More than moving Featured

8:00pm EDT August 26, 2008

The decision to change your corporate office space involves far more than making a telephone call to a moving company. Companies may select an internal resource to manage this change, and while that individual may be an expert in his or her particular field, chances are he or she has no experience in corporate real estate. While choosing to handle the job internally may seem more cost-effective on the surface than outsourcing to a project management team, the employee tasked with this responsibility costs the company more than it saves, more often than not.

“When you think about it, you’re attempting to save the cost of the project management fee, but you’re losing out on the additional savings a professional project manager can bring to your project,” says Mark Kowal of Grubb & Ellis Company. “Furthermore, project managers anticipate your needs and can head off costly decisions upfront, particularly when they work with your commercial real estate salesperson.”

Smart Business talked to Kowal about some of the cost-saving measures a company can employ to ensure a smooth transition.

How should a company approach the relocation process?

The best relocations are the ones that fully integrate the client, project resources and the project manager and have a solid communication process. Every project requires the coordination of resources. The better the communication and the more integrated the approach, the less opportunities there are for the project to get derailed due to conflicts in timing or logistics, such as two vendors needing to be in the same area at the same time or not installing electrical outlets needed to support the technology, for example.

How does the process play out?

The first consideration is your programming requirements. Determine what works in your existing space and what should change in your new space. Are you deleting or adding departments, products or services?

At that point, you can engage an architect to give you a more detailed version of your required programming, including how departments align, what can be shared and what needs to be separated.

For even the smallest projects, you’ll need space for copiers and office supplies. You’ll need signage to make the move easier for employees. For bigger jobs, you may need to add a cafeteria, food services or even an auditorium. As you determine what will be included in your space, you can call on specialty services to supplement your core team.

You can also involve a construction manager in the design process to comment on constructability. The more information you have upfront, the more you will save time and money.

How closely must contracted services be monitored, and in what manner?

Typically, there is constant communication with the team, including daily e-mails, weekly meetings and site visits. Different players participate in the meetings as necessary throughout the course of the project. For instance, you wouldn’t necessarily want to involve furniture suppliers as you’re putting up steel, but at some point, they will have to visit the site.

A project manager will involve a client representative as the project progresses. It’s important for that selected representative to see what’s going on and relay that to employees who might not be involved in the process.

Depending on the size of the project, the project manager may be located at the site and interact with the contractors on a daily basis.

How can a competent project manager save money?

A good project manager always has cost avoidance in mind. It’s a huge financial benefit to include the project manager in the site or building selection process. He or she can work with the real estate broker to analyze what site factors — like layout or access to elevators or docks — may cause higher construction costs. Even reviewing what the landlord is providing (and not providing) could save the end-user hundreds of thousands of dollars. As the project progresses, the project manager provides value engineering to avoid getting away from the budget numbers.

Furthermore, determining what materials may require a long lead time to acquire and having them ordered early can minimize expediting costs. Lastly, a good project manager is able to provide an experienced global support system that has the capability to pull in other experts from various areas when necessary.

What determines the success or failure of a typical relocation?

My view of a successful project is when employees can walk into the new facility for the first time, get a cup of coffee and find their way to the conference room for an early meeting. When the meeting is over, they can find their new office or cubicle with a working computer, ready Internet access and working telephones.

MARK KOWAL is senior project manager in Grubb & Ellis Company’s Detroit office. Reach him at (248) 357-6567 or