It’s often said that moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do in life (along with things like bereavement, having children or planning a wedding) and organising an office move can be even more daunting to face. Dan May, Commercial Director at IT solutions consultancy ramsac talks through his recent office move and his top tips for getting your IT up and running so your business doesn’t miss a beat.
A modern office includes many of the same items and facilities as a home (furniture, kitchen items, electronic goods) but will generally be on a much bigger scale with a lot more people to cater for! ramsac recently moved to a new office in Godalming and whilst we pretty much moved across the road it was undoubtedly a stressful prospect to face. However, as we found out an office move is all about good planning and when done properly, it is possible to provide seamless continuity for both the team and your customers, meaning you shouldn’t be fearful when the removal team turn up!
My tips mostly come from the actual ramsac move rather than a theoretical list. We spent a lot of time looking at the business, its needs and the potential pitfalls before we even looked at the logistics of the move. So my first tip would be, don’t underestimate the time it takes to organise and execute an office move! Another vital thing to remember is that for most professionals organising an office move will be an additional task on top of the ‘day job’. Even when a team of professional office move specialists are used, the businesses leaders and the team will need to have an input into the whole process, so inevitably this could impact on the performance of the business as a whole.
Whilst undoubtedly you or your team members will be heavily involved with the move I would strongly advise you still employ the services of a professional office designer and builder. As we found out, it’s not just a case of planning and designing the new facilities, there are many regulations and legal requirements (including health and safety requirements and disabled access needs for example) that need to be considered. This is a potential minefield for the uninitiated and the services of a professional will certainly save you a lot of stress and in fact could end up being a lot cheaper than making costly mistakes.
As IT specialists ourselves, we are very aware of the challenges and needs of installing new systems – especially in a new or fully refurbished office. Even before you consider the layout of the new office it’s important to think about the lines of communication that will feed your systems. Can you get the connection speed you need? This may even require an upgrade, for example fibre optics if they are available from the local Internet providers. Also, what are the contractual implications of this? If you lease an ISDN line for example you may have to give the provider a notice period before using it. Will the new office use VOIP phones or traditional phone lines? VOIP may require more bandwidth from your Internet provider. If you are a heavy user of large data files then the internet connection will be vital and may even influence the location and suitability of your new office – being located in a remote rural location for example may not be a good choice if you run a video production company! The most important thing to remember is some of the communications services have very long lead times, depending on location and provider, leased lines can take several months to provision and ISDN lines can take up to 90 days – so you need to be placing orders in plenty of time.
Once the lines of communication have been agreed and secured, the next step with regards to IT is to think about the server infrastructure. Traditionally most businesses had a separate room (or a cupboard for smaller systems!) that hosted the server and router systems but newer technologies such as virtualization (whereby ‘virtual servers’ are set up on one or a number of physical servers to make the most of the useable storage space) mean that far less space is required for modern systems. A whole server room may not be necessary! The other model is Cloud hosting, whereby all the core systems (email, data storage, CRM etc) are stored remotely and accessed through a web browser. This has advantages in terms of cost and physical storage space (there is no need for servers on-site, just an Internet connection) as well as doing away with the need to install and license specific software on numerous computers/laptops/tablets etc. However the downside is that the Internet connection needs to be present at all times and you don’t have the security of actually storing all this company data at your own premises. Whilst it needs careful consideration it can be a useful IT solution or part-solution for some organisations.
It’s essential to ensure that you get the wider team involved at the planning stage. We found that the way you communicate the details can really build up the excitement and positivity within the whole company! It’s wise to keep everyone abreast of developments as they happen, the whole team will appreciate being kept in the loop and it’s good for morale to understand the timescales and plans for what will be the place that they spend much of their working week. We had mood boards of the new office design and periodically we ran ‘tours’ so that colleagues could see the new offices before they were transformed. We also planned a rationalisation of paperwork and files – we used the move as an opportunity to complete our transfer to being a paperless office, and we had a series of ‘black bag Fridays’ where we asked staff to clear out drawers, cupboards and files, to ensure that we only took things with us that we genuinely needed. The whole process became quite cathartic and helped teams to consider how they could generally streamline processes to reduce the production of paperwork.
It’s also a great time to take on board new ideas from the team, there may be things they can suggest that could be missing in the old office but that would be much appreciated in the new location. The staff who are based in the office know what works well and what doesn’t, so it’s invaluable to take on board these points of view. Consider appointing a working group made up of representatives from across all teams in your organisation. This may help you to consider the layout in a more practical way as well as ensuring that you hear everyone’s good ideas.
If you have chosen wisely the new office should be the perfect size for your team and any planned growth, however there is unlikely to be a great excess of space and as it will be at a premium you need to think carefully about the mixture of working and living space. Most employees value a ‘break out’ space, be it a kitchen or a lounge area or even a games room if you have the resources. This will help to make employees feel valued and we have often found that these are the best spaces for the different teams to mix and get a real feeling of community across the business. Sometimes the best ideas and business planning can come from impromptu chats at the water cooler!
The process doesn’t finish when you enter the doors of your shiny new office either. As well as settling everyone in, there will be a need to train staff on new fire and health and safety training for the new facility. There may be teething problems with new facilities too, technical issues with IT or with the new building. If you have planned thoroughly and have the right professional support for the new facility and the IT systems, this can usually be resolved very quickly.
Overall an office move will be stressful at some level, even if it is the apprehension of moving to a new site! Getting the right professional advice on the move and the IT systems is invaluable and will probably save you money (and keep your blood pressure down!) throughout the process. It should also be seen as an opportunity to refresh the way you work, a chance to discard a lot of the accumulated files where possible and to create an environment that is fresh and conducive to your business, staff and their combined need.