The modern business environment is fluid, and organisations are constantly looking for ways that they can better adapt to serve their customer base. In recent years, changes to the ways in which organisations are structured, along with more flexible working practices, have seen an increasing level of relocations. Some businesses are expanding their facilities, while others are downsizing their real estate. Yet more are adopting a ‘non-centralised’ model, with satellite offices serving specific needs, rather than one single premises. It doesn’t matter why a business or organisation relocates. However, in an evolving business environment where technology and infrastructure plays an ever more pivotal role, the process can be fraught with challenges. Where once business relocations required” and were allowed” down time to move, today’s aggressive business world simply will not permit continuity to be broken. Wide demand for ‘just in time’ services, and an ‘always-on’ mentality means that customers simply will not accept organisations closing for the duration of a relocation. The process of staff packing physical items into boxes, those boxes being moved by a third party company, and staff unpacking at the other end, belongs in the past. Today businesses are reliant on networks, telecommunications, wide area connectivity and a host of other technologies that simply cannot be unplugged, driven to the new site, and plugged in again to be fully operational. Appropriate planning and policies to ensure continuity are essential if a business relocation is to go smoothly. Creating ‘champions’ For any business wanting to relocate, the most obvious considerations tend to start with those things that are physical. However, the most valuable asset of any business is, of course, its people, and this is often the best place to start. While the decision to move premises may be driven by many factors such as expansion, consolidation, an attractive lease break or other financial incentives, one important reason for any decision to relocate to pastures new is invariably to provide the employees of the business a new and better environment to increase their efficiency and productivity. It is important to involve staff as fully as possible in the planning and execution of the relocation. However, this ‘involvement’ does not mean using staff to move equipment and furniture! Instead, staff should be consulted and made fully aware of the move schedule and how it will affect them. The most effective way to involve people in the relocation is to nominate ‘move champions’. These are individuals within a team or department nominated to be the interface between the relocation manager” the person who will plan and sequence the move” and the relevant stakeholders. The relocation manager is typically someone employed by the business to manage the move, and they ideally should be someone within the business who has managed a move before. Alternatively, and this is often the norm, the business will bring in an independent move manager, a specialist move management contractor or a removal specialist that offers relocation management services. However, the ‘move champion’ is a key element of the process as they act as an interface, communicating information between the relocation manager and the staff. The relocation manager will usually have an exhaustive checklist of tasks and activities that need to be completed, while the ‘move champion’ helps to convey that information to the teams they oversee, as they know the characters within those groups. Relocation stages Naturally, the tasks to be completed vary from move to move, but typically there will be a number of common issues. These include asset reduction, personnel allocation, asset allocation, relocation instructions and relocation timelines. Asset reduction is best described as a ‘spring clean’ process. There is little point in spending time and resources in moving materials or devices that are no longer required. Therefore, prior to the relocation, departments should assess which materials” files, data and devices” are no longer required. Where files or data storage devices are to be disposed of, a licenced secure destruction company should be contracted. These companies will typically bring a destruction vehicle to the site. Items ranging from paper files through to CDs and DVDs, and even hard drives, can then be securely destroyed. A certificate will also be issued, covering any potential DPA issues. Asset reduction can also include everyday physical objects such as furniture. New furniture can be required where existing items don’t meet the design requirements for the new office layout. If new desks are required, it can be beneficial to have samples built up in the existing environment so that staff can see what they can expect following the move. Relocating desks can be expensive and time consuming. The alternative, disposal, can also be costly. Desks typically have no resale value as fashions change, and new zero landfill initiatives mean that they need to be broken down into metal, wood and plastics. Some removal companies are also licensed waste disposal agents and so can remove unwanted items from site to be broken down into component parts, with the material sold off to offset the cost of disposal. If this route is followed, relevant certification should be obtained to provide an appropriate audit trail. Chairs are simpler to relocate and if the existing stock is of good enough quality, organisations can have them reupholstered to match any new colour scheme. Personnel allocation is an important issue, both with regards to staff harmony and productivity. The nuts and bolts of this process determines where staff are positioned in the new office, and well as allocating space for each department. Similarly, asset allocation dictates where systems and files are located at the new site. It is important to ensure that departments have the documents and data they require close at hand. Relocation instructions should ensure the correct packing of both personal and general items into crates. The instructions should also cover labelling personal and IT equipment with details of the new location. This can be supplemented by floor plans to ensure a smoother connection process when the move is complete. Finally, a timeline for the relocation process should be created for each department. This must include timings for each stage of the relocation process. Infrastructure stability A successful move will be judged on how quickly the business returns to normal operations. On arrival at the new location for the first time, staff must be able to log on to their computers and make phone calls. This will be the acid test for any relocation. Relocation is an obvious opportunity to refresh equipment. If computers are being replaced, it is best to install them at the new location and test them fully prior to the move. Some changes can be done in conjunction with the relocation, saving time and effort. A pre-move audit of the IT infrastructure will help establish exactly what equipment will be relocated, and this will assist in identifying additional power and data requirements. Furthermore, it will also highlight equipment no longer required, and details can then be shared with WEEE disposal companies in order to maximise value. Any data storage devices no longer required, such as hard drives from computers or WORM media, should be securely destroyed. Simply wiping them is often insufficient. Typically, relocation engineers will decommission IT equipment on a Friday evening. This involves completing a check-sheet for each user and their equipment, noting details of configuration, even down to where peripheral devices are positioned. The equipment should then packed in designated IT crates, one for each user and labelled with the new desk position; it is then moved that evening and placed on the new desk. A goal would be for all devices to be relocated and reconnected on the Saturday of the weekend. Once initial testing proves satisfactory, work areas can be handed over for the in-house IT department to perform final checks before work recommences on the Monday morning. Relocation firms can offer additional services to help the in-house team, including printer mapping and the initiation of test scripts. These extra services may be chargeable, but allow the IT department to focus on ensuring all the internal systems are functioning. It also enables them to be available to deal with any other issues as they arise. During the relocation process, the servers and network equipment can either be moved, along with the rest of the business infrastructure, to the new premises, or to a co-location data centre. The planning process obviously needs to be more detailed here to ensure that all the prerequisites are in place to accept the relocated equipment. The considerations include power, cooling and ventilation, communications, cabling infrastructure and cabinets. The first part of the process requires a detailed audit of each rack. This establishes the exact current position and size of each item, the power requirements, the network requirements and the inter-connectivity between devices such as fibre. This data, along with the new rack configuration, is used to generate a check-sheet for each device and a schedule for when the devices are relocating. The check-sheet is the control documentation that requires sign off by the client and the IT relocation contractor at each stage of the move process. This prevents equipment from being wrongly removed, and also gives the client flexibility to remove a device from the schedule should there be an issue with it. Typically the relocation of server and related equipment happens outside normal working hours, and it’s normally advised to plan an early move of some non-production equipment. It is also advisable to create functional models of the final system. This allows testing in the new environment, and obviously builds confidence within the team when it comes to relocating live systems to the new premises. If using a relocation company, ensure it provides extensive insurance cover for the equipment. Also, check as to whether insurance cover extends to software or data failures. Having a disaster recovery process in place is vital, even where careful measures are taken to minimise the risk of failure or loss in the planning and handling of the equipment during relocation. In conclusion When a business relocation is required, the sooner an organisation begins to plan for the move and involves staff and contractors, the easier and less fraught the move will be. There’s typically a major focus on the fit-out and readiness of the new premises which seems to be all-consuming. Continuity is key, and continuity simply does not happen by accident. Providing that the pre-planning and the involvement of all the stakeholders has not been neglected, then the relocation of staff and equipment should pass without incident.