The best way to begin to take control of a firm’s IT is to set a framework to categorize IT decisions and management into four main areas:

The shift from an 18th century profession to a 21st century business has not been easy for the architectural profession. Never in any profession has one generation totally abandoned the tools of the previous generation as has happened with the introduction of Information Technology (IT) into the architect’s studio. The sometimes overwhelming task of choosing, purchasing, implementing, training and maintaining IT tools has left many firms frustrated and feeling they are on an IT treadmill, asking, “Is this ever going to end?” More than one architect has asked me over the years if the IT industry could just take a year off so they could learn the tools that they have in hand before the next release comes down the road.

The best way to begin to take control of a firm’s IT is to set a framework to categorize IT decisions and management into four main areas:

1. Internal Infrastructure

Infrastructure usually means any IT tool or service that is “invisible” to the user. Your IT Infrastructure is the foundation of how your IT operates. You should put the following IT elements into your Infrastructure category: Software, Hardware, Local Area Network (LAN), Connectivity, Wide Area Network (WAN), Databases, Wireless Technology, Printers/Plotters and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs).

2. Knowledge Resources

Generating information from your IT system is worthless unless you can get that information back out in a timely manner, and in context. Leveraging information in this manner is called knowledge and is the lifeblood of architectural firms. IT elements that fit into your Knowledge Resources category are: Contacts Database (sometimes referred to as Customer Relationship Management), Projects Database (CAD, specs, etc.), Accounting & Human Resources, Image Database (sometimes referred as the Image Library), Construction Administration and Interior Sample Database.

3.Communication/Collaboration

As communication and collaboration become more valuable beyond just creating information, the IT tools and systems chosen have risen in importance. These IT elements include: In-house Management Tools, E-Mail (Microsoft Exchange, etc.) and Project Web sites.

4. Presentation

Because the profession thrives in the visual representation of ideas, the presentation IT tools must support these functions in order to be effective: Marketing & Public Relations, Competitions, Planning & Programming, Schematic Design and Design Development.

Break down your IT decisions and management into these categories for a better understanding of the effect of IT on your architectural firm. Treating IT as a strategic business decision can put a temporary stop to the treadmill.