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Thursday24 July 2014

Me and my IT: Robin Partington

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How Robin Partington Architects’ 30-strong staff got to grips with office technology

Communication is the lifeblood of our practice so along with copious amounts of yellow trace, pencils, pens, foamboard, scalpels (plasters!), polystyrene and hot wire cutters, IT is crucial.

Bentley Microstation, Adobe CS4/5 and Windows 7 running Microsoft Office provide the backbone to the practice’s software needs, with Microsoft Office Communicator running our telephone system from each computer screen. This is supported by specialist applications such as Rhino and 3ds Max to suit the particular needs of individuals. Sage and Iris Projectminder enable us to plan and account for projects, cash flow and resources, with Newforma adding an intuitive information management system with the benefit of a light touch, all of which sits within our own server farm which deals with the essential distribution and back-up of information.

We have had help from many quarters with Godwin Consulting providing strategic advice on IT needs, working with Fabric Technologies to procure, install and maintain the equipment. We have also had support and advice from our bank and accountants to help control growth, avoiding the perils of overtrading, while planning a secure future – effectively the bouncers watching the back door.

However, this did not stop us looking for trouble when we decided that we wanted everybody to use twin 24in Apple screens as their interface with the world of IT, in part because of their brilliant colour rendering, but also because they are beautifully made, continually reminding us that every detail matters. They run off powerful HP machines… but this only works through a little white box of third-party electronics that attempts to translate and mediate between the two, with continual disagreements about when to go into power saving mode… rather like one or two project teams I have known.

Top tips are a little obvious and include getting the best advice, always asking questions if you do not understand, and surrounding yourself with the most talented people you can find. In the end I went with the individuals I trusted the most rather than company, and it certainly pays to make sure that those relationships are close and personal, with your advisers knowing that your future success depends on them.

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