A comprehensive guide to tackling an office fit-out project

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In managing a space fit-out project, planning is everything. Without detailed planning and a thorough understanding of the real estate needs of the organisation, such projects would likely fail. As a result, it could disrupt business, as well as cause unnecessary delays and costly expenses.

 

Fitting out commercial or industrial space can be a stressful undertaking because there are many variables, not to mention the large pool of stakeholders – including staff, senior management, real estate consultants and project managers, vendors, and contractors. 

In real estate parlance, a fit-out is broadly defined as the end-to-end process of transforming an internal space into working space, complete with facilities such as restrooms, raised flooring, lighting system, meeting rooms, workspaces, office furniture, and the staff pantry.

Ong Chee Beng, Head of Project Management at Colliers International, said, “It is important that organisations recognise and understand the numerous challenges and potential pitfalls in a fit-out project. Corporate leaders should work closely with fit-out specialists to outline the company and staff’s needs – both in the present and the future – taking into consideration the changing business environment, human capital trends, as well as the firm’s growth strategies and headcount projection. Having these plans drawn up carefully is really half the battle won. It can make a big difference between completing the project on-time and missing deadlines. Obviously, it will have a significant impact on cost as well.”

Rule #1: Do not be stressed out over an office fit-out project

Colliers, with an experienced team of project management specialists, has put together a comprehensive guide to help corporates focus on the key aspects of a fit-out project.

WHY?
  • Consider why a new office/industrial space is needed and the benefits to be drawn from the relocation/refurbishment
  • Think about future business needs: expansion, contraction and reorganisation
  • List the key objectives of the fit-out and office design, e.g. to raise productivity, to change the way employees work, to encourage more collaborative work, to leverage new technology, to boost employee morale, or to enhance staff well-being
  •  Review office locations, assessing each one carefully to make sure it is suitable for the business, the company’s branding, and is easily accessible by staff and clients
  • There may be a need to plan for a phased occupation where staff move in at different times

You might like: Colliers’ guide on the key considerations when choosing an office space

WHO?
  • Identify the relevant stakeholders who need to be involved in the planning phase and decision-making process
  • Engage employees on the design of new workplace
  • Identify an in-house office fit-out coordinator or manager who will be the point-of-contact for all staff on matters or questions relating to the project
  • Appoint a trustworthy and experienced project management consultant to work on the project
  • Identify the necessary Change Champions/Move Champions that will assist and enable the Change and move process
WHAT?
  • Determine what type of space will be offered: Shell and Core (an empty shell on the inside); Cat A (provides basic finishing e.g. raised floors, mechanical and electrical services, air-conditioning and ventilation etc); or in very rare cases Cat B (completely finished and ready for occupation including features such as fully fitted kitchen, workstations, meeting rooms, social areas, furniture and fixtures, power points and IT infrastructure)
  • Assess the scope and extent of work that will be needed to be done
  • Evaluate design and workspace requirements
  • Make sure the works are compliant to all workplace health and safety as well as fire safety regulations
WHEN?
  • Plan way ahead; chart every step of the office fit-out process in a detailed timeline
  • Set milestones and delivery deadlines with both external vendors and internal stakeholders (e.g. Will the IT department have sufficient time to put all the technology infrastructure in place?)
  • Bear in mind public holidays and major company events which may disrupt the fit-out schedule
HOW?
  • Set a realistic budget: Determine how much can be spent on the fit-out works and how it will impact the firm’s financial numbers
  • Get detailed cost estimates for every component of the project and document them carefully
  • Set and determine an overall procurement strategy from the given budget
  • Remember to set aside extra funds for contingencies, typically 5-10% of the budget
  • Look out for potential tax breaks and cost savings, e.g. some landlords may offer to defray part of the fit-out cost


These guidelines serve to help occupiers think through some key issues prior to embarking on the fit-out project. To ensure that the plans are properly implemented each step of the way, it is still crucial to have professional project managers onboard to drive the project. 

Mr. Ong added, “Based on our observation, having reliable project management specialists onboard can provide a lot of confidence to the clients’ in-house real estate team. That is because they feel secure in the knowledge that the experienced professionals are there to add-value to their project and that assistance can be sought promptly if the project runs into problems. Here is where the project managers’ extensive experience can help in identifying and rectifying the issues at hand.”

Speak with us to find out how our project management specialists can help you for your next office fit-out project.

 

You might like: Colliers’ guide on the key considerations when choosing an office space

 

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CheeBeng Ong

Associate Director

Singapore

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Tulika Nayyar

Senior Project Manager

Singapore

AREA OF EXPERTISE

Tulika has more than 8 years of experience in real estate project management including expertise in corporate fit- outs, retail and green field. She has led projects from inception to completion including design coordination, procurement, contract administration, construction management and project controls.

Tulika has experience in managing different projects ranging from new fit-outs to A&A works. She understands that each project is unique and hence believes that good project planning and strategizing is the key to successful completion.

She has a keen eye for detail with excellent stakeholder management skills, she is dedicated towards building long lasting working relationship with clients.

BUSINESS BACKGROUND

Prior to joining Colliers International, Tulika worked with CBRE for a long stretch, gaining extensive experience in corporate interior fit-outs leading and being part of projects ranging from 14,000 sq ft to 585,000 sq ft.
She gained business knowledge by managing business development for the PM vertical for a few years.

After CBRE, Tulika has been part of H&M in their retail store development. She worked as construction project manager to be responsible for overall store planning & development. She has also worked with Synergy Property development as Design coordinator for commercial green field development.

This wide array of experience gives Tulika insight on how all aspects of projects are managed for successful deliveries.

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