Customer story

How Garrison Architects cut costs 50% after switching from ArchiOffice to Monograph

Learn how Garrison Architects saved time and money by switching to an easy-to-use project management software designed exclusively for A&E firms.

50% reduced cost on project management and billing systems
66% less time on monthly invoicing
2.6x faster time-to-payment
Firm profile

Garrison Architects is a Brooklyn-based architecture firm that specializes in sustainable, modular building design through highly refined modernist aesthetics across private residential and large scale public projects. In 2023, the firm switched from ArchiOffice to Monograph to streamline and improve project tracking, staff planning, and billing, while reducing the cost associated with managing their systems by 50%.

Brooklyn, NY

Challenges with archaic systems

Garrison Architects added debt to cover the business when a major source of projects dried up due recent public policy changes. As the principal, Jim Garrison, developed business in new markets, he relied on the shared leadership of the senior associate, Sal Tranchina, and office manager, Bibi Leslie, to help steer internal operations and finances.

But one day when the office admin was out on medical leave, a project issue exposed the need to create a better system with more redundancy. It became a top priority to find an easier way to enable the team to take more responsibility. They needed to reduce the bottleneck burden of the office manager, establish more accountability for individual team members, and to help the firm accelerate the path to financial freedom from debt.

As a numbers person with expertise in emergency management and response, the office manager ran a calculation. She gathered the cost of their existing software, plus the cost of her time managing them, plus the bookkeeper cost, plus the CPA cost, to get the full picture of how much time and money the firm was spending today to keep their current systems running. 

That's when she realized that Monograph would cut costs in half.

“After 7 years, there was a terrible stigma with ArchiOffice in our firm. Some team members refused to use it outright, even to track time. We knew it was archaic. Sal and I were the only two folks who really knew how to use it somewhat effectively. And we only knew our own domains. If one of us wasn't available, there was no back-up. And when things didn't work in ArchiOffice, we would use 10 million different spreadsheets. That makes it even harder to track changes and to involve others. Something had to change.”

- Bibi Leslie, Office Manager at Garrison Architects

Photography: Eduard Hueber. Client service is a top priority for Garrison Architects. The principal dedicates time to understand and respond to client vision and needs. To focus on this, efficient operations and finances are essential.

The firm decides on Monograph

After she identified the potential cost savings, Bibi the office manager showed Monograph to the firm.

First, she showed Monograph to the senior associate, Sal, who manages the projects and staffing in the office. Sal was the biggest supporter for a new system that was user friendly on all levels. His goal was complete transparency. Compared to ArchiOffice, Sal instantly saw how Monograph gave project managers easy visuals about where projects stood across time and budget. He saw how he could do long-range staffing and project planning. He saw how it provided Bibi direct access to up-to-date data for billing and projections.

Then, Bibi and Sal showed Monograph to the principal, Jim. Change can be difficult for principals like Jim. The A/E business can be such a rollercoaster that some firm owners take comfort in old school practices. For example, the firm was still receiving paper bank statements and issuing paper checks that needed a signature until just before the pandemic. Bibi modernized that process, and eventually helped Jim see how Monograph would create more time for the firm, which would help increase profitability so they could reduce the debt, retain employees, and focus on what Jim loves and does best. 

After meeting with Monograph, the firm decided to move forward.

“Days before we decided to switch to Monograph, I experienced 'death by spreadsheets'. It hit a point where 40% of my day was spent playing with spreadsheets to fill the many gaps between ArchiOffice and Smartsheets. I explained to the principal that it all circles back to saving time, reducing human error, and having a back-up plan. God forbid, if I'm not around, the firm needs to understand where time is going, otherwise you won't understand that you're hemorrhaging money. You'll just be paying and paying and paying and you'll never see a profit even though your revenue numbers are superb. And even though it's not all about money for life and work, it's about money when you're looking at your organization's overall health.”

- Bibi Leslie, Office Manager at Garrison Architects

Before Monograph, Garrison Architects had to do staffing and scheduling in manual spreadsheets to distribute hours and forecast hiring needs, but this required a lot of maintenance and it was disconnected to financial data.

Project data at your fingertips

With Monograph, Garrison Architects increased efficiency and transparency. Each employee better understands where to spend time because they can visualize the big picture and see their contributions to project health. 

The principal architect, Jim, can delegate firm operations and finance to firm leaders with more confidence because Monograph creates easier tracking, on-demand reporting, and more comprehensive billing than ArchiOffice.

The senior associate, Sal, can make better management decisions now because data is at his fingertips. He can compare the health of projects with precision and adapt as time goes forward. He can plan ahead, steer who's working on what, and increase utilization of staff time. 

The office manager, Bibi, spends 66% less time on monthly invoicing with Monograph. Instead of a time-consuming process to reconcile time, expenses, and billing, now she can work with the architecture team remotely to make adjustments together in real-time. And by consolidating data into a simpler system, Bibi helped the firm achieve healthier operational redundancy for when staff are unavailable.

“Architects are visual people. Monograph puts project data at our fingertips in a beautiful way. Everything is clean and intuitive. You can easily bring up a junior person who wants to move into a project management role because it's not difficult to train the staff on how to use Monograph to track fees and time. It's not like other software where you have to change your workflow completely to accommodate the program instead of the other way around.”

- Sal Tranchina, Senior Associate at Garrison Architects

After Monograph, Garrison Architects was able to quickly increase staff utilization. They finally had an intuitive interface to see financial data at their fingertips so they could budget and allocate time.

Responsive, candid, and dedicated service

Garrison Architects discovered a surprising benefit of Monograph: quality of service.

Starting with a friendly, responsive, and candid sales process, and followed by dedicated onboarding and on-demand customer service, the office manager and senior associate consider Monograph's attention to their needs invaluable. 

The firm can schedule time with their dedicated customer success manager at Monograph, AJ, who brings their needs to the product team and comes back with helpful resources and forthright answers about upcoming features. All of which came to fruition within their first year. For example, the new Time Off feature enabled the office manager to minimize time and put accountability on the individual person whereas their previous system could not track how much paid time off had been used.

Because Monograph is built exclusively for architecture and engineering firms, it can dedicate service and product development on the unique needs of the industry that are common among firms like Garrison Architects

“Continuity is a big thing for me. After almost a year since we’ve partnered with Monograph, we communicate with the same folks on a routine basis. They are the only vendor we work with who we can schedule dedicated time with and know that we have 15-40 minutes of time and attention simply focused on what we need help with. Knowing that I have a team who is always listening, responsive, and candid, gives me added confidence that Monograph will support us and deliver more than what they promise.”

- Bibi Leslie, Office Manager at Garrison Architects

Photography: Sean Davidson. With Monograph, Garrison Architects found a partner who aligns with their ethos of responsive, dedicated client service.

If you would like to try an easier software built exclusively for A/E firms to save time on monthly billing and increase weekly staff utilization, get started with Monograph today.

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