How to manage technology during a move to minimize your company’s downtime Featured

9:01pm EDT September 30, 2011
How to manage technology during a move to minimize your company’s downtime

Moving a business or opening a new office is a complex operation, and the ability to make a smooth IT transition is critical for reducing downtime, maintaining productivity and avoiding frustration for employees and clients.

“Moving is a formidable task,” says Shawn Sturgeon, sales engineer manager at Time Warner Cable Business Class. “A business can prepare by carefully planning how IT systems will be disconnected, relocated and installed at the new location. The key is to minimize the risk of downtime, which can be a serious financial and customer-relationship threat.”

Planning is critical to the success of a move, and Sturgeon emphasizes the importance of documenting IT processes and involving the right technology staff, from the chief information officer to network administrators. Ultimately, the key is to manage technology in such a way that customers will not notice the move, as their calls will continue to be answered and their needs tended to, their e-mails will arrive without error and the company will continue to provide service.

Smart Business spoke with Sturgeon about how to effectively manage technology when moving or opening new offices, from the initial planning to the decommissioning of old equipment.

What should businesses consider as they are planning a move to ensure a smooth IT transition?

Companies that keep detailed documentation of their IT systems and processes will find it easier to prepare for a move than those that do not put these integral business operations in writing. As a standard course of business, you should maintain a solid library of documentation that identifies what systems the company runs and what services the business uses.

What is included in the company’s IT inventory? What telephone lines exist, and what lines do these phones ring to when dialed? What contracts with external IT resources does the company hold? Who is responsible for managing specific technology roles, and what do those jobs include?

Proper documentation not only impacts your ability to manage technology during a move, but it can also reduce turnover in IT staff and ensure that the company maintains its IT intelligence if a key technology employee leaves the business. Because if your network administrator or IT manager leaves, does anyone know how to keep technology operations running? Your documentation will lay the groundwork for a moving plan.

While planning, begin to take inventory of what IT infrastructure you will move to the new location and what equipment you will retire. Will you need to buy more equipment? What services will you transfer, and will you need different or more IT services? What providers do you currently work with, and will you transfer this business when you move?

Begin planning as much in advance as possible, and be sure to communicate openly with technology staff and all employees so there is an understanding of what will happen on move day.

Who should be involved in the IT system moving process?

A key part of planning is identifying who is involved in the moving process and the role of each individual. In advance, identify who will be involved in the move from top level down to the workstation level with the people who will physically move the equipment and set it up.

Generally speaking, in large organizations, the chief information officer will head up the team, including an IT director down to telecom managers, IT managers and network administrators. In smaller firms, there might be a single person responsible for IT operations who oversees the move. Additionally, external resources will assist with the move in various capacities. These might include systems integrators that manage day-to-day operations of servers and applications, and service providers, such as telephone system vendors, Internet providers, wireless network providers, etc.

How can a technology move be executed to minimize downtime and frustration?

While there is certain to be some downtime during a move, the key is to minimize the time during which your business is disconnected. Identify, based on team members, how much time is required to set up each workstation. Then decide the best time to move, whether that is during a weekend or a weekday night.

Timing will likely depend on how quickly you can make the move and on the complexity of your move. Decide who will physically move the equipment — movers who specialize in IT relocation, or internal staff? Once equipment and service have arrived at the new location, who will put them in place and connect them, and how will they be tested to be sure all technology is operational?

How can a business securely decommission technology that isn’t going to make the move?

What will you do with old servers or systems you decide to no longer use after the move? You need a plan for how to decommission this equipment and how to ‘clean’ it to ensure that there is no business-critical information left on hard drives, servers and other hardware. There are agencies that specialize in disposing of IT equipment so be sure to ask them how they manage to do this securely. Along the same lines, determine what services must be disconnected at your old business location. Otherwise, you could end up paying double for services that were not cancelled.

Moving technology is a complex feat, but by involving a team of responsible individuals who understand their role in the moving process and employing outside vendors such as trusted service providers that understand your technology needs, you can make the process go smoothly and reduce costly downtime.

Shawn Sturgeon is a sales engineer manager for Time Warner Cable Business Class Midwest. Reach him at (330) 572-3913 or shawn.sturgeon@twcable.com.