By Bill Lally
In a time when most of the world can't go more than a few minutes without checking email, responding to texts or checking Facebook, it's obvious that our reliance on technology has become a critical factor in the operation of any business. Integrators are tasked with implementing these important technologies, but a lot more than you may think gets put into these systems in a business or hotel. And unfortunately, as paint, décor and architecture are considered early on in the design process, technology is often left on the backburner and on near-impossible timelines. Not only do integrators customize systems for each of their clients' technological needs, we do so while navigating the uncharted courses of new technology. Technology that when originally designed, was state-of-the-art, and becomes antiquated two years into a typical construction project.
So what's the answer? Based on the experience installing these systems, we found time and education to be the start. The construction industry, through no fault of its own, has done many things the same way for generations. While technology has aided in the advancement of better materials, and systems like CAD and BIM have taken the design and engineering of buildings to a new level. When it comes to actually building, it still takes armies of manpower to get it done.
What we have learned working through some maddening schedules over the past several years is that while the construction schedule is guaranteed to slip, the owner still expects their project to be turned over on time. The saying "time is money" applies better than ever, when construction delays keeping a hotel from generating room revenue will always impact the bottom line.
So what's the result? The time that was originally allocated for the proper commissioning of the technology systems gets compressed to near impossibility. But a fully-functioning building is still expected the minute the CO is issued; anything less is seen as complete failure. The reality is, wet paint or a spot on the carpet isn't the end of the world, but if the WiFi doesn't work there's instant panic. Setting up technology takes time to make sure that entertainment, lighting, and HVAC systems are working properly, yet the setup and time allocated for the network and other technology is almost always an afterthought.
To make this work better, owners and construction managers need consider technology project management of equal importance to construction throughout the course of a project. When it comes to technology implementation, more manpower doesn't necessarily get the job done faster. Paying overtime to lay tile on five floors of a building works in a crunch, but turning up five floors of technology in one shot may be completely detrimental to the end result.
So what's the fix? Proper technology companies and integrators do their best to stage as much of the systems to be installed ahead of time as possible. The reality of how these systems will work in their actual environment still takes time to configure and tweak for optimal performance to deliver for guests' expectations. Allocating proper time to do this is ensures success for the system on the target date. It also allows time for interaction with other trades involved in the construction process. Management could have more time to train users on the systems to provide better service to guests. While experienced integrators will work to make the system ready when needed, planning the technology in the schedule as you would the paint or anything else will go a long way in giving them a chance to do better than their best.