“Management is, above all, a practice where art, science, and craft meet” — Henry Mintzberg
Beyond the phrase “all the things” how do you explain what an architectural, engineering, or construction design (AEC) project manager does? After you’ve shouted, “all the stuff” how can you tell what the advantages are in adopting the right project management software for your built environment design firm? … Shhh, shhhh, it’s alright. We’ve got you.
AEC project management defined — let me Google that for you
The font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, explains project management like this: “Project management is the way a person organizes and manages resources that are necessary to complete a project. A project is a piece of work which is not a process or an operation. It has a start, an end, and goals […] delivered within the existing limitations [of] time, cost, people, risk, resources, and much more.”
Whilst just reading that definition inspires the need for a little lay down, it does set us up to take a look at what’s required for a good software solution. Let’s have at it.
WORKING BETTER, TOGETHER (aka collaboration)
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships” — Michael Jordan
As a built environment design business owner or manager, you know that any individual task is inevitably part of a larger project being worked on by multiple people. That’s how it is in our industry. You can have all the design talent in the known universe, but if you can’t collaborate with the people on your team effectively — from your bookkeeper, to your draftspeople, to your contractors, to your clients — you cannot deliver a project efficiently and effectively. Your team can’t work together optimally. Your design, your project delivery, suffers. Them’s the facts, and we all know it.
This has got to be the foremost advantage of a good AEC project management software, in our humble opinion — it makes it easier for your team to work together on project delivery. What does that mean? Well, it means that your project management software should allow everyone working on any given project to log in from anywhere (which means a true cloud platform) to view project timelines, view images and designs, to share documents, and to manage version control. It’s a centralized hub for your projects. It allows you to utilize and merge the best of your individual team members’ expertise. Response times to comments and discussions are decreased significantly. You can reduce internal emails and meetings.
Teams work better together as a result of commonly understood points of focus and exchanges about project development. The capacity for each team member to add to and access the project knowledge pool in real time means more interaction, faster. All the good players onto the same field at the same time. Goal.
Add to this the asset of team happiness — easier working interactions make for happier colleagues and staff, and that equals more contented clients — and you’ve smiles all ‘round.
DOCUMENT SHARING AND CENTRALIZED DOCUMENT STORAGE
“In vain have you acquired knowledge if you have not imparted it to others” ― Deuteronomy Rabbah
We know, there’s an overlap here with the above advantage. That’s true. But it bears mentioning as an advantage unto itself. A good AEC project management software lets you share documents and increase the accuracy of documentation. That’s no small thing. Centralized data storage of project operations documents and financial analysis means a greater, clearer, more accurate understanding of the current health and progress of a project — across all the relevant members of a project’s team. This informs a team’s direction. It keeps everyone on the same page. It stops messy, annoying stuff like switching between various spreadsheets to update them, only to re-upload them to a server and find the version you’ve been working on is five iterations old. We all know that groan.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” — George Bernard Shaw
You’re not wrong, George. Communication is fundamental to successful AEC project delivery. Improved communication is a key advantage to good AEC project management software. That improved communication includes the lines between your internal and external stakeholders, and with your clients and suppliers.
Architecture, engineering, and construction design-specific software includes things like transmittals to send and track project documentation so you know who’s seen what, when… you know, so you can guard against Shaw’s quoted problem. With good software every project comes with a project portal where you can securely invite third parties to view project activity feeds, share documents and images, and engage in private and group project chat. Like a software version of a watercooler. Just as refreshing without the complication of location specificity.
MONITORING AND TRACKING PROJECT PROGRESS
“True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation” — Winston Churchill
Whether it’s budgeting better in your AEC project bids, tracking the progress of time and money spent on a project that’s current, monitoring the availability of staff and resources so that you can allocate effectively, or reporting to the big bods, keeping an eye on the state of play is crucial to the success of your projects. Agility is king. To meet your project goals, dedicated software is invaluable in monitoring and managing the stages of a project and figuring whether you’ll make like a FedEx promise and deliver “the world on time”, or not [insert scene from the film Cast Away here].
AEC project management software has the distinct advantage of enabling you to track the current progress of any project within the following limitations (remember the underlined bit in the Wiki quote at the beginning?!):
- Budgets (planned versus actual) — “within the limitation of cost”
- Progress (individual tasks + overall project / time + money) – “within the limitation of time”
- Time + resources (timesheets + availability) – “within the limitation of people and resources”
- Reporting + forecasting – “within the limitation of risk”
Alright, so what have we established here? A love-in for architectural, engineering, and construction design professionals? No. A clearer view of the advantages of a good, AEC-specific project management software? Hopefully.
It comes down to this — the overall advantage of project management software is its capacity to provide a centralized, designated, easily accessible place for all your project data and details. What this means for you, is an enhanced ability to make better, faster, and more accurate decisions about your projects and your business. And that means more time for design. Which excites the sugar out of us, too.