Architects must see the financial management of a project as part of their responsibilities, according to a webinar hosted by the AJ with software management company, Union Square
The speakers, who included Natasha Drennan, business manager and associate at Child Graddon Lewis; Michael Holmes, director , Michael Holmes consultancy; Rodney Paesler, managing director , Scott Carver; Tim Setchfield, client services director at Union Square, argued that architects need greater engagement with the financial side of architecture.
Training is key to forcing this culture shift, according to Holmes who added that because business training in higher education was so poor, practices needed to provide it themselves.
The industry also needed to build a culture of empowerment with project architects taking greater financial responsibilities for the jobs they run. More financially literate staff meant that architects would feel comfortable negotiating their practice’s financial position when it came to late payment of fees, according to Paesler.
The speakers agreed that technology was an important tool in making sure architects run their business efficiently, but Setchfield pointed out that whereas smaller studios could make do with basic software, more advanced systems were needed when a practice reached 30 to 40 staff. ‘As businesses grow there is a greater pressure to move away from being just instinctive,’ said Setchfield. ‘When you have less experienced employees in positions of responsibility it is important to systemise the business,’ he added.
Drennan said that weekly resource meetings with practice directors helped identify cost concerns or potential project overruns. This information could then be fed down to the project architect. Data was also invaluable in forecasting fee levels, which allowed practices to take informed strategic decisions. However, when taking on speculative work, Holmes sounded a note of caution. ‘You need to review the projects carefully before you take them on, set a budget for the individual project very clearly and then control that cost.’