Founded in 1954, WRA Architects provides innovative architectural design and planning services for educational facilities across Texas and Oklahoma. The company is dedicated to "positively influencing people’s lives through design." They achieve this mission by bringing together people from different generations with diverse backgrounds, experiences, expertise, cultures, and talents.
Architect Steve Shaffer joined WRA in 1998. Six years ago, he stepped up as a principal to help manage the business side of the office. And while he no longer does project work, Shaffer enjoys his new role, particularly recruiting, hiring, and employee development. "I get to know people before they work with us—and get to feel the energy and passion they have for why they’re studying architecture and design," he said. "And then I get to follow up every year and see how they grow and hear the stories about their families and lives. That’s the best part of the job: seeing the impact that we’ve been able to have on people’s lives and making dreams come true in a way."
Over the years, the WRA team tried a lot of different firm management software, but according to Shaffer, "it didn’t seem like the architecture world was a big enough community to get a lot of attention from a software developer." As a result, none of the products they tried were really the right fit, so the team kept defaulting back to their manual methods: "You know, tracking things on spreadsheets is good for one person but not good for a team—and not good for versioning," Shaffer said. "There was some frustration. It’s kind of like Cinderella and the glass slipper—we were trying to find the right shoe that fit." Then Shaffer received an email with a link to a tutorial video for Mosaic—resource planning software built by an architectural engineer for the A&E industry.
“Mosaic fit the bill," Shaffer said. "It had good architectural tools for planning. It had time-tracking capabilities. It did a lot of things that we were doing manually in terms of budgeting, tracking hours, setting up tasks, and organizing basic project data." According to Shaffer, the system also had features that they weren’t able to host in their database, like "adding cost numbers for construction budgets and invoicing." Plus, "scheduling was especially important." From the beginning, it seemed like Mosaic could help WRA "plan the man-hours better."
As for the Mosaic team, Shaffer was pleased that the people he was talking to were "very proactive, very helpful, and very much wanted to listen. It wasn’t so much like 'here’s our software, take it or leave it.'" Instead, "they were genuinely interested in learning where they could make edits or tweaks to get it to fit us better," he said. But his own team had some reservations about trying yet another new software. That is, until they saw Mosaic in action. The project managers were especially "on board and pretty excited about implementing it." After all, before Mosaic, doing a timesheet for an employee with 10 or 15 projects could take 30 minutes; with Mosaic, it takes maybe a minute. "Mosaic makes it very efficient," Shaffer said. Shaving off 29 minutes per employee may not sound like much, but across a team of 80 people, that’s about 38 hours saved per week on timesheets alone.
The implementation process was fairly quick for the WRA team, and the feedback was minimal. Aside from hearing how much easier Mosaic was for time tracking and timesheets, Shaffer didn’t hear much, but that’s because "no news is good news," he said. "It’s a very simple system—very intuitive. It’s usually noticeable when you launch a dud, because you get groans, moans, and grumpy people. And there was none of that."
Before Mosaic, forecasting was one of WRA’s weaknesses, but that’s no longer the case. "Before, we could only forecast about a month ahead, and now we can budget the whole project," he said. "You can zoom in and zoom out; you can look at a week, you can look at three months, six months. It’s very flexible in that way. People are appreciating the tools." Plus, Mosaic makes "the payroll process smooth." According to Shaffer, generating reports and getting approvals has been "very easy."
As far as integrations go, Shaffer also appreciates Mosaic’s Quickbooks integration. When they wanted to merge their financial data with their project management data, "the Mosaic team was very willing to create those tools and connections." In Shaffer’s experience, that was unique: "That’s not something that many developers are willing to do," he said. "Make tweaks."
Shaffer would, without a doubt, recommend Mosaic to other firms: "What gets measured, gets managed," he said. And if you come across any boxes that Mosaic doesn’t check for you, Shaffer suggests bringing them up to the company. "Just voice those," he said. "The Mosaic team is very willing to problem-solve." While their initial investment in Mosaic is already worthwhile, the WRA team is also eager about Mosaic’s roadmap: “I’m excited about where it's going. It’s already a great system, and there are always new features being added; it’s constantly evolving. It’ll help us grow and continue to manage projects.” Shaffer and his team “are excited to have something to use for years to come.”