The [arch] Office Part 1: MEET

30 Apr

I don’t know about you, but I love face-to-face interaction. Talking with people and getting the full spectrum of emotion, voice inflection, and overall personal presence greatly affects how we percieve and understand conversation. Meeting with clients, convening with consultants, and collaborating with team members is an essential part of architecture business. However, times are changing, and we are finding a wide variety of communication tools at our finger tips. Social media sites and collaboration technology is engulfing our world (and profession) like a dense morning fog.

Part 1: Meet (copyright Architect Magazine)

In this, Part 1 of “The [arch] Offce” series, we are going to see what ARCHITECT magazine discovered regarding these many options. How have we navigated the fog, and what have some of the results been so far? More importantly…where are we going?

 To sum it up in one word: UNCERTAINTY. Overall, it appears that there have been some hesitation regarding communication technology and, largely, social media. But then again, I’m not surprised…how do you decide what avenues to take when there are so many?! Some firms have chosen to drive straight into the fog and adopt a wide variety of communications and marketing tools while others have chosen to avoid the fog completely. As one respondent to the magazine wrote, “Social media has distracted our competition into wasting enormous amounts of time and has allowed us to be more productive and efficient than they are.”

An interesting spin indeed! The use of social media takes a great deal of time and resources for many firms, so the respondent’s comment makes a good point. However, Andrew van Leeuwen, a partner of Seattle-based firm, Build, has seen quite different results. After starting a blog with his partner almost five years ago, Andrew is noticing some 10,000 visitors to his blog per day (PER DAY!) with over 60,000 subscribers to his blog’s RSS feed. He projects that he spends roughly 10 hours per week blogging, which seems like a lot to me until he describes his successes:

” ‘The blog’s a powerful tool to bring jobs into the pipeline,’ he says, and it helps potential clients gain confidence in the firm’s expertise. ‘When potential clients have seen the projects we’ve done, someone has reffered them to us, and when they’ve seen the blog, we rarely lose the project.’ “

Powerful indeed! As always, it seems that there are arguements for both sides of the coin. One thing that remains to roadblock for supporting either side is the difficulty in discerning the return on investment in regards to these various platforms of communication. For many larger firms, marketing departments are able to use resources to connect with people through LinkedIn, Facebook, and other sites, while the firm can also invest in teleconferencing and web-based communcation tools. Smaller firms, however, have found it difficult to justify the cost of these tools, resources, and people in comparison to the affects they have on their business. Understandable on both sides, for sure, but some numbers may help us understand the fog so far (taken from ARCHITECT magazine’s survey, found below):

  • 65.8% agree that social media/technology has helped streamline the project development process…excellent!
  • 40.8% agree that social media/technology has led to fewer face-to-face meetings…disappointing, but I wonder: social media may be creating more interactions overall, which means the ratio of electronic communication and face-to-face meeting would change, creating the “fewer” result. So, my impression…this number may be scewed. But…
  • 50% say that social media/technology has generated more internal collaboration…that’s a good start!
  • LinkedIn appears to be the most popular site for many firms (61%) and most helpful (21.8%) for gaining new business

Survey Says... (copyright Architect Magazine)

 The uncertainty of the fog can clearly be seen by some of the numbers in the chart. However, there are also some promising excitement as I have stated above. The overall conclusion, in my eyes, supports  social media and communciation technologies and can be summed up by Tami Hausman, a New York based marketing and communications consultant for designers:

“In this economy…if you’re not visible, people will wonder if you still exist.”

Strong and very important words! The big question now: where are we going?

In my opinion, the use of social media and blogging platforms will (and should) continue to grow for architects. Firms are finding social media to be a great recruiting tool, as Millenials have embraced social media platforms. Beyond recruitment, I feel that firms will find greater successes in the future in gaining new clientelle and collaboration because of social media.

What about technology? I think this is clear in the survey’s final question, asking respondents what communications technologies might be most important in the office of the future:

  • SMARTBOARDS: love it! These are great tools for electronically communicating drawings and sketches interoffice and beyond
  • MODULAR SPACES: I agree, as group adaptation is important. This also emphasizes…
  • FLEXIBLE WORKSTATIONS: We need to break out of our “static” offices and look toward a more changing environment for ourselves (which has been found to bolster creativity)
  • SHARED DIGITAL WORKSPACES: Many firms already have shared computer drives and FTP sites, but many feel that “the cloud” will become more popular and useful
  • VIDEOCONFERENCING: again, this is also done already, but the use of multi-computer conferencing with editable Revit models (for example) will become very useful in the future

It’s your office and your future…where do you think the “architecture office of the future” is going? What other technologies do you see as being important, and why?

I would love to hear your comments! Please leave your ideas/thoughts in the comment field below, or email Ryan at ryan@toastingdesign.com.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Research next Monday, May 7th!

 

Based on “Your Office, Your Future” from ARCHITECT magazine. For more information and case studies, visit www.architectmagazine.com

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