IT Strategies for 5-10 person Architecture and Design Firms

Welcome to another episode of Design Under Influence!  

Today we’re tackling a big topic: giving small architecture and design firms key strategies for improving their IT plan as they grow their business. As a small business owner looking to grow, it can be a little bit overwhelming. It often feels like there is everything to do but there is never enough time to do it.  

Sound familiar?  

As business owners, most of us really struggle between Control and Delegation.  As an entrepreneur, it can be difficult to relinquish control of your business. It’s your baby and you know best how to run it.  

Unfortunately, staying 100% in control of every operational detail is not sustainable as you grow.  

Delegating and outsourcing tasks can free up a ton of time for you as a business owner so that you can focus on the three most important aspects of your business:  

Don’t fret: we’re here to help. 

  1. Culture and hiring
  1. Systemization 
  1. Business development 

Your time is not well spent on dealing with every small and medium priority issues around your firm. Many entrepreneurs, as they start, tend to be over-involved in dealing with IT despite the fact that it is often outside of their range of expertise. Busyness is not productivity. Spending hours on end on solving technology problems is not the best use of your time.  

We recommend starting with small steps. First, we need to make peace with one simple truth. No one will be able to do what we do, as business owners, at 100%. Proper systems and processes will help your employees be productive, but they will never be perfect. Many excellent businesses fail to grow and thrive due to their owner/founder being the ultimate bottleneck. We recommend identifying where you are weakest and delegating those tasks to other people in your firm or outside resources.  

Information Technology does not have to be thought of mainly as a defensive set of systems. Indeed, with the right strategy, IT can serve as an offensive strategy to give your firm a competitive advantage.  

The mindset shouldn’t be: if something gets broken, I’ll call my IT guy to fix it.  

Through talking with our clients and introspective reflection into the businesses we’ve operated, and an evaluation of past experiences, we’ve identified that a defensive IT strategy usually costs the founder.  

It costs the business owner an average of 3 hours per week wasted, while it costs another 5 hours of wasted time for the team.  

So where do these time costs come from?  

  • Setting up computer access for employees and contractors  
  • Recovering past work  
  • Searching for information from colleagues  
  • Dealing with hardware and server maintenance 
  • Access management for various systems  
  • Software compatibility issues 

Dealing with these issues defensively will cost you, the founder, 12 productive hours per month. It will cost your team 20 productive hours per month.  

Let’s be conservative and estimate that your time is worth $150 per hour and your team’s time is worth $40 per hour.  

That is, at minimum, $2,600 worth of productivity lost per month, in addition to added risks such as not delivering on promises made to your clients and stagnation of business growth. Every minute you work in the business rather than on the business is costing you money, time, and opportunity.  

So why can’t this be fixed by your average on-call IT guy?  

Foremost, an IT person not affiliated with your company will not know the processes of your company. Without intimate knowledge of your processes, there can be no long-term solutions or big picture thinking, a recipe that is sure to allow for more problems to arise in the future. Additionally, your IT person might not always be available because they have a high volume of clients just like you. There is no incentive for them to put you at the front of the line.  

These delays cost your business time. They make you and your team less productive.  

IT Guys make money off of a defensive strategy. As things break, they fix them. And because they are billed hourly, there is no incentive to solve the problem quickly.  

This is not a proactive solution for your business.  

So how does your small architecture firm go about making strategic IT solutions? Firstly, you need to think about where you can systemize and delegate to free up your valuable time for culture and hiring, systemization, and business development. It’s time to let go of the illusion that being busy is empowering your business. Even if you do manage to solve your IT problems on your own as a founder, that’s not a win. That’s a day wasted.  

We know what you’re thinking: “But won’t outsourcing strategic IT solutions be expensive?” 

The answer, simply, is no.  

Considering what you are getting in return, strategic IT solutions are an extremely worthwhile investment.  

From quick responses to proactive management of your systems to strategic IT advice that can help to make technology your firm’s competitive advantage, your return on investment will be high.  

So how can you be sure that you are getting the right IT provider from both value and cost perspectives?  

We recommend looking closely at the following 3 things:  

  1. Ensure that they are responsive: you should get a response right away.  
  1. Ensure that they are proactive in putting systems in place to protect your business´s data and security. They should be proactively monitoring your equipment and implementing software that prevents issues, not wait for them to happen.  
  1. Ensure that you can have strategic conversations with them to identify new technologies and systems that can benefit the growth of your business.  

The best IT provider functions as a business partner.  

At ArchIT, we’re dedicated to providing strategic solutions for your architecture and design firm. We want to function as your business partner, not a defensive approach to IT.  

Have questions? Please reach out!  

We’d love to talk further about how technology can be your firm’s competitive advantage.