OPINION

The value of project management

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Workplace optimisation and the intelligent design of working environments have multiple benefits for organisations, from improved productivity to reduced costs and many other factors in between.

However, when it comes to ensuring the sustainability of these initiatives, it pays to involve an experienced Project Manager (PM) or a PM team that specialises in workplace design and construction. It is advisable to implement a project management strategy that works in harmony throughout the lifecycle of a workplace improvement project, from real estate activities through to facilities management (FM). This will help to ensure that designs and solutions meet the needs of organisations and their people, not only in their current situation, but well into the future.

When it comes to workplace optimisation, particularly with regard to newly purchased buildings, there is often a gap between the corporate real estate (CRE) team, who is responsible for finding the right size, location etc. of a building, and the FM team, who is responsible for the on-going management and maintenance of the building. The PM team helps to bridge this gap, by developing solutions to enhance workplaces, improve processes and workflows, and provide a more effective working environment for employees and users of the building space. Working with the CRE team, the PM team assists in ensuring that properties and buildings selected will be viable and sustainable over time. The FM team then has a considerably more simplified task of managing and maintaining this environment.

Whether an organisation is moving into new premises or looking to optimise their existing workspace, there is often room for improvement with regard to the facilities available. The PM team  is usually responsible for conducting or managing the due diligence exercise to develop a business case for the most effective solution for the customer including costs, process improvement and the right mix of meeting rooms, open spaces and flows. This needs to cater to current needs as well as providing a sustainable solution for the future, and in some cases taking into account ‘forward compatibility’ of trends in technology and usage of work space.

The reality is that an organisation and its people are not a static entity, and resources, requirements and requests are constantly changing over time. This means that workspaces need to be dynamic in order to cater to changing needs. When working with an existing business space, organisations face the additional challenge of embarking on renovations in a live environment, which means that any renovations, changes and optimisations cannot disrupt core business operations. A critical component of this is to ensure the involvement of the end user in the new office concept, so that changes are seen as beneficial rather than disruptive. The PM team will closely manage the process to ensure that phases occur in the correct order to cause minimal disruption, that change management takes place effectively, and that the negative impact on employees is minimised; by employing innovative construction methodologies or working extended/out of hours in order to mitigate disruption to building users.

Workspace optimisation is an important part of facilities management for two main reasons. Firstly, all businesses are cost driven and ensuring that space is efficiently used reduces immediate space requirements and ensures that space is optimally used. Secondly, improved workspace design enables more effective communication and collaboration, leading to greater productivity. More pleasant working environments also help to motivate and retain employees. However, this is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Creating an effective cross-functional working environment requires this environment needs to suit the culture and individual needs of each particular organisation, from the layout of spaces to the number of meeting rooms and even the formality or informality of the spaces. The PM team  will help to ensure that the  correct concept is developed for each client’s needs, tailoring solutions to ensure that working environments can be modernised and optimised (also taking future compatibility into account) while costs are reduced.

When looking to engage with the PM team as part of a workplace optimisation exercise, there are several factors to consider. Firstly, the PM  should be involved throughout the lifecycle, from involvement with the CRE team, through to the FM involvement, while ensuring that the FM team and other required stakeholders  are involved throughout the process. This helps to ensure sustainability of solutions in the long-term. Global experience is another important factor, as this ensures solutions will be up to standard with global best practices and that project managers have a wide pool of knowledge and experience from which to draw. However, alongside global experience it is also important to have solid local knowledge of regulations, laws, cultures and requirements, as these are unique to individual regions and countries. Regular knowledge-share conferences and workshops with a knowledge management database where this information is shared can assist with this.

Workplace optimisation and intelligent workplace design have the potential to deliver multiple benefits to organisations, whether they are moving into new premises, constructing a new-build on a greenfield site or simply looking to improve existing facilities. However, in order to ensure that the business case for these improvements is sound, and that the FM team will be able to sustainably maintain the solutions into the future, it is highly recommended to engage with the PM team. Involving experienced project management with the right blend of local knowledge and global experience will help to ensure that workplace optimisation projects deliver the optimal mix of cost reduction and productivity improvement benefits along with future sustainability.

Yasas Jayakody

*ABOUT THE WRITER

Yasas Jayakody is Project Operations Manager at Johnson Controls Global WorkPlace Solutions

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