From an ICT perspective, we at Dog and Bone know from long experience that relocating to a new office is hard. The key, as always, is to be prepared.
It almost never goes as smoothly as you might have hoped, and although you will generally get the result you were after eventually, the journey there is more unpredictable and arduous that you could imagine. Having said that, there are some important factors to bear in mind, which can make the whole thing go as smoothly as possible.
One of the core services that Dog and Bone offers is office relocations (as part of our Project Management service). Given that we are an ICT consultancy, readers probably won’t be astounded to learn that our role in such projects is largely concerned with data and telecommunications (although Adam has strong opinions on feng shui, and will grow impassioned when discussing the value of the chaise lounge within the contemporary workplace).
With that in mind, here are six ICT-related issues that an SME needs to consider to ensure a successful and smooth site relocation.
1. Budget thoroughly
This might seem obvious, but have you properly budgeted for this project from an ICT perspective? You'd be amazed how often we discover that many of the costs of moving have not been factored in, such as organisational downtime, the costs of contract alterations or cancellations, or even new equipment.
Your new premises will often be strikingly different to your old one, with different requirements. It is almost always the case that the ICT costs at the new site won’t be the same as before (whether higher or lower).
Often this is a good time to take a thorough look at your organisation’s various ICT services, with a view to improving efficiency, generating savings or both.
2. Schedule generously, and be realistic with timeframes
If you are intending to review your ICT needs, you’ll need to commence this process several months before the move is due to take place, since you’ll need sufficient time to gather information, assess how the marketplace can meet those requirements, make a decision, then deal with the nitty-gritty of contracts, installations and other sundry affairs.
Even if you aren’t changing anything, you will need to work out realistic time-frames for setting up the new office. For example, new ISDN lines can take up to six weeks to install, so they need to be ordered well before the actual move takes place. Have you confirmed that all necessary cabling will be completed before line installations occur?
Once again, has organisational downtime been factored in? There are always delays during this process, and it almost never happens that your staff will leave the old premises on a Friday afternoon, and be able to start at the new office first thing Monday morning. It pays to have a cushion, so to speak.
Related to this, and to the next point (Staff), many of actions involved in an office relocation will require a staff member to be on-site, who is across the relevant parts of the job. This will include allowing providers (both telecommunications and data) access to the site for installations, as well as being on hand while your phone system tech programs your PABX, and performs the cut-over. This is all in addition to the normal requirements of construction workers.
3. Think of your staff
If you are setting up a new office, have you determined that you have a right number of phone lines? The industry standard for normal offices is one line per three staff (1:3), although the ratio is much closer to 1:1 for call centres. You will also need additional PSTN lines for utility services, such as fire alarm, EFTPOS or lifts.
Do you have a floor plan? Again, this is an obvious point but you’d be surprised how often this hasn’t been adequately worked out, even with cable installations already underway.
Do you anticipate any future staff expansion? Has this been accounted for? Can your phone system handle it? Which brings me to . . .
4. Consider your phone system.
The phone system is often the trickiest part of an office relocation, mostly because it is neglected or misunderstood. Always make sure you use a trusted phone system tech for this, who is fully qualified with the brand you are using.
A new office will likely require a new phone system, whereas a relocated office will have the option either to move the old one, or to acquire a new one. Office moves are often a great time to think about upgrading your phone system, and considering alternatives (such as VoIP). But this is not necessary.
Such details will need to be worked out well ahead of time. Phone system and number porting issues are often the most delicate from a scheduling point-of-view. The usual practice is to have the lines ported on a Friday afternoon, so that they are ready to go at the new premises first thing Monday morning. From long experience, I can say that it never works out quite like you think it will (but it’s nice to dream).
Your phone system tech will need to be on site for the cutover process, generally at your expense.
5. Phone numbers don't just port themselves
The chances are you will want to retain your existing business number, which will require it to be ported. This is not free, and once again must be organised well in advance. This is especially the case if you’re using a Layer Two provider (i.e. a provider who doesn’t own their own telecommunications infrastructure, but leases it from Telstra or Optus), since they will need to negotiate with the infrastructure provider. This is often an area when you discover just how good your provider is from a customer service point-of-view.
Bear in mind that even if you are using ISDN infrastructure, you will still need PSTN lines for utility services, such as fire alarms, EFTPOS and lifts.
6. And don't forget Data.
In addition to your phones, a new office is often a great time to take a good look at your data needs. It is often the case that these needs will be different at the new site from the old one. Have you fully assessed those needs for your new site? They might be different from your current site, for any number of reasons.
Perhaps the new site can be serviced by a better technology that wasn't available at your old one. Perhaps the reverse is true.
Even if you decide your current data service still meets your needs, you must make sure it can in fact be relocated. This will depend upon a range of factors, such as your provider, your contract with them, and the type of service.