One of the dilemmas that we always have to address when gathering end-user space needs information, also known as programming, is to determine how democratic the process should be and to what level of detail do we have to drill down to. The approach that I have used to gather this programming information is by collecting important data about a client’s working environment. If done correctly, this “people-focused design” process of identifying the proper programming information from the end-users results in the optimization of productivity, team and management communication, and promoting overall work-life satisfaction. This can be achieved by asking the right people the right questions. Some organizations want to open up their programming process to each end-user. Other organizations tend to want to limit the programming information gathering process to a high level of management and not get the rank and file involved. While both approaches have their pros and cons, what is important is knowing the right approach to use to achieve the desired results.
Approach #1: The Comprehensive Survey
For an organization that is looking to get all parties involved in the programing process, The Comprehensive Survey approach is the way to go. When a company is looking to implement new space or furniture standards or is planning for a major renovation or a move, it is important to get as much information from the employees on what they would like to see out of their working environment. With the use of a Comprehensive Survey, these issues can be addressed. A quick e-mailed survey can do the trick. Some questions that need to be discussed within this survey include work surface needs, storage requirements, acoustical privacy needs, as well as if there is a need for gathering spaces for collaboration. Once the results have been tallied and analyzed from this e-mailed survey, this will help you identify the unique work habits and needs of your workers. You can then sort this information and create suitable working conditions for all of the various departments and roles within your organization and achieve a collective and functioning workspace.
Approach #2: The High Level View
Sometimes, the programming process of addressing the needs and wants of the end-users is left solely to upper management. I have termed this as the High Level View. With this approach, it is necessary for those in charge to have a good understanding of their employees’ workspace needs and requirements. With the High Level View Approach, there are two important processes that must occur. The first step starts with a “visioning” session where upper management is asked to envision the successful completion of the project and what they see as the desired end results. Through this process, project goals and objectives are clearly defined while also factoring in budget and time constraints. It is imperative that a strategic business and marketing plan is drawn up at this point to make sure that the future growth and direction of the organization is taken into consideration. In addition, other components that should be addressed at this level of programming include how the space should reflect the desired corporate culture and desired branded image of the organization as well as a look into the critical adjacencies between the various departments sharing this space.
Once all of the above questions have been addressed, the second level of programming can now take place. Key representatives of the various departments, or work groups, are then interviewed after having reviewed a pre-programming questionnaire to allow them to prepare for the interviews. Normally with this High Level approach, established space standards are used. Specific issues are addressed which include personnel counts, department-specific support area requirements, critical adjacencies, work flow, paper flow, mechanical, electrical and plumbing considerations and level of satisfaction with design aspects of their existing space.
Shared support area must also be addressed. Sometimes this is undertaken by a separate group of management representatives for larger projects. Support areas that are new and have not been built yet may require much more thought and pre-design and may have to go into the definition of what those spaces will need in order to properly define their space needs.
All of these requirements are then recorded into a Comprehensive Space Needs Analysis Report (sometimes called a Programming Report), which documents the High Level project vision, goals and objectives, as well as the space needs of each department or work group. After the review and approval process of this document, it is used as a helpful tool to design the space and to prepare specifications and documents for the project build-out.
By Richard Fanelli, AIA, CFM, IFMA Fellow
For more information on the programming process, please feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 703-563-0380 ext. 121.