Office Fit Outs And Connectivity

Here are five ways to help reduce IT spend when setting up new office space. Plus, 10 trends shaping the digital workplace.

By Robert Caputo
From the June 2019 Issue

Office fit outs can be overwhelming and expensive. However according to a recent report by JLL, “with available office space outpacing demand, coupled with a significant flight to quality by companies, landlords are vying for tenants with more generous improvement packages.” If your organization is considering a location change or significant office design changes in this market, it’s crucial to consider engaging with an IT advisor early in the process. Here are five key ways this will save precious capital while improving project management and overall office design.

IT advisor
(Photo: Align)

1) Site Selection Process. Prospective tenants should consider that carrier access and build costs are lower in well-connected buildings where the firm’s preferred carriers already have a presence. This eliminates or reduces initial capital costs for the carriers to wire the building and expedites deployment. You can save considerable budget instead of having to pay carriers to build connectivity into your new building in a raw open space.

2) The Building Itself. There are also key building characteristics to consider including slab to slab height, the size and continuity of vertical pathways, existing power and cooling systems, the size and location of support spaces, separation/integration of building systems, and security. A specialized IT advisor can evaluate these characteristics and estimate the cost required to adapt the building to support the firm’s IT infrastructure. Other building considerations include landlord provided services like physical security, cellular signal augmentation, and building automation. These services can often be bundled into the lease cost and can be far less expensive than building them independently.

3) Optimize Square Footage. For a major undertaking like this, there will undoubtedly be many stakeholders involved, each with unique deliverables and IT needs. Further, the number of groups within an organization that require IT and AV support continues to grow. It’s imperative to identify the requirements from the broader group as early in the development process as possible. Integrating IT into the visioning and programming phases enables IT to provide more accurate cost and duration for implementing solutions and allows IT to guide solution development towards lower costs or increased capabilities. Utilizing occupancy and workflow studies will arm you with data to understand which tech is required vs. which tech sits idle.

4) Leverage Your Vendors. Each vendor requires a specialized negotiation. For example, prolonged or multi-phased projects can be discounted on the total purchase rather than each phase. Additionally, you can leverage the logistics for payment and shipping which can greatly reduce storage and early-stage procurement costs. Finally, manage integrators where they can provide value: staging, logistics, design support. For example, your integrator can house the network equipment, build, test, and configure in advance. The integrator can ship when the site area is fully ready with the equipment prepared for your team to use for conducting business on Day 1. These tactics will also facilitate a more efficient logistics process overall, reducing labor and storage costs.

5) Design. An IT advisor will propose right-sized solutions for the environment. This advisor can evaluate design proposals as “fit for purpose” looking at elements such as resiliency. It is critical to establish and impose standards wherever possible across network, cabling, AV, room types. Standardization gives your team future abilities for easy troubleshooting and the freedom to rapidly scale while maintaining a firm’s overall brand and user experience. WiFi is a prime example as a viable option to leverage lower cost connectivity where possible. An IT advisor will understand which components are appropriate to use a “pay as you go” model vs. purchase.

10 Trends Shaping The Digital Workplace

Here are 10 trends in real estate that are currently impacting digital workplace design decisions.

  1. Mobility. It is intrinsic to business operations and workers’ need to stay connected and collaborate across a variety of spaces and locations.
  2. Flexibility. Companies must continue to think “outside the box” and make strategic choices in furniture and planning reconfigurable spaces that aren’t inhibited by furniture or technology are crucial.
  3. Community. For employees to feel valued and impactful, develop a community environment to drive engagement.
  4. Immersive. The space you’re building must reinforce your corporate brand and strategy through workspace elements.
  5. Connectivity. Providing ubiquitous network connectivity within all spaces as well as common areas and external spaces like patios, lobbies, and even parking lots is key.
  6. Internet of Things. “Smart office” tech collects data on your everyday operations and helps optimize layouts, room configurations, and supporting infrastructure.
  7. User-Centric Services. Workplace applications for everything from seat/room reservation to wayfinding to catering have already started to become the norm. Integration of multiple back-end systems works to provide a more seamless experience.
  8. Definition of Worker and Environment Types. Establishing a “user persona” characteristics of each type of employee ensures that environments are built to meet the needs of the staff as well as the business functions performed.
  9. Adoption of WELL Building Principles and Concepts. WELL Building standards demonstrate a commitment to employee health and wellness. Some WELL requirements include acoustic controls and integrative design, type of lighting, or air filtration.
  10. Environmental Awareness and Sustainability. Whether you’re striving for LEED-certified or simply looking to improve operations, going green and investing in energy efficient will save money and make employees happier.

Plan Ahead To Save Costs

IT costs can vary widely during an office fit out. By working with the right IT advisor to provide solution integration, you can identify opportunities for cost savings, smooth the directives and address the wide range of requirements from various stakeholders early in the process and keep the project on schedule and avoid expensive change orders. Using the right IT advisor will help you to learn how to navigate complex office builds, elevate your brand within the space, and take overall user experiences to the next level. (See sidebar for 10 trends shaping the digital workplace.)

IT advisorCaputo is a workplace technology program manager at Align, a global provider of technology infrastructure solutions. With more than 26 years of experience he works with strategic clients to develop and oversee large workplace programs. Align’s approach bridges the gaps between construction, IT infrastructure, finance, and design teams to deliver improved end user experience.

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