The Importance of Practice Management


Lisa sitting at her desk

I’ve been the Practice Manager of Architype’s Hereford Office for nearly 5 years, and this year,  I was able to attend the Part 3 lecture series in Practice Management at Birmingham City University.

I jumped at the chance to join in with this module, having been on the hunt for a suitable course aimed at practice managers for some time. Unfortunately, this is an area of training that tends to be not so well covered, which is a shame when considering the diverse nature of practice management and other supporting roles, and how integral they are to the success of a practice.

In order to efficiently support an industry, having a good knowledge of how it works is a really valuable tool. On chatting with Ian Shepherd, Director of Professional Studies at BCU, I discovered that they did once run such a course but it was pulled due to being under-subscribed. They do, however, offer an MA in Design Management, which can be studied at part or full-time.

I was able to book on to the modules as CPD and join in with the Part 3 student introduction to the resources available to them. I have to say I was very impressed with the support network at BCU and almost wished I was on the course with them!

The lectures covered a wide range of subjects including public procurement, planning law, health and safety, CDM, BIM, finance and practice management, appointments, marketing and legal requirements. Each lecture gave an inspiring and thought-provoking insight into these specialised areas of practice, and students were encouraged throughout to engage in a number of group related exercises and scenarios.

In addition to the topic-specific lectures already mentioned, there were presentations from various practice directors, noting their own experiences and inspirations. Kevin Singh of The Space Studio talked about ‘Making Practice a Great Place to Work’; Matt Lucas of Lucas Architects and formerly Associated Architects shared his experience in ‘Starting up in Practice’; and perhaps the most captivating talk of all, Robin Nicholson of Cullinan Studio presented ‘Striving for Change’, an insight in to why we should be designing more responsibly in the current climate weaving in a fascinating overview of a career full of travel and experience. I was also proud to see Architype’s very own St Luke’s CE Primary School get a special mention as a exemplar project!

At the end of the sessions, I came away feeling really inspired and full of knowledge. We had some great presenters that engaged us all in their discussions and made me fully appreciate how complex the industry is and that there is more to a successful practice than just the architecture.

Having a professional background in the operational side of buildings, I feel that I’m now working in an area of the construction industry that is best suited to my interests and skills. Being involved in projects from inception is exciting, and working as part of a creative and forward thinking company, with the opportunity to see some fantastic projects come to fruition does naturally lead me to be intrigued by the bigger picture as well as the intricate cogs that keep the practice ticking over.

Investigating how the practice management role can enhance these processes, making our projects run more efficiently and effective is an important topic. So I encourage all to offer support staff in architecture the opportunity to train on the same platforms as architectural staff; to mould a more inclusive, flexible and custom-fit approach to practice management in the long-term future.