Survey Results Available!

Robert Peake , 11 December 2018

The second independent survey of business and practice management systems has uncovered some interesting findings. Rob Peake of Management for Design reflects on the results.

1 - Business systems survey

Management for Design and the Association of Consulting Architects (ACA) have recently conducted the only comprehensive survey of this information undertaken in Australia with the actual users.

We have collated the results of over 210 businesses across Australia varying in size from 2 people to over 500 people – an increase of 20% on last year.

Myriad practice management systems are available to businesses and the industry to manage finances, projects, clients and documents, yet up to now, there has been minimal information describing the effectiveness of these systems and minimal expert assistance about making the right choice for you and your business.

Our survey looks at which systems are the most popular within the architecture, engineering and consultant industries, and which have proven to be the most effective. Here are the key findings:

  • 20% of our respondents have implemented a new system in the last 12 months. Of those:– 50% of new users are either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their new system! In particular, there is a low level of user satisfaction with the introduction of new project control and resource management systems.
    – However, there is a reasonable level of user satisfaction with the introduction of new accounting, time and invoicing and client management systems.
  • There are no systems across project control, resource management, and client management that are consistently rated very effective by our respondents. This is consistent with last year’s results
  • Xero is the only accounting system considered very effective – although Deltek Vision, MYOB and QuickBooks are considered effective. Xero is also considered effective or very effective in over 80% of businesses.
  • There are a number of systems that manage time and invoicing that are considered effective or very effective. These include: Deltek Vision, Harvest, Xero and BST. And this is consistent with last year’s results.
  • There are many project control systems that are used and not considered effective, including systems that have only just been implemented! This is a concern considering this is one of the key foundations of any project-centred business.
  • 41% of respondents did not have a resource management system in place at all and approximately one in three businesses with more than 5 people do not have a system specifically designed to manage resources. Not great considering this is one of the keys to business performance.
  • Almost 60% of businesses don’t have a system for managing client relationships (clients, contacts, leads, opportunities, activities, prospects). Most of those that do have a system don’t consider it effective.
  • More than 40% of businesses don’t have a formal document management system – this is a similar result to last year. Having said that, Newforma and Aconex are considered to be effective systems by the respondents.
  • The most common platforms for managing contract administration are MS Office, Excel at 23%. Newforma is rated highly by our respondents.

In conclusion, the results aren’t great. And there’s minimal improvement from last year.

Business systems are one of the key foundations of business and it is only from having effective systems that you can control and build your business.

Working with architects, engineers and designers over the last 15 years and seeing first-hand what works, what doesn’t and why, has only reinforced our opinion that “your systems are only as effective as the behaviours that support them”. That requires leadership, education, involvement, ownership, measurement and follow-up – and that doesn’t come with a piece of software.

Think of the word ‘system’ as meaning a set of behaviours. It’s not a piece of software, or an application. That’s just the tool where information is kept and controlled. Your system is the ‘way you do things’ in your practice. Time and again, we’ve seen instances where a practice has bought software and implemented it, assuming it will bring improvements. They haven’t done anything about changing the culture or business behaviours.

Having strong business systems in place will allow you to take time away from your business, knowing that the team of great people that you trust are following the agreed systems in your business, that everything is under control, and your team has everything in place to drive the success of the business.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey.

You can download the full Business and Practice Management Systems Survey Results 2018 here.