As your firm goes through time you work on more and more projects with a wide diversity of requirements, features and challenges. Before you know it you have a history of projects with all kinds of useful information that can be used as a firm resource. This experience is used to win new work, to illustrate your expertise to potential clients. It can also be used and applied to new projects. Rather than re-inventing things you can pull past items forward. The question comes is how do you capture this information and which information should you capture. Our experience shows that it is only captured in the memory of the old dogs. That is, most firms use the “Hey Charlie” method of archiving and retrieving information. You know the drill. “Hey Charlie, do you remember when? or do you remember where?” And to be honest logging this type of data can be overwhelming. Unless you have a custom database that is. This is one of the key features of Praesto - it captures your institutional memory.
What is the institutional memory of an Architecture or Engineering Firm?Well is it all the project data that tells the story about your projects. Things like materials or features. Typically you would not have a need to know how many project you have completed with gypsum wall board, however you may need to know the last project with a Terrazzo Floor. So when logging information think about the types of things you would be asking Charlie about. I doubt you would need to research on building with restrooms. However you may want to know about waterless urinals. Or perhaps projects with elevators, swimming pools or data centers. By adding tags (key words) to your projects in a database you will have the ability to search through your history of work and find what you need - even when Charlie is not around.
Are project data gathering tools available?There are very few project management software solutions designed specifically for architects and engineers. And even fewer that have the data tracking features we are talking about here. So if you are in the marked for a solution make sure to ask if the one you are reviewing can capture your institutional memory. A sound solution will not only allow you to track projects with tags but will also let you categorize your project into countless categories. By using categories for projects you can compare and contrast things like labor requirements and profitability. Imagine comparing your design-build work to your plan-spec. Or your office buildings to retail or religious to educational. What is the profitability of projects with elevators compared to those without elevators? Without capturing the institutional memory on your projects you will have no way to identify your best projects. Having a searchable database does more that just let you report on projects. It also enables you to leverage past designs which in turn saves time and money. If your architects and engineers can quickly find past projects with a particular feature they are integrating into a new project, they can save a great deal of time by coping details, specifications, and schedules. This time savings will add dollars to your bottom line.