Using Spreadsheets vs. Deltek vs. Airtable for resource management

Welcome to another episode of Design Under Influence!  

This is Boris and Alex here, back to talk through ways that architecture, design, and engineering firms can use technology as a competitive advantage.  

Boris is the founder of an IT company called ArchIT, and Alex is the VP of growth for the business.  

Today we’re tackling the use of spreadsheets for resource management and all the implications of using that process.  

It feels like everyone that Boris works with is struggling with resource management these days—or at least has a system that could be improved upon.  

Even ArchIT itself struggles with this problem from time to time.  

How do we plan out the projected flow of future projects?  

Who is going to serve as the resources on those projects?  

How do we schedule the projects out to optimize productivity? 

Alex can relate to these tough questions, running a digital marketing agency of his own with 30+ employees.  

He has to manage every single project from beginning to end. Creating workflows, executing certain elements of projects, and hiring people, all take a great deal of coordination.  

We’re going to dive into these issues in hopes of expanding our range of possibilities on how to deal with resource management.  

 While we may not be able to come up with a solution, we’re hoping to leave you with some ideas to approach it more effectively and efficiently. 

Using spreadsheets can be tricky.  

It certainly has its downsides, but on the other hand, neglecting to use them can induce significant costs.  

Many large architecture firms use internal accounting suites like Deltek to retrieve, analyze, and safely return data from spreadsheets. Smaller clients might go with a system like ArchieOffice or Monograph to manage data.  

These are basically professional suites of tools that assist architecture firms in running their business from accounting to timekeeping to basic project management.  

What these tools don’t include in their initial implementation is the ability to project forward and schedule out resources.  

As an architecture firm knows, projects can take a long time between designing and eventual production (which could take years).  

These systems can be very costly to implement, and usually require consultants to properly install the software and manage your firm’s data.  

Spreadsheets cost nothing in terms of financing costs. However, using spreadsheets can lead to massive amounts of discombobulation and extra work, thus costing your company time. Extracting, moving, and manipulating data from different departments into spreadsheets is a consuming task.  

In our experience, architects do not like the process of data entry. It takes deliberate practice to get data hygiene executed. Creative minds don’t love data entry—that’s just the reality of the industry.  

But data hygiene is what makes businesses more efficient. Without proper data in your firm, systems like Deltek, ArchieOffice, and Monograph won’t be able to save you.  

Now that we’ve laid out the importance of correctly storing data, let’s get into how to extract it.  

Many firms will hire people to build custom connectors from their spreadsheets to project management systems. This will likely cost a firm anywhere from $1500 to $2500.  

As a safe estimate, these connecting systems could save your CFO 8 hours or more per month.  

This would free up time for investment in future resource planning, rather than dealing with the petty importing and exporting of data.  

You might be asking yourself if 8 hours per week is enough savings for a $2,000 project (not to mention support costs going forward).  

And this question is valid—which is why most firms are still using spreadsheets for future planning and resource management.  

But Boris strongly dislikes—perhaps even hates—spreadsheets for forecasting. Bigger, better technology is available.  

If you want to solve problems in your firm, hire someone to replace them with smarter technology.  

Building custom connectors from spreadsheets to smarter software systems can help architecture, engineering, and design firms to be more organized, better equipped to plan for the future, and free up valuable time for executive employees.  

ArchIT can help your firm to build these custom connectors that elevate your firm’s data management into smarter software systems.  

Another great option is a program like Airtable, a system Alex uses to empower increased organization and data management in his firm for future forecasting.  

This is one of those topics with no clear-cut solution, but replacing spreadsheets with something smarter can increase productivity in your firm.  

If you have questions or need help please reach out to us.  ArchIT specializes in providing IT services for architecture, design, and engineering firms