Managing a company fit-out

Fitting out a new premises or refurbishing an existing one can be challenging for any company, so it is important that the project is managed effectively from the outset with a clear plan and set of objectives.

Design

Your office environment is a reflection of your business and can often be the first impression your customers or clients receive. With a bit of thought and planning, you can make your workplace not only functional, but aesthetically pleasing to your clients and more importantly your staff thereby making a very strong impression from the outset.

Before you begin your office design or fit-out, take a mental walk around the premises. Imagine how people are going to be working, where they will be sitting or moving around and what tasks they will be performing. ‘Walk through’ their jobs and see where potential problems might arise – which teams or business units should be located near each other; is it best to have open plan or a cellular office plan – these are some of the immediate points you should consider (certainly if you do plan a cellular office this will most likely raise your mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) costs). Other points to consider include the reception area which should be of a personalised design and meeting rooms which should reflect the nature of your business.

A good approach when considering a new office design or layout is to listen to your employees – one of the best guides to what might go wrong in the future is what has gone wrong in the past. Encourage staff input during the design process so they will feel more involved. This will help build a stronger corporate culture and team spirit.

Invest wisely – don’t expect to run a business with home equipment as it won’t last the distance or do the job properly. Don’t cut corners or you may find that the integrity of the finished product reflects negatively upon the business.

Lastly ask around – find out who the main contractors are and who actually delivers on what they promise.

The corporate design and construction process can be viewed in four distinct phases. Each phase will have a number of activities during its life cycle together with clearly defined objectives and results.

Phase I – Space audit planning and outline design

Interviews and analysis

Audit furniture

Block plans

Space Plans

Phase 2 – Full design and procurement

Outline design

Aesthetic design

Detail design

Construction specification

Phase 3 – Construction

Appoint sub-contractors and suppliers

Set up site

Manage construction

Commission

Phase 4 – Relocation

Run staff PR campaign

Help manage pre-move activities

Organise removals

Manage relocation

Set up help desk

Project Management

The most important aspect when your organisation is considering a commercial fit-out is tasking this enormous responsibility with the correct individual within the company. This is usually overlooked by Management and is dropped into the lap of an office manager or PA to CEO who, in their normal role is extremely competent, but in the role of Project Manager might be in over their heads.

The website of the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) recently stated that 60 per cent of individuals tasked with the Project Management of a major fit-out were either dismissed or they resigned within three months of the completed project. This tends to happen for a couple of reasons – either the individual mismanaging the project so badly that it was over budget, timeline or both or that the pressure the individual received from management was so intense that they quit after completion.

Typical responsibilities for any project manager undertaking an office design or fit out would be:

the selection, appointment and negotiation of fees with the professional team including building contractor, structural engineer, mechanical electrical and plumbing engineers and many other professionals necessary for the successful development of the project

management, co-ordination and supervision of the professional team throughout including reviewing and approving fee payments

qualifying and selecting a list of suitable tendering contractors

preparation of documents for competitive tendering, appraise tenders received and conduct negotiations with a selected contractor

establish the contract sum and prepare the final cost plan for project administration.

This all occurs pre-contract so it is easy to imagine how the work load will increase post contract and again once the fit-out work commences.

If you find yourself in this position, it is advisable to appoint a suitably qualified Project Manager to undertake the pre and post contract services on your behalf. This can usually be performed at a fixed contract fee so that you know your outgoings, or at an hourly rate. When appointing a Project Manager it is important to ensure that they are a Chartered Member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors or British Institute of Facilities Management and from a reputable service provider.

Stewart T. Connelly is Manager of the Facilities and Property Management team at Deloitte. He is a Chartered Facilities Manager and a member of The British Institute of Facilities Management. Stewart has ten years experience in facilities, property and construction management spread across Australasia, Europe and the Caribbean. Five of which were based in London specialising in facilities management, interior fit-outs and health and safety in the built environment.