Changing spaces Featured

6:28am EDT March 28, 2003
It may seem impossible to keep up with office technology trends, but the problem could be with the office space, not with the equipment itself.

In this age of technology, some businesses are finding it costs more to rewire for upgrades than it does to start from scratch with a new space.

But when starting out, expanding or moving to a new space, Bob Comben, CEO and president of Vocational Guidance Services, recommends planning ahead to make sure the building will fit the company's needs, both now and in the future.

When his employment firm expanded to its new location, Comben made sure the space was far more flexible than it was at the previous location.

"We wanted additional, flexible and consumer-friendly space that could easily be modified," he says.

Building features included an interior ramp for wheelchair access and space for 115 computer stations, both options that could not be implemented in the company's previous 1950s era building without substantial cost.

If changing locations or financing a large renovation project is unrealistic, adding new furnishing to an updated layout can make an office more flexible. And using movable workstations instead of fixed ones allows a company to accommodate more employees as the business grows.

"In seven years, we have gone from less than 70 computers to over 400 that are all hooked up on the network," Comben says.

Adding those connections and updating the phone system to include direct extension dial was easy and cost-effective, because the company had set the foundations for the change years earlier, Comben says.

Investing in technology now could save significant amounts of money in the long run.

Dick Lucas, senior vice president and retail division manager for Fifth Third Bank, says the company's teller stations were recently upgraded with flat-screen monitors.

"Originally we were installing monitors underneath tables to save space, and the tellers had to look down through the glass," he says.

Although flat-screen monitors are more expensive, they have a more professional appearance, better resolution and save a significant amount of space. The new monitors also consume less power, making them less of a financial burden in the long run.

Although state-of-the art technology upgrades may be tempting, simplicity is often best . And don't forget the reason you decided to upgrade your technology in the first place.

"Remember that ease of operation is the goal," says Lucas. How to reach: Vocational Guidance Services, (216) 431-7800; Fifth Third Bank, www.53.com