Whether you’re building a new office or relocating to a new space, here are some ways to reduce your technology spend.
Coordinating technology needs when building or relocating an office is among the most complex tasks an IT project manager (PM) ever undertakes. Numerous factors conspire to complicate such initiatives, including how to minimize downtime when moving from an active site to a new facility. Organizations typically cannot absorb any downtime due to the need to accommodate multiple shifts, maintain daily operations and fulfill customer service demands.
The sheer multitude of interconnected elements that must be planned and managed when moving to a new facility or relocating an existing site is intimidating even for seasoned professionals. Voice and data circuit installations and migrations require meticulous planning, a process that typically must begin months in advance of activating any new site. IP architecture, server room and network closet power requirements, wireless infrastructure needs, printer and scanner accommodations, door access controls, network switch capacity and security camera cabling also frequently prove topics that must be begin well in advance to permit proper installation within the tight time windows provided by contractors building walls, routing electric and plumbing and hanging and prepping drywall.
But those aren’t the only elements requiring attention when building or relocating an office. Conference room technologies, telephone systems, Ethernet wall jack locations, life safety and alarm systems and wall-hung monitors must also be considered before any construction begins. And then, when construction does start, a technology contact should be onsite frequently and sometimes daily throughout any building or remodeling to ensure walls are properly cabled, required utility pathways are provided and wiring is run to all correct locations as required for door access controls, security cameras, projectors, audio systems, wireless access points, displays, workstations, servers, printers and similar equipment.
As if those weren’t enough elements requiring careful planning and management, the process of determining how equipment—including desktop computers, laptops, docking stations, displays, keyboards, mice, telephones, printers, scanners, battery backups, network cabling and patch cords, conference room accessories (including Google Chromecasts and Apple TVs) and wireless network components—will be purchased and staged for a new office, or how such equipment will be packed and moved to the proper new location with minimal downtime, constitutes yet additional complex challenges.
With so many elements to plan, track and manage, just how should organizations proceed when building a new office or launching or moving to a new site? The corresponding challenges become particularly acute when remembering organizations are best served minimizing expenses and spending as little money as necessary. Yet, such projects seemingly assume a magnitude of their own, a peculiar and unique distortion that often discourages frugality due to such initiatives’ expansive nature and scope.
Assign an expert to fulfill technical project management responsibilities
First, entrust technical project management tasks to an expert. Firms building or moving offices require someone who’s familiar not only with construction schedules and the frequent need for detailed communication between general contractors (GCs), subcontractors and the customer, but also with the myriad IT details that must be masterfully managed to prevent costly surprises as the launch or relocation project unfolds.
Architects alone are insufficient. Someone who’s designed the building and confirmed code compliance typically also isn’t expert performing wireless radio surveys necessary to ensure proper WiFi networking is in place or specifying configurations needed for a new SD-WAN or MPLS circuit.
Neither is an office manager or a GC well positioned to master all the nuances determining an organization’s voice, data, cabling, circuit, networking, audio/video and power requirements. Even internal IT managers can be overwhelmed trying to coordinate the various required fields of technical expertise.
The ability to offload to a dedicated and experienced project manager technical responsibilities related to opening a new office or migrating to a new facility permit an internal IT manager to continue fulfilling regular day-to-day operational functions. Tapping the expertise of a dedicated technical project manager also provides the organization’s internal technology team with access to someone who’s previously managed the very tasks now requiring fulfillment: everything from servers and network closet requirements to life-safety required circuits and configuration of a new SD-WAN connection.
An old, often-told axiom shares the story of a consultant who charges handsomely to kick a complex machine that performs critical functions but is stalled. With a single kick the machine returns to operation, prompting the client to say the consultant’s fee is quite expensive, given a kick was all that was required to affect repair. The punchline, of course, is the consultant’s retort: “I wasn’t charging for the kick; I was charging for knowing where to kick.”
Sure, a qualified veteran technical project manager will bill for corresponding services provided. But the expertise is tough to approximate and even a single oversight can quickly lead to expensive delays and corrections, thereby confirming the old adage that knowing where to kick is an important, even critical skillset.
Decommission and discard unnecessary equipment before moving
Long-standing guidance advises, before moving, discarding items you no longer need. Why pay to pack and move unnecessary equipment that will only clutter the new space?
