If your organization has decided to move to a new office building or make big changes to your existing systems and equipment, a surprising number of technology-related factors come into consideration. More surprising is how often these factors get missed or put off until it’s too late.
Many business owners who have previously gone through office moves believe they know what needs to be covered. But with the rate of technology advancement and the evolving needs of the modern-day workforce, how prepared are you really to tackle the IT side of a move? Just think about the number of smart TVs, controlled HVAC and automatic blinds and lights that exist now but weren’t around five years ago.
To help ensure a successful move or upgrade, make sure to follow these six tips:
1. Bring in IT during the floorplan design phase:
If you don’t involve IT until after your designs and floorplans have been finalized or even until after construction has begun, you’re going to be in for a shock when IT begins taking floorspace away for server rooms and ramping up your budget with additional expenses for essential equipment such as cabling, network jacks and switches and circuitry that can handle your power needs. For example, running network cabling when drywall is not yet in place is a quarter of the cost of fishing it through walls.
Bringing IT in during the design phase also gives them a chance to assess what’s been overlooked. They’ll consider where you need wireless coverage for access point locations; how much cabling you’ll need to support the number of phones, computers and printers in a specific area; how many network jacks and switches you’ll need and where to place them; and where the ideal server room space is. It’s cheaper and more efficient in the long run to involve IT early.
Not to mention that we’ve seen organizations try to put high-end network equipment in the same room as office plumbing equipment that contains pressurized water. If it springs a leak, that’s thousands of dollars in IT equipment destroyed. It pays to avoid treating IT like a simple utility — especially if you’re in a regulated industry such as health care or finance where noncompliance with security regulations could cost you big.
2. Put someone in charge:
Some organizations choose to completely outsource their IT to a third-party vendor that works on a time and materials basis. You may expect this company to play a big role in your office move, but in reality, they’re going to wait for your organization to dictate what you need them to do. Without proper direction, vital issues will get overlooked.
We’ve seen organizations assume their general contractor will take care of cabling needs, but then the general contractor assumes IT will fulfill those needs. Or the contractor brings in an electrical subcontractor to do low-voltage cabling, only for the electrician to put cabling in the most “cost-effective” places — cost-effective for the general contractor, that is — and not where your office’s desks are actually going to be. And then you have to run unsightly cables across the floor.
It pays to have a group of people in charge who can take all of this into consideration. One person may not know absolutely everything about how to ensure all technology needs are met in a new office or during a big upgrade, but a group minimizes the chances of something getting overlooked. Wipfli, for example, has performed this role for many clients, becoming a centralized place of information and managing the different groups and vendors involved in the move.
3. Sign contracts early:
This is a simple one. The earlier you sign your contracts, the more likely it is everything will be in place on day one of your move. For example, there’s typically a 90-day lead time for phone service. If your new office is two months from going live and you haven’t signed the contracts to move your phone numbers from your old office to your new office, that’s going to cause a huge delay. Your office can’t move without phone service.
4. Take the opportunity to upgrade technology during a move:
If you’re moving offices, chances are you’re taking out loans and budgeting what you’ll need for the move. However, upgrading your equipment doesn’t cost that much more than moving your old equipment from one place to another, and if you roll upgraded equipment into the building move, it gets expended over 20 to 30 years. Additionally, when you upgrade your equipment, you can significantly improve performance and save money by not replacing end-of-life equipment soon
after you’ve moved it from your old office.
For growing organizations, there’s another consideration when moving buildings: Not all equipment scales the same. If you’ve grown from a small business, utilizing your old equipment, but expecting more from it in a larger office may result in lower performance. Don’t spend money on moving into a new building only to see bad performance because your technology hasn’t scaled with your organization.
5. Develop a business continuity plan:
This is all about minimizing downtime. For some organizations, it’s not life-or-death to have their systems go down on day one because something wasn’t done right somewhere along the way (although the longer you’re down, the more revenue you’re losing). If you’re a hospital, on the other hand, unplanned downtime is not an option. But no matter what industry you’re in, working with a specialist on business continuity planning will help you prepare for the possibility that things may go wrong, assess your risks and lay out a strategy for what you can do to get up and running again.
6. Partner with the right people:
Is there someone in your organization who has full knowledge of how security, phone, camera, audio, network and monitoring systems all interact? Do they know which departments should be responsible for planning your move and when to bring them in? Are they able to manage your vendors? Have they worked out the processes and standards that will make the move run smoothly and ensure nothing gets overlooked? With everything involved in a move, especially on the technology side, consider partnering with people who have done it all before and have the time to devote to getting it right. After all, your employees already have full-time jobs.
No matter what the situation, proper planning and capitalizing on these six steps will help you be successful in your upcoming office move or IT upgrade.
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Jeff Anger is a senior consultant with Wipfli’s IT management team.