Helping a Client Move Their Office?
What's the worst way to make a major move? Without planning!
As a rule, we don't do a lot of client moves (helping a client move from one office to another). So we may not have a good checklist for moves. To be honest, we don't have a "real" checklist. But we have a long list of general guidelines for our project manager.
The keys to success in helping your client move are:
- Have as much knowledge as possible at every stage.
- Make sure everything you do is in a service request (you'll create more than one).
- Plan everything as much as you can.
Given that you're going to make money, you can turn your attention to helping your client have a very positive experience during a very stressful time. The more you can do your job professionally and flawlessly, the more you'll shine when it's all over.
As you can see from the checklist below, there are LOTS of details that need your attention. That means you might have a fair bit of stress as well. You reduce that stress by planning as much as you can as far in advance as you can. And as with all things technical, the more pieces of the puzzle you control, the smoother you can make everything work.
Sometimes events are out of your control. But it is extremely rare that an office move has no planning and no advance notice. In fact, it is much more likely that an office move will involve a "build-out" of the new location. That means changes to electrical and network wiring. It means adding an internet connection.
All of that adds up to time so you can do some planning.
Here's a checklist of things to consider the next time you help a client move:
1. As soon as possible
- Meet with the client to define what they need from you, schedules, and budget.
- Determine how involved you will be.
- - You probably want to price yourself out of the business of helping with non-technical stuff. As a rule, moving assistance is a lot cheaper than tech support, so you won't get away with $150/hr.
- - If you cover vendor management in your managed service contract, which vendors will you take charge of?
- - If you take on additional vendor management, who will you be working with (e.g., copier company, security company)?
- - Make a list of all the services you are willing to perform or manage. This includes I.T. and other services such as managing subcontractors for waste management, janitorial, security systems, etc.
- Create a Service Ticket to verify that all client documentation is up to date. It should be, but we're all human.
- If you have servers that are visible from the outside world (email, web server, ftp server, media server, etc.), create a service request for each server. Determine how you will minimize downtime. Get new IP addresses as soon as you can. Consider if this is a good time to move some services to the Cloud.
- - If possible, separate these moves from the big office move. It is not always possible, but it's a great idea if you can do it.
- Create a master contact list for the move. This includes names, cell phone numbers, and email addresses for everyone involved in the move:
- - Your key team members.
- - Your client's key team members.
- - Phone company contact.
- - Internet Service Provider(s).
- - Line of Business software support.
- - All other vendors (copy machines, voicemail, cabling, electrical, moving service, waste management, etc.).
- - All key software and hardware companies who might assist with anything on the server, desktops, or network equipment.
- Agree on the move date.
2. One to four weeks before the move
- When will the new Internet connection go in?
- - (Who is the new ISP? If not the same as old, which services need to be moved as well? Will we be coordinating the installation and managing the vendor on this?)
- This is a great opportunity to upgrade the client firewall. A firewall that's just a few years old will not handle the new higher speeds available today.
- This is a great opportunity to upgrade the client switch(es) as well. Ideally, you will install all-Gigabit or even 10 GB switches. Many offices have Gigabit NICs on all of their computers, but have mostly 100 Mb switches.
- Test all battery backups. Because they tend to be purchased in batches, they also tend to fail in batches. Plan to buy new equipment for the new office and do not move bad equipment.
- Once you know how much equipment will be in the new server room (including phone systems, security systems, etc.), verify that you have sufficient battery backups for all equipment.
- Ask your primary client contact to review warranties and service contracts for all equipment (Network equipment, servers, desktops, laptops, copiers, printers, etc.). Have them verify that warranties are not voided if someone other than the vendors moves the equipment.
- If you can be involved in selecting the wiring room/server room, that would be ideal. More likely, there's already a room selected. You should make sure it has adequate electricity. That means at least one or two isolated 30-amp circuits with four outlets each. There should be adequate ventilation for the amount of equipment in use.
- If you can be involved in the network wiring, that's good as well. Even if you don't do the wiring, encourage the client to get at least two drops per workstation. I like to encourage them to put the outlets about 36-42 inches off the floor so they're accessible. That's just me. Cat6 is now standard.
- To the extent possible, work with the cabling folks to make sure that network connections are labeled on each end (server room and at the wall plate).
- When wiring is completed, post a wiring map with network drop numbers. This is very handy for many pieces of the move/set up.
- If you handle phones, audit the lines in use and eliminate any that are no longer needed. If the move is due to growth or expansion, make sure the new site has enough lines and equipment to handle the load (and expected growth).
- As you acquire new equipment (router, firewall, new PCs, etc.), be certain that everything is set up properly and documented. There's no point starting "behind" in the documentation process.
- If you need to build equipment racks or shelves, do this in the week before the move. If possible, do it at the new location. If not, do what you can to assemble them at the old office so they can be moved and assembled quickly at the new location.
- Design the new network the way you want it to be. That means you review your company's IP Address Allocation policy and set up the new network accordingly. For example you might put router, firewall, and managed switches in the 1-10 range, servers in the 11-30 range, printers in the 31-50 range, and DHCP at 101-200.
