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IT Engagement & Planning in a Construction Project

Dave Gardea, Practice Director, Facility Technology Services
It’s never too early for IT (Information Technology) to be involved in the planning of a new facility or renovation project. Collaboration with the architect, builder, their contractors, and stakeholders on a construction project is critical to ensure technology decisions and requirements are incorporated into the architectural design. Developing an effective partnership with this diverse group of participants will help all players understand that IT’s involvement goes beyond just network hardware and workstations. There are several key considerations around the early involvement of an IT department toward ensuring that the technology infrastructure deployed in the new building is a success.

Timing for Participation is Critical

Depending on the size and scope of the project, IT should plan on having one or more individuals assigned to the initiative beginning at design and through facility activation. Since construction will move fast, IT project leadership should plan on spending a significant amount of time at the site serving as a point of contact for the architect, builder, their contractors, vendors, and the owner. If IT is not available, assumptions may be made, and unanticipated changes may incur costs later on. Skills needed but not limited to the following include; technology planning, research, procurement, and integration of solutions into a new or renovated facility. Involvement in construction might not be a typical function of the IT department or they may not have lessons learned from past facilities projects. If unable to provide an individual with the requisite experience, IT should consider retaining a vendor program manager as a dedicated project resource. Not having active IT participation early in the project may result in an over reliance on the architect’s understanding of technology in the design of the facility.

Technology Planning During Facility Design

It’s important that IT take ownership of the technology planning efforts early in the design discussions with stakeholders and then remain engaged throughout facility commissioning and activation. It’s during this early phase of the project that IT leadership should conduct technology visioning and requirements gathering meetings. Making those technology decisions early will help avoid costly design revisions during construction. This will result in IT and stakeholders having a firm understanding of infrastructure and applications to be deployed. During planning, confirm that technology selections are aligned to the enterprise vision or roadmap. If piloting a new system or infrastructure solution, first validate that it can be adequately supported and will not add unneeded complexity for staff in their training, support and transition to the new facility.

Budget Planning Discovery

When considering IT requirements for development of the overall budget for the facility project, include in that process discovery of any technology services and solutions that have been planned separately by the architect, builder, facilities, biomedical engineering or other departments. For example, does the construction budget include nurse call, specialized systems and/or building automation solutions that will require servers to be built by IT? It’s also important to determine any additional applications integration, low voltage cabling, network connectivity, or rack space requirements that these stakeholders will expect IT to address during the project. Include these costs up front in budget development rather than addressing as an unexpected variance later in the construction project. Plans frequently include moving existing equipment to the new or renovated facility. If possible, avoid planning for re-deployment of older computers to reduce the IT budget. Workstations, potentially at the end of their lifecycle, will likely require time consuming re-imaging to include the latest applications needed. Relocation of hardware to the new facility also becomes dependent on departmental move schedules. Instead, budget for new computers to be deployed well in advance of construction substantial completion where they can also be made available for clinical testing and training.

Collaboration with the Architect and Builder

When beginning that early collaboration with the architect, obtain the latest furniture, electrical, and structured cabling floor plans. It’s at this point in the project that IT should provide feedback and validation of the design based upon low voltage, IT closet, and power requirements. This is also the opportunity to ensure that all planned workstations and printers will fit as defined by the furniture floor plan and that planned power and network drop locations match their placement. When the builder begins to publish their construction timelines for the new facility, incorporate key milestones such as ceiling grid, drywall finishing, casework, and IT closet completions into the IT infrastructure plan. Likewise, IT should share with the builder target completion dates for the wired and wireless network, IT closets, desktop deployments and other solution installations for inclusion in their construction plans.

Early involvement of IT in a construction project and development of solid partnerships with the diverse group of resources engaged in that effort is a critical success factor in deploying technology in a new facility. Leveraging best practices beginning at the design and planning process facilitates a prepared transition into the execution phase of the construction project.

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