Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > future proof your projects; spend now to save later

future proof your projects; spend now to save later

When we are up against it on funding we look to cut back on project spend. That is a natural course of action and can usually be effective, at least in terms of meeting the short term objective, but therein lays a problem; short term thinking is nearly always costly in the long term.

There is an old saying about never putting off until tomorrow what you should do today, and that is very relevant in the world of facilities maintenance; you run a fine line between fiscal prudence and neglect. I wrote recently about a building that we took over where we had to take two of the three lifts out of service immediately because they had serious problems resulting from cutting back on regular maintenance.

Another area of cutting back is on specifications, where reducing the scope can reduce the cost proportionately, at least for that project, but somewhere down the road things will bite you. Another example from my vault on this one is where we had to renew the ceilings in a building because of asbestos removal. As we started to take the grid down we had a serious collapse; every time there had been a cabling change the wires had been cut at each end and the cable left up there because “it was cheaper”. Cheaper than doing the job properly that is, but we made a few quid on all the scrap mind you.

That particular project got me thinking. It was early in my time of having, what we called at the time, building maintenance under my control. On being told that we had to put in new cabling about every 18 months for some project or other, and knowing that there was a plethora of projects in the pipeline, I asked for additional cable runs and pulls to be installed as we put the new ceiling up. It cost about 10% extra on the original project budget and I had to find that from somewhere, but over the next 8 years that I was involved with that building we added extra cable capacity for a fraction of what it had been costing us and with almost no disruption.

That is a small example of what I came to call future proofing projects, and we applied the principle across everything that we did. What did we have to do and how could we make our lives easier downstream? How much to put in twice the capacity; three times the capacity? Make a judgement call on it. Refurbishing accommodation is always a golden opportunity to look to the future and spend a little more than you need to in order to save money in the coming years.

Where you can save money without too much risk is to reduce demand, or consumption, and this is where you can also contribute to environmental targets as well as cost savings and this is something that you should be doing as routine, but then you need a big number you normally a choice; either you nibble away at everything and take a bit off or you take a deep breath and cancel a project (or two) to give you the right number.

I would always go for that latter option to give me the headroom that I need, but making sure that it included enough cash to do some future proofing. And because future proofing means that some of the things that you be asked to look at next year or the year after can be easily accommodated you can look good when you say “no problem”.

 

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