Sometimes companies want to move locations. This is a fact of business. This is usually a nerve racking event for IT support staff. In my time with Trigon Technology, I have been through several medium size company moves. Some went well and some had challenges. Having just managed a successful project to move a medium size company, I wanted to share some thoughts on the project.
I have found that there five key elements you need in place for success. There may be more based on your own views and experience, these are the ones I felt needed to be brought forth. The five elements I want to bring up are:
The oblivious one is planning. Everyone knows you need to plan out a move. The aspect of planning that I found that gets missed is the level of planning, especially if the move is to a new location not very far away. The closer the destination, the more casual approach to the planning seems to be true.
Proper planning is the cornerstone for a successful move. A detailed plan with assigned tasks, steps, checklists, and alternative plans will allow you to react to unexpected plan changes and disruptions. A detailed plan will give you the framework to adjust other tasks affected by the disrupting event and properly redeploy resources. When planning out any sizeable project I use Ms Project. Whatever tool you use, make sure you understand what each tasks depends on and what tasks are depended on it.
This isn't just being prepared to do the move, but getting everything done you can do ahead of time. It is easy to put some tasks off till the move since "we will be moving anyway so...." By having the move planned and the tasks dependencies known, you can get tasks done ahead to save time during the move. Things will get missed in the move itself if there is too much going on. In my last move I front loaded as many tasks as possible knowing that the last two weeks before the move would have additional tasks, requests, and scope creep. We had all of our checklists, scripts, configurations for network gear, schema changes, and scheduling done ahead of time to allow us time for dealing with the issues that came up at the end. This helped tremendously as we were able to stay on task, not overextend ourselves, and address all the issues.
Communicating in any project is a key element for success. I found in moving it is especially important. You, as the IT manager, need to understand what the owner's/client's expectations are and what the reality is. They may think that downtime of a few hours is going to be the only disruption, when in reality it will take 12 hours to get the servers moved, deployed, and set up. If you cannot provide the few hours downtime you need to come up a plan to meet their needs. The communication has to happen at all milestones or issue that comes up. Just make sure you are communicating to the right person, not every stakeholder wants to know all the details. Know who needs to know what. I used MS OneNote on this project to organize the documents, plans, and checklists, everything that would be in a hardcopy binder. This proved to be a great help with the communication piece. I was able to show the stakeholders the plan and supporting documents during GoToMeeting calls and be prepared for the ad-hoc meetings that occur. The file could be sent or stored on web share for access as well.
Make sure you have your resources on hand or staged for use during the move. These include staffing, equipment, spares in case of issues, and tools. For staffing, once I figure out how many people I need to do the move, I add one more. Remember, as the project manager you will not and should not be doing tasks. Someone needs to oversee and make sure all the teams are working toward the same goal and have the resources they need to complete their tasks. If you are in the trenches doing the work, you will not see the overall picture. I have fallen into this mistake before while trying to help out, but end up hurting the project because I missed an issue with one team that rippled to other teams. Having the additional staff member will make sure you do not need to get involved at a basic task level. There are also issues that arise during the move that will need to get addressed right away; having someone you can allocate to the issue without shorting another team is invaluable to keeping to schedule.
By having the move planned out in detail you will also know what tools and additional equipment will be needed for what tasks when. Getting the right tools to the staff for the work will save on downtime and help morale. Along with the right equipment, I highly recommend having spare workstations and servers ready to go in case there are issues due to accidents or a machine just giving up the ghost. Make sure your backups are all good for the servers and critical equipment, accidents happen to them too.
After you have the projected planned, everyone is on the same page because you communicated, the right equipment and staff are in place, and the move happens. Your using your checklists to make sure the tasks are done and that the staff is working on right items. You need to make sure you follow up on the tasks to validate their success. Using checklists with accountability built into them is a start. But you need to check that the items checked were actually completed and not just checked off. By going over the work you are performing the quality control for the move. Making sure that the tasks are getting done they way you want them to be is key. You have the vision of the project and you need to make sure that your standards are met. You will be the one standing on the carpet if things are not right.
Hopefully this will help some of you out there. If you need any motivation for planning, do a search for failed moves or projects and you will find many examples of moves that did not go well. Some are outright scary on how badly they failed and the consequences of the failure. Remember, a company move is a planned disaster. Make sure you have a way to recover from it.
If your Philadelphia area organization needs help with an IT Move, contact Trigon Technology today at 1-888-494-TRIGON or by email at solutions@TrigonIT.com.