Case Study

CMBA Architects

CMBA Architects Stops the Fighting, Gains Efficiencies with Mosaic

Kent Lutz, AIA, LEED AP
Principal
Location
Iowa and Nebraska
Employees
57
Customer Since
2020
Year Founded
1963
Benefits
-
Improved personnel scheduling to reduce burnout, improve morale, and make it easier to meet client deadlines.
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Took advantage of Mosaic’s intuitive and easy-to-use interface to get the team onboarded with minimal training time.
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Expects to be able to quantify efficiency gains within a year—and see an increase in new business acquisition as a result of being able to prove to clients that they have the resources to deliver.

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CMBA Architects

's full story here.

“Mosaic stopped the fighting over people and priorities.”

Background

CMBA Architects is an “upward-thinking” architecture and design firm focused primarily on healthcare and education builds in Iowa, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. Everyone on the 57-person team is “trained to think up to the next level of innovation and creativity throughout every phase of the design process.” This produces excellent results for their clients.

Ken Lutz currently serves as CMBA’s CFO, principal architect, and office manager of the Des Moines location.

The Challenge

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CMBA offices operated somewhat independently. However, with everyone working remotely in 2020, the teams began to collaborate more across offices. According to Lutz, the pandemic “leveled the playing field’ in that they were now able to utilize resources across all departments, regardless of location. But they didn’t have a good way to manage everyone. They tried to use their ERP’s project management tool—but, according to Lutz, the user interface wasn't visual and the process was very manual. Then, the shared spreadsheet the team exported broke enough times that eventually everyone just stopped using it. 

Ultimately, no one knew if the right people were working on the right projects—and, as a result, the team was struggling to meet project deadlines. According to Lutz, people were getting spread too thin and principals were more or less wrestling over staff. “It got to be confrontational,” he said. 

After their ERP was acquired by another company, Lutz considered using the parent company’s tool, but he didn’t want to run into the same poor usability issues they had already experienced. Plus, “they’re not friendly to work with,” he said. “So I’m not interested in throwing money their way.” They also talked about hiring someone to build them a custom spreadsheet—but that would have still kept them using a spreadsheet and everyone has varying Excel skills, which would’ve made maintaining the sheet challenging.

The Solution

Fortunately, after a year of discussing potential solutions, someone from Mosaic serendipitously reached out with an offer to demo the product—and the team at CMBA liked what they saw. According to Lutz, the Mosaic team “was very open and honest about the product.” After all, it was still in development at the time, which Lutz was perfectly fine with. In addition to its excellent customer service, Mosaic’s biggest selling point for CMBA—the thing that most got Lutz’s attention—was its integration with its ERP. With that connection, the team no longer needed to recreate the information housed in that system, which was “manual and very annoying.” Instead, when they export important project phases into Mosaic, it reproduces them automatically. 

Plus, because of Mosaic’s intuitive and easy-to-use interface, training for the CMBA team was a breeze, which, Lutz said, would not have been the case had the team gone with their ERP’s planning tool.

“Mosaic is a good fit because it’s so easy for everyone to use.”

The Results

At the moment, CMBA is only using Mosaic for scheduling. “We’re using it in baby steps,” Lutz said. “Then we’ll work on timesheets and management of fees.” Eventually, Lutz plans to use Mosaic for all aspects of project and resource planning. He’s been especially pleased with the constant rate of innovation he’s seen since they adopted Mosaic. “New things are happening all the time,” he said. “I’m always looking to see what Mosaic has innovated to make things more streamlined.” 

While it's too soon to quantify the impact of adopting Mosaic, Lutz believes they’re certainly “going to be more efficient.” But more important than even that, without Mosaic, Lutz said, the team at CMBA would still be fighting—and burning out. “Having people not work 100 hours a week is good,” he said. “Both for morale and for meeting deadlines.” Plus, Mosaic has helped CMBA function more as one coherent team, as opposed to individuals spread across disparate offices. Ultimately, that helps to ensure that everyone—across the entire company—is well utilized, something that had never happened before Mosaic. According to Lutz, when people are under utilized, they begin to worry about the company’s future—and the security of their jobs.

Finally, Lutz plans to use Mosaic to improve conversations with potential clients and, thus, garner more business. After all, he can now show them exactly where their project fits into CMBA’s current schedule and how they plan to meet their deadlines. “We would always say the project fit,” Lutz said. “But I think it means more to prove it.”

Lutz joked that he was hesitant to recommend Mosaic to other architecture firms because he wants to retain his competitive advantage—after all, he believes the investment in Mosaic was worthwhile. But ultimately, he said, do it: “We’re architects, we’re not software engineers or data architects. If an architect can use the software, anyone can. It’s a great planning tool—very graphical.”

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