The tenet proves true for companies planning to move. But you can’t just toss old computers, servers, data storage devices and network equipment. Whether the industry in which you operate—financial services and health care are among those having requirements—dictates data destruction and equipment disposal standards or not, it remains a best practice to securely destroy data before discarding systems.
Properly preparing systems for disposal is a process in and of itself that often surprises the uninitiated with its own complexities. In an age when malicious actors scour filthy dumpsters in hopes of finding simple scraps of discarded paper containing so much as an employee name or other tidbits that can be used to fuel clever social engineering attacks subsequently enabling unauthorized access, systems compromise, data corruption and even ransomware payments and unplanned operational outages, computers and other IT equipment overflowing with comparative treasure troves of information must be thoroughly cleansed of data and identifying information before being tossed.
Only once decommissioned systems have been properly cleansed can legacy equipment safely be discarded. But make no mistake, organizations should review the systems in use and properly decommission and discard deactivated systems that are no longer being used. Further, old computers and network devices approaching the end of their intended service lives can often best be replaced by deploying replacements at the new office site and properly preparing and discarding the systems being retired at the time of the move.
Coordinating such efforts requires time, however. The corresponding steps must be carefully planned and managed within the context of larger new site or relocation schedules.
As office construction and relocation plans approach fruition, corresponding stresses reach their zenith. Because so many processes, employees and vendors are dependent upon site availability and moving operations and equipment to the designated new office at a specific time, any resulting delays, errors or omissions can present critical problems requiring unprecedented expense to resolve.
Avoid oversights, surprises, incompatibilities and errors by prioritizing planning. Include the technical project manager in planning and coordination conversations from the very beginning. Including the PM from the start helps ensure an architect or GC understands the organization’s electrical and network requirements. Ensuring the technical PM attends regular construction and project management meetings ensures the larger team dedicates sufficient space in the proper locations for a server room and any required network closets, as well as the utility spaces and pathways necessary for electronically connecting these spaces. Ensuring the technical PM is in regular contact with other contractors also provides other parties with the regular information and communication needed to efficiently route and install voice and data circuits, cabling, wireless radios and other equipment.
Using such processes, the technical PM can work directly with electricians and drywall installers to ensure proper pathways are identified for routing required cabling to wall-mounted displays, security cameras and wireless access points and mounting displays, audio devices and network equipment in necessary locations at the proper times. By maintaining communication with designers, the technical project manager can also ensure no IT equipment is deployed in a manner violating any design principles, standards or requirements.
The benefits are numerous. The coordinated planning needs only be prioritized.
Work with a technical PM using a fixed-bid written contract
Office launch and relocation project-related tasks can consume inordinate amounts of time. Simply planning and surveying the required locations for network drops and wireless access points, and the need to determine the routes for corresponding cabling and which cables require termination in which network closets and server rooms, can require a dozen hours on a larger project. And, as floor plans change and blueprints are updated, the technical project manager must be continually kept in the loop to review changes, determine required adjustments and calculate any corresponding impact on deadlines, equipment requirements, budgets and schedules.
When launching a new office or preparing a move to a new facility, to more effectively plan IT requirements, dependencies and expenses, organizations should work with a capable technical PM to assist determining the project’s requirements, schedule and budget expenses and bill for all corresponding services and work using a fixed, flat-fee bid. In other words, the company’s technology partner to whom IT-related office construction or relocation services are awarded should work on a contract specifying a single price.
For this reason, project bids should explicitly describe the scope of services to be provided. The scope and schedule of tasks included by the technical PM or consultancy within its fixed-fee project should be described in detail, as should any commonly related functions that are being excluded from the project’s fixed price.
Only by first purposefully defining and reviewing activities and functions included within a flat-fee project and agreeing on those terms can consultants and firms reach a shared understanding at the beginning of a project. Then, should discrepancies later arise and the client encounter a construction or relocation task it believed was included within the contract’s scope, a review of the original contract should put the question to rest.
Last, the estimated technical project management costs, at least on a per-hour basis, for any client-approved scope changes should be specified upfront. By confirming the rate for approved scope changes in advance, both clients and consultants can best prepare for the process to be used to respond to common inevitable scope changes that neither party anticipated occurring. With such protections resolved from the beginning, organizations can best set expectations and better predict and forecast technology-related costs arising from the construction of a new office or an office relocation.