#1 – Project Management
If you don’t have someone watching your back during your build-out project, you’ll have to watch your own back, and it is not going to be fun. Do yourself a huge favor and hire a project manager ("PM"). If you don’t want to shell out a bunch of extra dough for an outside PM, make sure the companies you choose to partner with for your next build out have a registered PM on staff. Having a PM means having problems handled and/or brought to your attention as they arise (if not before). Not having a PM means every little issue and question is going to be brought to you for input. A PM will ultimately free you up to focus on other tasks and responsibilities.
#2 – Quality over Quantity
Ben Franklin once said, “The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of price is forgotten.” This is especially true when it comes to your office build-out, upgrade or reorganization. You get what you pay for, and if you are primarily looking to spend less upfront you will undoubtedly spend more on the back end. Things will need to be fixed, other things will have to be added later – which means return trip charges and additional work orders – and when it comes to the ever-changing world of technology, applications and programs will get more complex and varied and demand more connectivity and bandwidth (aka installing Cat5e cabling is a ridiculously silly thing to still be doing, unless you work for the Pony Express).
Here are some suggestions to save money on the back end by spending a little more on the front end:
- When deciding on a contractor, never let price be the ultimate deciding factor. Demand case studies and examples of previous work that they have done. Ask about or look for certifications they have and warranties/guarantees they can offer. Make sure that they’ll have an actual Project Manager dedicated to your project.
- When choosing a category of cable, Category 6 cable is the safest bet. However, you can future proof your network infrastructure by going with a higher quality Cat6 cable, or even Cat6A. If you really think you’ll need the bandwidth you should consider rolling out fiber to the desktop.
- Have your cabling contractor pull extra cables out to different areas of the floor and leave them terminated and coiled in the ceiling with a lot of slack, this way you will always have them terminated in the IT closet and ready to be used with minimal distractions and overtime required.
- Value engineering is an important process but do not be penny wise and pound-foolish. In the event that you need to save cost, it is important to install the conduit and embedded wiring to support future technologies. These technologies may include future AV, camera or wireless systems. It is much more expensive to install conduit and cabling post construction!
#3 – Cable Management
Not having proper wire management installed in your IT racks means the certain death of your cable organization and the inevitability of someone wasting a lot of time and energy untangling cables and tracking down port locations.
Here’s a simple guide to follow for good wire management practices: Have at least one vertical wire manager per IT rack.
- Have at least one horizontal wire manager for every patch panel (horizontal wire managers aren’t necessary for angled patch panels but vertical managers are a must).
- Have a physical and digital “Patching Schedule” that will tell you what port on the patch panel is connected to what port on which network switch. If you don’t have a patching schedule, we suggest hiring someone to make one professionally or making one yourself immediately, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time and energy down the road.
- Make sure your cables are bundled using industrial velcro, NOT cable-ties.
- Utilize different colored patch cords for different IT applications. For example: blue for data, white for voice, yellow for wireless access points, red for security, orange for printers, etc.
#4 – Bundled Services
Bundling services will save you time, energy and money, so whether you’re getting cable and internet for your home or building out an office space with IT, AV and Security, it just makes sense to bundle. Aside from the one-stop-shopping benefits, you’ll have one point of contact for all of those services, which can be a HUGE relief.
Make sure to look for and/or ask about proof of previous installations, case studies, social media postings, installation credentials, even references. The companies with the best track records will be glad to tell you about it.
#5 – Design/Build
Just like bundling services allows you to save money, time and effort through the one-stop-shop approach, so does the Design/Build approach. Instead of spending money and effort designing a project with one firm and then engaging with and vetting a handful of others for the actual build-out process, look for companies that can offer Design/Build services.
Here’s how to spot a reputable Design/Build company in IT/AV/Security.
- They will advertise themselves openly as specializing in both design and build.
- They will have a strong understanding of the industry(-ies) in question and be able to discuss them at length.
- They will have a high competence level using AutoCAD (or a comparable modeling software, although AutoCAD is the standard).
- They will be able to offer a “sample design package” that will give you an idea of their deliverables.
#6 – Save More by Paying More
This may be an oxymoronic statement but every experienced veteran of the facilities, IT and commercial development industry knows that underneath the nonsense there is a great nugget of wisdom. We could give you a long and complicated explanation of this statement but it’s actually really simple; you will get what you pay for. If your final decision for contractors (vendors, partners, etc.) is based on price alone, you will be burned with change orders, project management disasters, and poor quality installations that will need to be upgraded and/or fixed in the very near future. It may be hard to see the value in paying more, especially when you may be professionally congratulated for paying less, but the value always lies in the long-term payoffs, not the immediate gratifications.
Ben Franklin summed this principle up perfectly when he said, “The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of price is forgotten.”
#7 – As-Built Documentation
Most people think that a job is complete once the technicians have pulled off site, that’s wrong. The job is complete when the customer has everything they need to go on using their new office without you; aka, as-built documentation. At the very least, as-built documentation should consist of a labeled floor plan (delivered electronically and physically). Other levels of as-built documentation can consist of patching schedules (the what-goes-where of patch cords from your patch panels to your switches) and even cable test results.
If you think you’ve got another great way to save money during an office build-out project (especially if it relates to IT, AV & Security) please let us know, we’d love to be able to spread the word.
Rick Malan – RTPM
Rick Malan is a BICSI registered telecommunications project manager (RTPM) with over 10 years of experience in account management, project management and sales regarding ICT, AV & Security projects.
Rick manages Telecom’s business development team with a focus on broadening Telecom’s customer base. As Telecom’s Vice President of Sales Rick successfully manages many of Telecom’s large-scale design/build projects.