Many IT consultancies outgrow their office spaces over time, yet this critical issue is sometimes overlooked because consultants are so busy with day-to-day operations. You should keep an eye on your office's space needs because this can have a direct impact on your revenue. Our IT consultancy re-engineered its space and opened a satellite office nearby for separate Web development operations, and we're experiencing exponential revenue growth.
Office space configurations
IT consultancies, unlike traditional organizations, require a variety of office space configurations. Consultancies with even five or 10 staff members typically need three or four dedicated spaces in addition to the traditional office and cubicle workstations. IT consultancies need spaces for:
- Receiving equipment such as desktops, laptops, and servers.
- Servicing failed workstations and servers. These are typically hip-level benches with an abnormal number of network drops and electrical connections. (Read my blog post, Build a better test bench for your IT consultancy.)
- Staging network implementations prior to deployment.
- Monitoring and network operations.
How to know if you need more office space
Even if a consultant is assigned to every cube, it doesn't necessarily mean that your office needs more space — you might just need to add some desks here and a workbench there. (Remember that even field engineers require workstations.)
You can use online calculators and spreadsheets for calculating the office space commercial firms require, but I think those metrics are mostly useless for IT consulting firms. (If you're interested, you can find those resources on OfficeFinder, OfficeSpace, and About.com.)
I believe it's more compelling to consider how much revenue your IT consultancy could produce if it had the necessary space. You can make a rough calculation by answering the following questions:
- Do systems requiring bench repair take more than two days to complete because repair techs only have enough space to work on half the systems they could be repairing simultaneously? If repair cycles would be cut in half if your firm had twice the bench space and another bench tech, you need to double the space dedicated to bench repairs and possibly hire a second technician.
- If more cubicle space was available, could additional remote support sessions be accommodated, and would remote support queues be halved? If so, it makes sense to consider an expansion or even relocation. If not, growing a remote support center probably doesn't make much sense.
- Do you need to hire more consultants? If critical tickets and requests for on-site support or deployment of new equipment are taking too long to close, it might be time to add more techs. As your staffing needs increase, you will likely need to consider office expansion or relocation.
- Are project managers serving double duty and populating cube farms fraught with interruptions, chaos, and distractions? Are projects experiencing difficulty because critical components are overlooked or significant platform incompatibilities aren't discovered until on-site deployment begins? If so, you may need more offices to accommodate project managers. I believe project managers work best when permitted to view the battlefield from 10,000 feet and work without interruption (something that's not always possible within a lively cubicle environment).
- Is there enough space for a training room that will accommodate clients and staff? If your firm regularly conducts training on new technologies, products, or services, you must have a training room.
- Does your office have adequate staging space? Many consultancies don't have the office space to stage fully configured networks prior to on-site client deployment. Staging the project before you go to the client site allows you to troubleshoot and test the project and, ultimately, be more efficient. You might be able to use the training room as the staging space too (assuming you have a training room).
- Are engineers stacked on top of one another? With the economic slowdown came universal calls to do more with less. One byproduct is engineers doubling up in space originally intended for one technician. If your office can eliminate distractions, reduce chaos, and improve communication by providing each staff member with their own walled cubicle, desk, or office, productivity will improve. When productivity improves, the revenue each employee generates usually increases.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.