Why would we get IT involved in planning our office move?

The reason moving is on my mind is that we just moved into our new office on Monday. Some things went well and some things failed. The impact on our clients is all we will be measured by.

So I know you all want to know what failed, so I will tell you. But first let me tell you how our move scenario played out. It will help you understand how much work can be involved in these things and how planning and preparation can save the day.

We were working closely with the new landlord as there was a difficult tenant leaving the property. The tenant would not let our tradies in to plan the refit of the office space before they vacated. We had a relocation date in mind to ensure the minimum duplication of costs in rent and data services.

We confirmed our relocation date nine weeks before the day but only gained access for measuring and getting quotes five weeks before our relocation date. Clearly this called for a tightly managed project plan.

So in five weeks we relocated walls for meeting rooms, installed a server room with an air conditioner and treated the ceiling to lift the light levels – that was great because it felt like lifting the roof by 40 centimetres. We also painted every wall, installed a kitchen, replaced the bathroom fittings to “modernise” the grubby facilities. We also installed a new security system with door openers, alarms, smoke detectors and so forth. We also rewired the electricity and network cabling and upgraded the switch board to cope with our power requirements.

OK, so that was the easy stuff. Yes, really, that was easy because it is all predictable; the painters have quoted and painted hundreds of times. The builders moving the walls knew what they were doing and could get their work done to a schedule. Managing a critical path on projects that are predictable is not too hard and often paying a little above market price will get an extra person or two in to get a six day painting job done in three days.

So what were the hard parts?

The hardest part of all was getting the data providers to deliver a data network to our building. Unfortunately we are not on the NBN which will not be delivered to us in the foreseeable future. Don’t get me started on that one. Next week for NBN would be lovely if anyone is listening. So getting the fibre and bonded ADSL backup line delivered was a little frustrating.  No matter what our budget we could not expedite the service. I even offered to drive a backhoe to help dig it in faster; unfortunately I lack any kind of license to get approved on that one.

However, we did manage to get a connection in and tested prior to the move. We will get the backup connection in soon so minor failure there. We will rely on a 3G failover until that day. So we are not without options.

So the really hard part for us was the technology, in this case the telephony technology as we had a steep learning curve to overcome. We had decided to make Microsoft Lync part of our services offering and as is normal at Combo we elected to use it ourselves before we took it to the market place. So with nine weeks’ notice we started to build a Microsoft Lync enterprise voice system for our new office. This including porting from fixed line copper lines to a VOIP only solution. So build we did, and learn and integrate we did.

Service by service we ported and tested to ensure our help desk remained in service, until a week before we moved we had everything except our primary phone line ported across to the new system. We had our Lync headsets and our Cisco desk phones running together for a week and the staff clearly preferred the function of the Lync system. Juggling two systems was a little tricky but turned out to be the biggest save of the move.

When we got to move day, the data services were ported at 4pm on a Friday taking us off line so we could pull our hardware out of the server rack and move it to the new office. I am pleased to say we had it all up and on line and tested by 11pm. So now we just had to move the desks and other office stuff. Again that is easy – you bring in brawn and move stuff. If something breaks you fix it or replace it. That happened on Saturday and was done nicely.

So the whole move went very well and other than seven hours when we had no phones or data services the only impact was our main phone line took two days to activate after our old phone system failed to restart once it was removed from the rack. We still had our 1300 number so this was not mission critical but had we been relocating the Cisco system to our new office we would have had a weekend of panic over getting parts from Cisco on our aged system with no warranty in place. Good job we had Lync up and running to replace it.

The good news is that by Tuesday we had all our systems on line fully functional and every last packing crate emptied. We still have a few finishing touches to install the new coffee machine, hang the double doors on the board room and hang the pictures and dashboard display screen on the wall but we are in and looking forward to ongoing growth in our new expanded office facilities. Our secondary data connection will be great to get, NBN would be even better.

We are also pleased that we added learning to our project. We are now confident in our ability to install and configure Lync Unified Communications systems for our clients and we know it drives productivity gains. I will write more about that experience soon.

If you are thinking about relocating your business and can’t afford large outages or interruptions you need to get IT involved at least nine weeks out and preferably some time before that to ensure the connections and services are in place in time, without huge investments in duplicating services or equipment. It may be a great time to upgrade solutions or to consider cloud solutions to reduce risk.

Do drop by if you are in Fitzroy North any time soon.

David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.


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