Benchmarking 2000 was a survey of business performance in the architectural profession. Participants received two reports. The first was an overall benchmarking report that set the standards for achievement across the profession, and showed to what extent the profession met those standards. The second was an inter-firm comparison that compared each practice's performance with its six closest competitors in the survey, measured by headcount.
Run by architectural management consultancy Colander, in association with the AJ, the study was the largest ever benchmarking exercise for architects.
Key issues identified included:
the profession could and should be more profitable;
it is difficult to maintain profit to turnover as practices grow in size;
the most profitable practices show a high profit per fee earner;
partners and directors are doing too many chargeable hours of work;
salaries are rising at an alarming rate;
staff turnover is too high;
practices (even larger ones) are better at winning small jobs than big ones;
profits from big projects are generally better than from small ones;
some sectors are much more profitable than others;
design and build and construction management are more profitable for architects than traditional procurement routes; and inefficient working methods have more of an adverse impact on profitability than low fees do.
Participating practices had to work hard to provide the information, but most of them found this work useful. Colander surveyed the participants and, with half of them responding, received very positive scores. Average rating of the benchmarking report was 3.4 out of 5 (nearly 70 per cent), and for the inter-firm comparison 4.1 out of 5 (more than 80 per cent).
Some comments on the benchmarking included:
'The profit: turnover benchmark was very useful as well as profit per partner/director and per fee earner.'
'It provided a more scientific basis for discussion, no surprises but confirmed areas of worry - we are always aware of what we are aiming at in design terms, now we have something to aim for in management terms.'
Comments on the inter-firm comparisons included:
'It has highlighted areas we need to concentrate on.The independent nature of the report is useful.'
'It creates confidence in our efforts'.
When participants were asked why they took part, responses included:
'No other comparisons are available - it's not the sort of thing your contemporaries talk about in the pub.'
'To see how we compared with our peers.'