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4 pillars of AEC business and project management

Architecture practice management, engineering business management, construction design studio management, project management… all are labels for the various professional services offered by built environment design businesses. Working across the associated projects you’ll find structural engineers, building services engineers, construction designers, surveyors, planners, architects and multi-disciplinary firms offering every service a project could need.

Sounds a bit like herding cats. How are the work, fees, materials, costs and more accounted for? How are critical project documents, instructions and information managed between team members? How do you know where projects are performing well and others not? What are the processes for ensuring communications, deadlines, and information exchange are covered correctly? This is where software like Synergy Practice Management comes into its own as it uniquely ties all these aspects together. This is, ultimately, what differentiates Synergy from competitors – that it covers all four of these pillars for AEC practice and project management within one system.


Synergy project accounting for AEC

Project accounting – or job costing – involves creating financial reports to track the financial progress of projects with accurate data from the system. This is critical information for architecture and engineering project managers to understand where projects are in terms of budget (over, under, on track) and where the project is in terms of profitability.

Project accounting is different to plain-old-accounting in that projects often cross between organisations and can last for anything from a few hours to a number of years. Over the course of a project, budgets can be altered several times which needs to be factored in to project management. Furthermore, there are usually projects within projects – call them sub projects, stages or phases – that also need to be accounted for with their own budgets (within the overall budget). Projects have costs and revenues that need to be allocated to them, whether direct or overhead, which are managed through a work breakdown structure. This work breakdown structure in Synergy Practice Management is a key component of project management success for its architectural, engineering and design users. It has more layers than simple workflow management. It also uniquely manages fee types – including time and materials, fixed fee, percentage of work – so progress can be billed as time elapsed and/or percentage complete.

Architecture, engineering and construction projects always involve a reasonable amount of labour (whether as designers, contractors or otherwise). Because projects are more often based on fixed fee than billing by the hour, it’s generally a requirement for project employees to keep timesheets in order to be able to allocate those costs accurately to the projects and measure profitability (or not) within the fixed fee.

Integrated project accounting allows project managers and financial controllers to understand what’s happening on projects and stages and create reports to that effect – a key part of project accounting. Key reports include percentage of project complete, work in progress (WIP) value, residual fees to cover work to complete, and more.


Synergy document management for AEC

Just as important as keeping track of the dollars is following the paper trail. It’s important to note that document management isn’t just saving files against a contact. Without controlling the latest version of a document or drawing, it’s impossible to know if everyone is working on the same version. Then there are the inevitable emails flying here, there and everywhere. If the paper trail falls apart, it could cost thousands of dollars in messed-up projects, and an incalculable amount in damaged reputations.

Good document management builds control around the paper trail of emails, documents and drawings. Controlled folders allow document versions to be managed by the project manager who then knows who is working on what by monitoring when a document is ‘checked out’ of the controlled folder.

With email integration, all project emails can be assigned to the project folder so nothing gets lost. This not only keeps an audit trail of communications, it also saves a huge amount of time. Forrest Engineering save three whole days of admin time per week by using Synergy Practice Management’s email integration.

Using Synergy Practice Management’s drawing register and transmittal function makes it simple to issue drawings and catalogue them in a version register. This means no more complex excel spreadsheets with manually created version numbers, excel entries and emailing all parties to inform of the changes.

Document management also makes it easy to track and manage communications around projects – RFIs, instructions, changes, approvals. Templates for emails, RFIs, instructions, and general communications make it simple to ensure all communications is handled formally.


Synergy performance reporting for AEC

One of the most important things to know in architectural and engineering businesses is practice and project performance. Management reports can cover many things including costs and revenue, forward loading, project profit, project win / loss, revenue per staff, revenue per utilised hour, utilised hours and more.

Custom reporting can also be created to analyse almost any data Synergy captures, useful for things like portfolio performance so you can see trends in different sectors of the business (e.g. residential vs healthcare or commercial), and overall project profitability.

With many standard reports built into the system, and support to create custom reports specific to a businesses unique needs, there’s no reason to be sitting in the dark about your business and project profitability.


Contract admin is of critical importance to certain types of architectural and engineering practices.

Contract administration is really about project communications. Building regulations stipulate how changes to projects (instructions) and requests for information (RFI) are managed. Synergy contract admin allows project managers to ensure the right information is integrated in the system, to set reminders, and create templates for communications. Contract admin helps track and manage requestions for information, change orders, extension of time requests and progress claims by contractors. It also helps firms cover themselves in not missing important communications deadlines.

If you want to manage your architecture, engineering and construction design projects effectively with the least amount of admin, check out Synergy Practice Management and find more time for design!