I’ve had many thoughts on my job over the short time that i’ve been working. Many of them are just reflections on the process, the work flow and the communication of information from person to person.
Even though my company is small, we go through quite a few projects and it’s been a while since i’ve actually had a dull nothing-to-do sort of day.
But even though i’m busy i still manage to find the time to think and jot down some thoughts about what could be improved on. I feel that while architecture offices have been running for years that doesn’t mean there’s no opportunity to inject some new processes and methods into the mix.
what follows are a series of reflections that i have on the problems that i’ve seen along the way and some questions that i have for myself if i were to ever start my own company.
1. Where and how is information stored?
This is supremely important.
Architecture is about putting a building into drawings that can be understood by colleagues, clients, builders, town planners and consultants. This requires lots of work as well as the accumulation of information to do it accurately and appropriately.
all that data has to be stored away so that it can be easily accessed in the future, or for legal & archival purposes. Old schemes may need to be referred to again and having a neat and tidy office helps invaluably in productivity.
But there are a few things that have to be considered when storing information:
a. it has to be obvious where everything goes
b. there has to be a category for everything.
c. it has to be quick and easy to do.
This is by no means exhaustive but i find that these 3 points are probably the most important. All three will make sure that stuff is not left around that should be filed away.
a. It has to be obvious where everything goes
The system has to be so intuitive that people know (even without being told) that, for example, this is where drawings for door details go, or this is where our A3 schematic design sketches belong.
Time is wasted spent searching for the right place to file things up. And often these filing systems themselves have to be rigorously maintained so that labels are current and accurate and things aren’t misplaced accidentally.
b. there has to be a category for everything
so many times i’ve found myself having to decide on the spot whether a quote from a engineer should go under the ‘consultants’ folder or under the ‘cost’ folder. My understanding is that it should go under the cost, but if the rest of the engineering documents are under the consultants folder doesn’t it make more sense to put it there so that it’s more quickly accessed?
Also, whenever i’m faced with a document that i’ve never had to categorise before I’m faced with the decision of putting it with an already established divider or to create a new one for it. This then has to be communicated to the rest of the team who might not know and because their understanding differs from mine might not instinctively seek it in the same spot.
There has to be no ambiguity at all and all labels must be clearly made and categories quite clear with sub categories to further subdivide items. The other alternative is to have everything filed according to stages with sub folder in between (e.g. schematic design, design development, tender etc) so that everything is chronologically ordered.
c. it has to be quick and easy to do.
If filing and archiving takes more than 10 mins to finish, no one is going to want to do it. Everyone will wait till they have at least a significant number of documents to put away before they decide it’s worth the effort to do so.
This means that often, when looking for a document, it is either tucked away in someone’s to-do pile or buried under other related or unrelated items. It’s never in a place where others can easily access it.
The filing system has to be in a convenient spot, easy to access and quick for even 1 piece of paper to be put away. Documents should not be left to lie about for longer than necessary. Especially important documents that have to be read and processed by others in the team. Soft copies also have to be labelled correctly and stored in appropriate folders. they shouldn’t be left in a pile at the root directory of the project. often 1 click is all you need to drop it into the appropriate folder.