Who should be in charge of our office fit out?
Chris Deering, Managing Director
“Okay, who’s got their head screwed on properly, can get things done and has a little bit of time up their sleeve? That’s who we need to manage our
office fit out project.”
WARNING: This method will cause frustration, confusion and perhaps time and yes, money. But in our industry, we see it all the time. And these client-side
project management appointments are by no means made with malicious intent. Nobody is trying to torpedo the project but self-sabotage is often an involuntary
act – the result of simply not knowing. Knowing just how important choosing the right project manager is, to the successful completion of the fit out.
Let’s go back half a step.
How important is a new office?
In the grand scheme of things, a new office fit out can fall all the way past number 7 on a business’s commercial list of priorities. Any upper management
team would be forgiven or even congratulated on prioritising objectives as follows:
1.Achieve market leadership by (name a year or date)
2.Achieve a turnover of (insert a large number here)
3.Bank profits of (input a number that’s only slightly smaller, here)
4.Cut costs to (that’s right, another number)
5.Secure business that ensures the sustainability of the business
6.Foster a culture of (insert aspirational behaviours representing the corporate ideal)
7.Boost/maintain approval and/or customer service ratings to…
8.Get our people a better office
It’s no wonder the best and brightest within a company are tasked with items one through 7. Things go pear-shaped pretty quickly if they do not receive
their due attention. However, for those that agree that the look, feel and functionality of an office environment has a direct correlation to performance
against that list, the successful achievement of number 8 may well be critical. Especially if:
a)Your lease has or will soon expire or
b)You can see a time in the not-too-distant future when your collective commercial efforts will be hampered by your current environment
It’s interesting that many (but not all) organisations revert to the general approach represented in the quote at the beginning of this piece.
Why can’t we just hand our brief to one of our better people?
Well, you can. And many do. And of those, a number of them actually succeed… somehow. But if it’s best practice that helps you sleep better at night,
you’ll need to understand what you’re actually asking of someone who may have little or no experience in office design and construction.
Being diligent, thoughtful and hardworking will earn you kudos in many commercial situations. However, it’s very clear that a project management background
is front and centre when it comes to the necessary experience and skills to chaperone an office fit out along the path to success. But there’s more
than that required. (At this juncture, I will say that some companies actually have project managers on staff or contract who are perfectly suited
to moving the project from brief to completion. Some – I don’t believe they are in the majority though.)
Project management essentials (the office fit out edition)
When you are casting an eye over members of your team, looking for someone to be your project’s driving force and intermediary between the design and construction
company and yourselves, look for:
- Awareness of the complexities – this is not going to be a simple task that only requires a tick sheet or gantt chart to be glanced at over
afternoon tea. There will be a lot of moving parts, each with their own moving parts. That is to say, there may be up to half a dozen teams working
on the project. All of them wanting to keep you informed and up to speed on the issues they are solving and the opportunities they are looking
to take advantage of for you.
- An understanding of the process – staying ahead of the game and knowing what is waiting for you around the next corner is key. It keeps you
proactive, and well-placed to deal efficiently with any unexpected circumstances.
- Comfort with authority and responsibility – your person of choice is going to want to keep things moving at a pace that will allow you to
maintain business as usual. This means that when contacts from the design and construction company are looking for approvals, within reason, your
project manager needs to have the authority to make calls and maintain momentum. Without this, circumstances both unforeseen and planned, may bring
the project to a grinding halt while higher-ups are contacted, signatures are sought, second hand conversations are conducted. If your lease it
coming to an end, these may be delays you simply cannot afford.
- Familiarity with the language – jargon is a by-product of specialisation, that’s the way it is. However, time can be saved and misunderstandings
avoided when your project manager of choice is speaking the same language as your appointed design and construction company. Here are some examples
of how industry terminology differs from generally accepted definitions.
- Mechanical – refers to air-conditioning and factors associated with it
- Hydraulics – essentially means plumbing and its many, many complexities and sensitivities
- Engineering – covers designs, statutory approvals, floor plate density…
Of course, the project manager does not have to be a bona fide expert in all the details but a working understanding, will most certainly be of
benefit to all parties.
Where can I find the right person?
If you now realise that the client-side project management role is going require more than what your original nominee can give (after all, they may already
be very busy taking care of some vital functions within your business), there are alternatives.
When clients cannot find or spare the resources to fulfil the project management role, we will actively seek and identify, for your consideration, non-partisan,
qualified, client-side project managers to take on the responsibility. This works because all parties come to understand that putting your business
in the best space means securing the best skillsets for the right roles.