Business

Why interior designers need to use project management software

7th May 2018

I briefly touched on project management software in my first business post, How to grow your interior design firm. I’m going to be following up each point I raised with a further detailed blog post. Today I’m going to write about project management software and why every interior designer, no matter how big or small your firm is, should be using this.

In fact, I’d go as far to say that I think that every business should be using project management software, let me tell you why.

Solve 3 problems

As business owners, we have a lot on our plate, it’s not just getting our own work done, but also thinking about growing our business, checking what our teams have done, instructing them what to do next etc, this list goes on forever.

  • There’s got to be a way to get all of your business under control and able to manage from a central point and at a glance.
  • There’s also got to be a way to assign duties to yourself, your team and include deadlines so that you know that you’re on track to deliver your project at a certain date.
  • You also need to create a detailed action plan for each client that you take on, so that you know that everything that you have quoted for, you will deliver.

Now I know that a lot of people will already be managing projects in Excel worksheets, but this isn’t dynamic enough. These spreadsheets are not going to email you and your team when a task is overdue, it’s not going to neatly combine all your actions in one place so that you have an active to do list. And you’re not going to be able to see at a glance how far along each of your projects is.

Being forced to plan

This is one of the most powerful advantages of using project management software, you need to tell it what you want it to manage for you. You might not like that idea, but this is where you and your team will list every single activity that you do on a project, assign names and assign dates (working backward from the due date). This fills everybody’s work timelines, so everyone in the team knows what is due and by when – no excuses for non delivery – including yourself.

You can also create project templates, so when the next project comes along, all you do is copy and personalise it for the next project. This is very useful for design firms who work with property developers and are working on multiple projects at the same time.

Real businesses start to grow

Once you as a business owner have all your tasks listed in front of you, you are now able to start to question why you are doing certain tasks, and even why some of your team are doing certain tasks. This is where real businesses start to grow and you build a team around you to take on tasks that are of less value – or that you’re just not good at!

It’s like magic, when you start to see where in your process you add value AND where you don’t add value, it almost always results in a new team member coming on board to take on the tasks where you don’t add value. Your job as a business owner is to add value, anything that you don’t do well, you need to get someone else to do this for you – and do it better than you can!

You are also able to manage as a business owner, no need to chase staff members by email asking where they are on projects, no, you just log into the project management software, most have apps too. And at a glance, you can see exactly where everyone is on every project!

Building a transparent team

Design firms that already have a team in place will often undergo a culture change once project management software has been introduced. This is tough and needs to be managed by you. You cannot slack off, it’s your job to make sure everyone is on board with the changes.

I like to implement software that is totally open so that everybody can see what everybody else is doing, this achieves a few outcomes:

  • Your team will start to help each other, if you can see that someone is about to take on a new task, you can help advise them, or if you know that someone else on your team often does a certain task, you know exactly who to ask for help from.
  • It also identifies who is working hard, and who isn’t. Who is always ahead of their deadlines and who is always late. Who is overworked and who is underworked.
  • We’ve implemented a daily check-in where each team member discusses their tasks at hand and it gives the whole team the ability to give advice on issues.
  • You as the business owner must lead by example, the whole team can see what you are working on (you can have private projects for confidential items), but it’s good to be part of the system and show your team that you take this seriously.

You’re also able to share projects with clients/architects/tradesman so that they are able to see exactly where you are in the process, now you might not want that now, but as our working processes become more transparent this might be something a thought leader in the sector will start to adopt.

Summary and next steps

If you take your business seriously and are looking to grow your interior design firm, then I would implement a project management system as soon as possible. I’ve worked with and implemented quite a few different systems and am happy to recommend a couple, just send me an email.

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