Making it happen

A major new build or the refurbishment of a whole campus is usually a once-in-a-career type project for the person leading it and it will require all the leader’s skill and resourcefulness to keep it on track. In the section on Working With Others we discuss the fact that you will have to get involved with issues far outside your normal remit. Matthew Boulton Campus, Birmingham Metropolitan College had to do land deals with a range of organisations and have a road moved. City Lit was involved in a planning dispute that held them up for 2 years. Edinburgh’s Telford College went to a tribunal over VAT and Stephenson College’s project was held up for a year while Great Crested Newts reproduced. Despite complexities such as this, people are succeeding in creating stunning new developments on budget. All of those who succeed emphasise the need for a sound Project Management approach.

In this section we look at the practicalities of managing a project that will often have the dual aspects of a physical build and a major change management exercise. The feedback we get about what makes this work is remarkably consistent across the sector and we have drawn on a range of experiences to provide you with guidance, templates, worked examples and practical tips.

It’s now a project

It is likely that in a major new build you will employ third party project management support. New College Durham allocated £200k of its £30 million budget to this activity. It was a decision that had to be fully justified to the governors and this justification was the comparative cost of getting things wrong! New College Durham did however adopt a hands-on approach and believes much of its success was down to the active involvement of the Principal and Project Sponsor. However good your Project Manager it is nonetheless the case that all staff involved in the project need a threshold level of understanding of project management as a discipline.

There are many ways you can bring staff up to this threshold level and one of the most cost effective is to use the JISC infoNet Project Management infoKit. The infoKit gives an overview of the topic suitable for all staff involved in projects and is regularly updated with more in-depth resources so it can serve as a refresher for more experienced project managers. Most of project management is plain, common sense and a lot of what we describe is simply a structured approach to what you would do instinctively. Many staff may have already carried out many project management activities but view this as simply ‘getting things done’ whilst recognising that they also rely heavily on luck, perseverance and strength of will. What we are offering is a structured approach and a set of tools that help you to ‘get things done better’.

The infoKit offers various tools and templates that you can download and use for your own project. Links to example templates available are highlighted on this page. We have also included some worked examples from a learning spaces context such as the Space Data Sheets needed for this type of project.

Managing the risks

In creating a new learning space you can’t decide not to take risks: that simply isn’t an option. You need to be able to make good decisions about which risks to take and how to build in contingency to deal with unplanned events. Risk management is fundamentally about making better decisions and is probably the single most important component of project management.

For this reason JISC infoNet has produced a Risk Management infoKit as a supplement to the Project Management infoKit. This infoKit will help you evaluate your own and your organisational approach to risk and give you some practical suggestions on how to manage the risks you choose to take.

Our approach to risk, particularly in a learning spaces context, is that risk is akin to uncertainty and is not necessarily something going wrong. Things turning out differently to how you expected or planned might not necessarily have an adverse affect on your project. There is always the possibility that risks can be turned into opportunities if managed effectively and our resource looks at both Risk and Opportunity Management.

You will need a Risk Log and our resources include a template for this and a worked example. How you document the risk in relation to its cause and effect will be crucial in determining the appropriate management action and identifying early warning signs. Risk management is a very iterative process and once the project gets underway you may have hundreds of risks each with a defined owner monitoring and managing it. At this stage a tool such as our Project Controls Database can help you keep track of mitigating actions and their effects and help you manage when a potential risk becomes a live issue.

Making a step change

The emphasis of this infoKit is on creating new types of learning space. Even where new build projects are prompted by the fact that existing buildings are simply not fit for purpose, colleges and universities are rising to the challenge and finding opportunities to do things differently and to improve learning and teaching. In many cases these improvements are closely linked to the use of new technologies.

Many organisations such as Edinburgh’s Telford College, Glasgow Caledonian University and New College Durham have also made significant change to business processes on the back of a new build. Telford has introduced ‘hot-desking’ and not even the College Principal has an office! We look at the issue of business process improvement in the Imagination section under Imagining Future Processes.

Step changes in ways of learning and teaching and in ways of doing business need to be carefully managed if stakeholders are not to feel disempowered and resist the change. New College Durham noted that its move had many of the key aspects of a merger as it brought together two previously autonomous sites and Matthew Boulton Campus, Birmingham Metropolitan College noted that the introduction of learning technologies meant many staff saw the change as a new job as well as a relocation.

JISC infoNet has an infoKit on Change Management highlighting a range of approaches that have been shown to work in the sector and particularly drawing on experiences of implementing e-learning in recent years.

Business as usual

It can be a real challenge to manage an existing space at the same time as developing a new one. There are some major practical issues to bear in mind. It is important that the inconvenience to your users is kept to a minimum. They will continue to require access to equipment, the network and so on right up until the closure of the existing space and again when they move across they will have expectations of what level of technological and other services should immediately be available to them in the new space.

You may find it useful to pilot some technology in your current environment before moving across; Matthew Boulton College did this by implementing and testing new technology several months before their move. There is always the possibility that a piece of technology you switch off in one building does not, for a number of reasons, re-power in the new space. Try to factor this type of potential occurrence in by preparing the ground, using back-up arrangements where possible.

Planning the move

You need to plan a practically seamless movement of your IT systems across from one site to another. It may be possible to temporarily organise an additional JANET connection in order to cover the removal and re-installation of your core networked systems.

You may decide to install all new technology in your new build in which case you must set aside enough time for installation and set up (this can be a considerable undertaking if there are several hundreds of PCs). Don’t forget that installation of existing equipment also has a large resource overhead.

There are a number of professional removal companies available who can help with the removal of technological equipment, library stock, chemicals and other material. Make sure you leave enough time to research the help available that can best suit your requirements. An example of the type of specialist removal you may encounter in your own institution is the Matthew Boulton College experience. They needed to remove a 5-colour Heidelberg press and reinstall it in their new building and this could only be done by specialists. This type of activity can be difficult to schedule in alongside other removals especially when you are relying on the availability of specialists so you need to plan as well in advance as possible.

It may sound obvious but plan the move so that furniture and equipment arrive in a reasonable order – desks before PCs, library shelves before library books and so on.

Remember to factor in any staff development considerations into your planning in order to ensure that staff are as confident as possible in the use of any new equipment and are also familiar with the new space. Spending time on this with staff will help ease the transition of all users to the new space. As mentioned previously, take care with the timing of staff development activity in order to get the best possible outcome.

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Floorplan East Ham Campus Newham College
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Classroom East Ham Campus Newham College

Published: 5 February 2007 | Last updated: 19 March 2013