With all of the complexities of modern life, businesses looking to move from one site to another need to plan for more than just moving boxes, furniture and people. A simple move is not an option any more and with the 24/7 world we exist in, any failure in the moving process and continuity can have catastrophic results later on. Philip Helsey, a specialist in IT relocation offers guidance on the subject.
For any business wanting to relocate, the most obvious considerations tend to start with those things that are ‘physical’. However, the most valuable asset of all to any business is, of course, its people. While the decision to move premises maybe driven by many factors such as expansion, consolidation, an attractive lease break or other financial incentives, the main reason for any decision to relocate to pastures new is invariably to provide the employees of the business a new and better environment to increase their efficiency and productiveness. It is therefore vitally important to involve staff as fully as possible in the planning and execution of the relocation. This does not mean that they are used to move equipment and furniture between sites but are instead, either involved in, or fully aware of, the move schedule and how it will affect them.
The most effective way to involve people in the relocation is to nominate ‘move champions’. These are individuals within a team or department nominated to be the interface between the move manager, the person who will plan and sequence the move and the users. The move manager is usually someone employed by the business to manage the move and they are ideally someone within the business who has managed a move before. Alternatively, and this is often the norm, the relocating business will bring in an independent move manager, a specialist move management contractor or a removal specialist that offers move management services.
However, the move champion is a key element of the process as they act as an interface communicating information between the move manager and the users. The move manager will usually have an exhaustive tick list of tasks and activities that need to be completed, while the champion helps to convey that information to the teams they oversee as they know the characters within those groups.
Naturally the tasks to be completed vary from move to move, but typically they’ll include a file reduction programme that encourages the clear out and archiving of unwanted files; seat allocation, the nuts and bolts of which determine who sits where and next to whom; filing allocation that dictates where the relocated files are located; packing instructions that allows for the correct packing of personal belonging into crates; the move instruction that labels personal and IT equipment with new location details; and communication of a countdown to the move for each department.
A major cost element of relocation relates to the furniture as sometimes new furniture is required as existing furniture doesn’t meet the design requirements for the new office layout. Indeed, the current trend is for smaller bench style furniture with minimal personal storage. If new desks are required, then it is good to have these desks mocked up in the existing environment so that staff can see what they should expect following the move. Chairs are relative easy to relocate and if the existing stock is of good enough quality many organisations tend to get them reupholstered to match the new colour scheme instead of having them replaced. In contrast, relocating desks can be expensive and time consuming. The alternative, disposal, is also expensive though; desks typically have no resale value as fashions change and new zero landfill initiatives mean that they need to be broken down into metal, wood and plastics – some of these materials have value. Some removal companies are licensed waste disposal agents and so can remove unwanted items from site to be broken down into component parts with the material sold off to offset the cost of disposal. Following this path will also provide relevant certification to ensure that an appropriate audit trail is provided.
A successful move will be judged on how quickly users are back at work. Users will, on arrival at the new location for the first time, clearly want to be able to log on to their computers and make phone calls and this will be the acid test.
Relocation is an obvious opportunity to refresh equipment. However it’s important that major change is not undertaken as part of the relocation. If computers are being refreshed then it is best to install them out of the box at the new location and test them fully prior to the move. IT departments sometime put themselves under enormous pressure by refreshing prior to relocation. Some changes, say new monitors, can be done in conjunction with the relocation saving time and effort. Most commercial removal companies have specialist IT relocation teams that are experienced in pre-installation works. A pre-move audit of IT will help establish exactly what equipment will be relocated and this will assist in identifying special requirement and any additional power and data requirements for more IT hungry users. Furthermore, it will also highlight equipment no longer required and this detail can then be shared with WEEE disposal companies in order to maximise value.
Typically the relocation engineers will decommission IT equipment on a Friday evening. This involves completing a check-sheet for each user and their equipment, noting details such as whether a given user has their mouse and phone handset to their left or right while removing cables and bagging those that need to move. The equipment is then packed in designated IT crates, one for each user and labelled with the new desk position; it is then moved that evening and placed on the new desk. First thing Saturday morning the equipment begins to be reconnected, cable managed, powered up and tested with the aim of completing these tasks by mid afternoon. If satisfactory, work areas are handed over for in house IT to perform final checks. Relocation firms also offer additional services to help the in house team including new printer mapping and the initiation of test scripts. These extra services, while chargeable, allow the in house IT team to focus on ensuring all the internal systems are functioning while leaving them available to deal with issues as they arise.
During the relocation process the servers and network equipment will move either along with the rest of the business to the new premise or to a co-location data centre. The planning process obviously needs to be more detailed here to ensure that all the prerequisites are in place to accept the relocated equipment. The considerations include power, cooling and ventilation, lines and communication, cabling infrastructure and cabinets.
The first part of the process requires a detailed audit of each rack. This establishes the exact current position and size of each item, the power requirements, the network requirements and the inter-connectivity between devices such as fibre. This data along with the new rack configuration is used to generate a check-sheet for each device and a schedule for when the devices are relocating. The check-sheet is the control documentation that requires sign off by the client and the IT relocation contractor at each stage of the move process. This prevents not only equipment from being wrongly removed but also gives the client flexibility to remove a device from the schedule should there be an issue with it.
Typically the relocation of server and related equipment happens outside normal working hours and it’s normally advised to plan an early-move of some non-production equipment to ensure the planned processes work in practice and the environment functions as designed. This obviously builds confidence within the team when it comes to relocating live systems to the new environment.
Relocation companies can provide extensive insurance cover for the equipment. However this does not extend to software or data failure. A disaster recovery process is vital even though measures will be taken to minimise the risk of failure in the planning and handling of the equipment during relocation.
When a move is on the cards, the sooner a firm begins to plan its relocation and involves staff and relocation contractors the easier and less fraught the move will be. There’s typically a major focus on the fit out and readiness of the new premises which seems to be all consuming and questions such as ‘will the building be ready on time’ and ‘can the furniture be delivered and installed when the lifts are not commissioned?’ are raised. But by providing that the pre-planning and the involvement of all the stakeholders has not been neglected then the relocation of staff and equipment should pass without incident.
Philip has worked in the relocation industry for over 20 years and is managing director of Harrow Green IT Division.
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