Architecture Management Software
BuyerView | 2014

Software Advice helps organizations narrow down professional services automation (PSA) software options to find a system that best meets their needs. This offers us unique insight into the biggest pain points buyers have with their current methods, as well as what they’re looking for in a new solution.

A wide variety of businesses seek PSA solutions, which include functions such as project management, accounting and time and expense tracking. This report focuses solely on interactions with buyers from architecture firms that were evaluating software to help them run their business, not perform their work. For example, billing software instead of design software.

We analyzed a random sample of 385 of our interactions with these buyers. This report outlines our most important findings.

Key Findings:

  1. Half of prospective buyers were evaluating software for the first time.
  2.  
  3. The most requested features were time tracking (cited by 76 percent of buyers) and expense tracking (cited by 57 percent).
  4.  
  5. A majority (86 percent) of buyers had no preference either way for a Web versus on-premise deployment model.

Half of Buyers Evaluating Software for the First Time

Forty-nine percent of the software buyers we spoke with were using manual methods (e.g. pen and paper, Excel and Outlook) to track and store their data, meaning they were reviewing business management software for the first time.

We also found that 49 percent of buyers were already using general accounting and billing software, such as Quickbooks, while 42 percent were already using some form of architecture-specific software.

Prospective Buyers' Current Methods

Prospective Buyer’s Current Methods

This lag in adopting new technology may be due to the fact that the buyers in our sample were primarily small businesses: 88 percent were from firms earning $5 million or less in revenue each year, while 80 percent were from firms with 20 employees or less.

Demographics: Buyer Size by Annual Revenue

Demographics: Buyer Size by Annual Revenue

Demographics: Buyer Size by Number of Employees

Demographics: Buyer Size by Number of Employees


First-Time Buyers Want to Replace Outdated Systems

A sizeable portion of buyers (33 percent) were looking to replace outdated systems that were no longer supported. Some reported that their current software system was excessively cumbersome, clumsy, hard to work with and/or didn’t offer adequate tech support.

Top Reasons for Replacing Manual Methods

Top Reasons for Replacing Manual MethodsMeanwhile, 25 percent of buyers said they wanted to enhance efficiency. This is logical, given that a significant portion of buyers were using manual methods. Many of these buyers reported spending excessive time tracking operations via paper or Excel spreadsheets, and needed to streamline the process with software specialized to their field.

Time and Expense Tracking Are the Most Requested Features

Given that a quarter of the buyers we spoke with wanted to improve their firm’s efficiency and organization, it makes sense that that time tracking (76 percent) and expense tracking (57 percent) were the two features buyers requested most in a new system.

Buyers' Top-Requested Features

Buyers' Top-Requested Features

This data is supported by a recent Hoover’s report on 2014 trends in the professional services industry, which found that “the basic source of revenue for professional firms remains hourly billing.” Given the importance of this revenue stream, it follows that time tracking, expense tracking and billing and invoicing are the three most requested features.

Some of the buyers we sampled mentioned needing a better ability to manage their business on the fronts of human resources and general office management. For example, some said they needed software to improve coordination between cross-country offices, keep track of employee workloads and improve intra-firm communication.

Most Buyers Don't Have a Deployment Preference

A significant majority of buyers we spoke with (86 percent) didn’t express a preference for Web-based (cloud) or on-premise systems. Of those who did have a preference, the split was almost equal between the two deployment options.

Buyers' Deployment Model Preference

Buyers' Deployment Model Preference

When compared to other software markets, the lack of deployment preference among professional services buyers at architecture firms is high: by contrast, 77 percent of human resources software buyers preferred Web-based deployment.

One reason for this, according to several experts on enterprise technology solutions we spoke with, is that professional services firms typically buy software first and foremost to help them complete specific tasks, such as emailing a contact list or managing HR benefits. The next considerations are frequently cost and usability. A consideration such as Web-based versus on-premise, therefore, is usually a tertiary factor.

Over 90 Percent of Buyers Seek an Integrated Suite

Professional services software includes a variety of applications, such as project management and scheduling, time and expense tracking and accounting. Some vendors offer these applications bundled together (an integrated suite), while others offer them as stand-alone options (best-of-breed applications).

Of the buyers we spoke with, 93 percent sought an integrated suite. As noted earlier, a significant portion of buyers wanted to improve their firm’s efficiency, which may explain this overwhelming preference for a single, all-in-one system.

Buyers' Integration Requirements

Buyers' Integration Requirements

Another reason may be that integrating a variety of software solutions with each other can be complex, often requiring technology expertise. A company thus has to invest in securing a team with the right skillset or hire a third party provider to handle the task—something smaller businesses, which made up the majority of our sample, may not be able to afford.

An integrated suite, on the other hand, will typically cover the majority of a firm’s needs while requiring fewer additions or customizations, which helps companies keep costs to a minimum.

Methodology

Software Advice frequently speaks on the phone with organizations seeking new professional services software systems. We randomly selected 385 of our phone interactions with buyers from architecture firms to analyze for this report. If you would like to discuss this report or gain access to any of the charts, please contact me at chantelle@softwareadvice.com.


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