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Buyer's Guide

by Eileen O'Loughlin,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: March 23, 2017

Architects aren’t accounting specialists, nor should they be.

But when every cent and second matters to complete projects under budget and on schedule, and get paid by clients for the work, architecture firms need a system in place that can easily and accurately track time, expenses and more. Often times, manual methods like pen and paper or Excel spreadsheets fail to get the job done.

Which is why you should consider investing in architecture accounting software—accounting platforms with additional functionality for things like project management, time tracking, billing and more, designed with the specific needs of architects in mind. These products can help eliminate errors and automate tedious bookkeeping processes so you can focus more on the revenue-generating activities.

If you’ve never researched architecture accounting software before, this Buyer’s Guide can help. We’ll explain everything you need to know so you can feel confident in making a more informed purchase decision.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is Architecture Accounting Software?
Common Features of Architecture Accounting Software
Benefits of Architecture Accounting Software
How Much Does Architecture Accounting Software Cost?
Evaluating Architectural Accounting Software

What Is Architecture Accounting Software?

Architecture accounting software is accounting software that allows firms to track time spent working on multiple projects, manage expenses and budgets and accurately bill customers for their work.

Architectural accounting software tracks costs by individual job and records client information. Since billing for services is usually measured in units of time, the software is usually equipped with time-logging abilities and the ability to allocate time to different projects and clients. In-depth analysis should also be available from breaking down each project into organized steps within a set schedule. Time can be designated as either billable or non-billable.

Common Features of Architecture Accounting Software

In addition to core modules such as the general ledger, accounts receivable and accounts payable, these systems typically includes the following features:

Project & department management Architecture firms need to manage lengthy design projects. By automating scheduling, allocating resources and budgeting and forecasting, firms can better ensure accurate proposals and effective use of employees.
Time billing Time and billing modules use timesheets and expense reports to funnel back into the project plan the actual costs, billable time and non-billable time spent. This ensures accuracy in billing and in estimating for future projects and helps maximize cost recovery.
Customer relationship management (CRM) CRM systems supports lead development, marketing campaigns and customer service by using a comprehensive database to track prospects and current/past clients. Architecture firms get most of their business from the referrals and developed relationships, CRM is critical for long-term success.
Document sharing & development Secure document collaboration allows sharing information of projects, clients and other records between the relevant employees. Document management could also include proposal automation, which will help the user develop high-quality proposals and increase closing rates.
Audit trail Architecture accounting software should track and organize expenses and individual project steps in case of a mistake in billing or an expense that qualifies for client reimbursement.

Benefits of Architecture Accounting Software

First and foremost, dedicated accounting software provides clarity, accuracy and efficiency to a vital process for every business: tracking the money coming in and out of the firm. With the better insight provided by these systems, organizations can make better financial decisions now and in the future. Customized reports available in a variety of formats also ensure that stakeholders have ongoing visibility into the time and cost figures that matter to them.

Outside of the benefits you’d expect from an accounting system, project management and process tracking features can also help internal teams better communicate and establish standardized processes to tackle projects in a more optimized manner.

How Much Does Architecture Accounting Software Cost?

Cost is obviously a huge factor in your purchase decision, and depending on what architecture accounting software platform you go with and what functionality you choose to include, that cost can vary drastically. Ironically, architecture firms sometime need to budget for the software that helps them budget.

As you research options, keep these popular pricing structures in mind:

  • Pay entirely upfront. These accounting platforms require just one payment upfront and then you own the system to use in perpetuity (hence the term “perpetual license” often associated with this model). This structure is most common with on-premise systems that you download straight onto a computer or server.
  • Flat monthly or annual fee. Increasingly more common than a perpetual license, these accounting systems require buyers to pay a flat monthly or annual subscription fee to use them. Often times, vendors have different subscription tiers depending on how much functionality you want to purchase.
  • Per-user or per-employee pricing. These systems are also paid for an a subscription basis, but instead of a flat fee, your cost depends on either how many people will be using the system or how many employees you have in your organization. The latter is especially common if your system has additional functionality for payroll.

Other fees to look out for include those for training, implementation, support and data migration.

Evaluating Architectural Accounting Software

Like some other industry packages, architectural accounting software benefits from specific report-writing mechanisms which can deliver descriptive progress and billing documents to a client. The size of the firm will have a big impact on the system needs. For example, a larger firm, dealing with multiple projects and employees, will need more robust project and time tracking capabilities than an individual freelancer.

When evaluating these systems, buyers should consider the following:

  • Can the system log hours and mark as billable or non-billable?
  • How deep are the project scheduling/progress tracking capabilities?
  • Can the system effectively manage costs and progress for multiple projects at once?
  • Does it come with solid report-writing mechanisms?

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