- Verify that you are getting good backups every night (or whatever your schedule is). Keep verifying this every day. Really. You cannot take a chance that you'll have a glitch at this critical time. That is what managed service is about.
- Determine the locations for network printers, scanners, time card machines, video cameras, and any other equipment that touches the new network at the new place.
- Create Service Requests. That's multiple. Create a few service requests - one for each area of responsibility you take on. Do not create just one SR and call it "Help with move." For example, you might have one for managing the I.T. move, one for configuring the new network, one for take down/set up of equipment, and one for fine-tuning after the move.
- Prepare memos for your primary contact and all users. Explain what you'll be doing, when you expect to do it, and let them know what you expect from THEM. Do not rely on your contact to spread the word. She's overwhelmed with all the other details. You own this process; you own the communication.
- If there are more desktops than you can set up and test in a day, hire temps or recruit folks from your local I.T. Pro user group. Make sure you have enough help!
- Create a checklist for every single thing that must be done at each desktop when you set it up at the new location. See "Fine Tune Checklist" in next section.
- Create a master checklist of every single piece of equipment you expect to touch. This includes network equipment, servers, desktops, laptops, cameras, copy machines, printers, etc. Everything. This list will be printed out and used to keep track of the successful configuration and testing of every single device on the day of the move.
3. On the Day Before and Day of The Move(Very often, the actual move begins the day before. Sometimes it begins when work ends at 5 PM. Other times, it begins at 8 AM the day before so there's plenty of time for everyone to pack up their office.
- Arrange to have each user shut down and uplug everything from their desktop computer. Work with your contact to get everyone a moving box or paper file box for their desk. All of their computer-related stuff goes in that box. In this way, each person keeps their keyboard, mouse, speakers, wires, etc.
- At the new office you and your team re-assemble all computers. Do not encourage or let end-users do this. Make sure you have a plan for how you will handle the situation if a machine fails to start up at the new office.
- If you have the personnel to do so, assign one person to have primary responsibility for the network (firewall, switches, server, etc.), one person primary responsibility for the desktops and laptops, and one person in charge of tackling all the little weird stuff that comes up. The most technically competent person should be on the network, the next most competent should be on fighting fires, and the rest of the team should be on desktops.
- At the new location on day of setup, your project lead should show up at 8:00 AM and verify what's going on, where the equipment is, and generally get ready for the day. You'll be amazed at what can happen at this moment: No Internet; no electricity; all the desktop machines dumped in the conference room; network wiring is 50% complete; your primary contact will be an hour late; none of the monitors have arrived yet from the old location; and so forth. Therefore . . .
- Schedule your team to arrive at 9:00 AM or even 10:00 AM. That gives you time to make sure everything's ready, and what additional chores need to be added to the list in order to be successful today.
- Before the desktop team arrives, Fine Tune the Checklist. That means you set up one machine and go through every single step in order. If you left something blank, it needs to be filled in here. For example, if you did not settle on an IP configuration at the time the checklist was created, you need to fill that in now. Make any necessary changes to the checklist and then print a copy for each workstation.
- When you think you're finished, test the server and network equipment at the new site.
- - Verify firewalls are properly configured.
- - Verify that you can access the Internet.
- - Verify that all servers are working properly, have no errors in the event logs, can reach the internet, can print, and all services are started.
- - Verify that all network printers are working.
- - Verify that all other network-connected devices are working properly.
- When you think you're finished, test the desktops/laptops at the new site.
- - Verify that all computers can access the internet.
- - Verify that all computers can connect to file shares, print, and both send and receive email to an outside address.
- - If you're involved with the phones, verify that the desktop telephone is working.
Note on Physically Moving Equipment.
Check with your insurance agent, but my advice is that you and your team should actually move nothing. You can take machines apart and put them together. But all moving should be done by the client or their moving company. Do not take on that responsibility.
4. After the move
- Plan on having someone onsite the first full workday after the move. Ideally, this person will have a few unrelated service tickets to work. They should just "be around" enough to fix little issues that arise, but they should be doing productive work rather than just waiting around.
- Verify that all documentation is up to spec. That means new equipment is documented on site in the Network Documentation Binder and in your PSA. If configurations changed on old equipment, their documentation needs to be updated. New network IP schemes need to be documented, etc. Everything. Everything. Everything.
- Agree with client on how old, unused, broken, and obsolete equipment will be handled. You might help them donate it to charity, take it to the recycling center, or sell it on Ebay. Make a plan. If the job is big, this might be a separate service request.
No matter how small the office, a move is a major project. It will have lots of stress from various stakeholders. Your team needs to be the calmest, best prepared, and most professional people on the job throughout this process. In times of stress, people naturally gravitate to those who appear the most calm and collected.
Remember: Something will go wrong. You don't know what it is or how big of a problem it is. But you'll find, fix it, and move on. It could be really big. With luck, it will be really small.
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About this Series
SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.
Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at SmallBizThoughts.com.
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Next week's topic: Assign Techs or Rotate Them?