If you’re planning a new office or upgrading your existing premises make sure you’re in control.
A fit-out or refurbishment is a substantial investment for any small or medium sized business. If you’re planning a new office or upgrading your existing premises, you’ve doubtless weighed up the risks of lost trading time and increased outlay, and you’re scrutinising the budget closely. But the pressure to save money can lead to cutbacks that are not necessarily for the greater good.
It’s probably just a sign of the economic times, but we’re seeing an increasing number of fit-outs and refurbishments being handed to office managers, executive assistants or facilities managers to allow the management team to remain focused on the core business. There are two oversights here. One is that property is the second highest cost to the business after staff and is central to staff productivity, and so is fundamental to the health of the business. Second, office managers and FMs are usually busy with their existing workload and some have no previous experience of running a fit-out project.
So how do you overcome these challenges?
It is essential to commit some senior management time and it is important to seek expert, independent project management advice to safeguard your interests.
A project manager will add approximately 3% to 5% to the project cost. Many people think that figure goes straight on the bottom line, but the reality is that you’ll save that figure, and possibly more, over the course of the project, not least because it will run more smoothly and reduced risk. The key is cutting costs, not corners.
Still not convinced? As design and build contractors, we see the added value a PM brings to fit-out and refurbishment projects day-in and day-out. They make sure the process gets off on a secure footing and they bring insight, understanding and communication.
The precise role of an independent project manager over the duration of a fit-out project or refurbishment will vary according to need, but if you get them involved as early as preparing your brief, you’ll reap the maximum benefits.
They’ll check the financial stability of the companies tendering for your project and recommend companies they’ve worked with directly, firms they know to be reliable, add value and deliver top-notch workmanship. They’ll meet the proposed team with you and confirm their experience level and specific skills, gathering references, and perhaps arranging a site visit to a current project so you get a real demonstration of capability. To protect your interests, they’ll examine your construction contract and design plans to make sure your needs are met. A professional D&B contractor should welcome a PM’s involvement as an independent who approves the solution.
Crucially, they’ll explain the processes, and ensure total transparency. This means that your expectations are realistic, and you can manage the expectations of your board. Last but not least, they’ll keep a constant eye on costs to make sure you’re getting the value for money you were promised.
Pitfalls of in-house handling
There is a misconception that small projects can easily be handled in-house, but the same pitfalls apply. Regardless of scale, you need honest, impartial advice – and a project manager’s loyalty lies with you. Their expertise is invaluable in identifying issues before they become problems, and when an unforeseen issue does arise, they have the experience and confidence to make a quick and informed judgement call in conjunction with your design and build contractor.
Appointing a project manager is the right decision, but it should not mean handing over control, rather a way to retain it. It is still important that the MD, FD and senior management team engage with the process and are actively involved during discussions where key decisions are made. The project and the resulting workspace will affect the business, its staff and overall productivity and therefore the bottom line.
The business must therefore take the time to make the best decisions, planning ahead, investing wisely and reaping the benefit of independent expert advice.
Newer news items:
Older news items: