having used Praesto for several years in one 12 person firm, tried using the Archioffice trial about 6 years ago, and most recently using Ajera in a 30 person firm. From a totally anecdotal perspective I found that Ajera had way fewer people complaining about how difficult it was to enter time in their time sheets (actually none, whereas Praesto seemed to be a constant struggle) and it seemed the project managers liked the way Ajera was able to parse the data and create reports. I've now come across a number of midsize offices that use Ajera and are quite happy with it. Ultimately the firm i worked at that used Praesto stopped using it and went back to excel, they just couldn't make it work.

Jan 5, 17 12:17 pm  · 
OMNIA Architects

Hi. Our 12 member firm uses Big time. We looked at Archioffice and Harvest. I like the flexibilty of BT and we have used it for over 1 year. If you email me Marie - [email protected] we can continue the discussion. I did like Aera but it was too expensive for us and did not pay the taxes with ease as in Quick books.

Jan 5, 17 12:33 pm  · 

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