What to consider before moving a client's IT department

Nobody likes to move, but imagine moving a business! If you're called upon to help move a client's IT department, be sure to have this helpful checklist handy during the planning stage.

 Most small to medium businesses move at least once because they've outgrown their space. Well, you might think moving to a new home is a pain, but trust me, moving a business is a lot more complicated.

If your client moves, you're bound to be involved in the process. As soon as you hear the news, offer to supervise and coordinate the move of all IT components. Depending on your level of involvement, here's a basic checklist of preparations to ensure that moving the IT components goes smoothly.

  • I strongly suggest that you draw up a new contract. In the contract, make sure the client is responsible for all expenses, regardless of who actually pays the bills. In addition (and I can't stress this too strongly), include a clause that states clearly and without limits that you are responsible only for the equipment specifically mentioned in the contract (be sure to make that list as specific as possible).
  • If you've never moved an IT department before, consider hiring your own consultant to help.
  • Even if the mover you contract carries insurance, check with your client's insurer and your own. It might be cheaper and more efficient to attach a temporary rider while moving.
  • Before you move anything, inventory the equipment. You should already have a good inventory list, but you may need to update it. Check with the client's controller if you don't have a working list.
  • If you haven't already done so, shop around and find the most reliable and reasonably priced outfits specializing in IT equipment. Talk with their representatives to discuss rates, insurance, and so on. Ask if they have a storage facility, just in case. Try to set up a corporate account ahead of time — that will save you a lot of paperwork later, and you might get a better rate. And, just in case, have a backup company ready to go too.
  • Make sure the new location can satisfy the client's IT requirements. Realistically, you should be involved in the actual selection process, so you can help weed out a potential space that isn't adequate for the client's IT needs.
  • Determine how many lines the company will need at the new location for phones, Internet, and the company's Wide Area Network (WAN). Most likely, the new location will need work long before you can move in and set up shop. It can take a month to order and install a T1 line. Phone lines can take a couple of weeks, but don't depend on it. (It took over two weeks just to get DSL and cable TV installed in my home. Some communities just don't move as quickly as others.) Tell the client you need at least 60 days to get services ordered and installed. If you get it done quicker, you look great.
  • If the move is a result of growth, make sure phone and Internet systems in the new location have the capacity to sustain the projected growth. You'll want to work closely with the client's management. They probably already have this information — just ask them.
  • Perform a quick audit to find services the client no longer needs and cancel them. While you're at it, assess new services that might serve your client well. If you end up talking to vendors, don't hesitate to work a better rate for the client's current services.
  • This is a good time to purchase new equipment. You should at least broach the subject.
  • Make sure the client can take current phone numbers to the new location.
  • Once you know where the client's going and what the client needs, order the services. Keep all paperwork and receipts together and make sure they're on hand the day of the move.
  • If anyone requires payment the day of service, make sure you have the checks signed and ready. If the client is paying the bill directly, don't forget that their accounting department is also moving, so don't spring the request on them at the last minute.
  • If IT is a critical resource, how will you keep the business up and running while everyone else is moving? Not every company can unplug its IT department even for a few minutes, let alone for a day or two.

Remember that this isn't a comprehensive checklist for moving day; it's a list of things you should consider long before moving day. (If you're supervising and coordinating the actual move, you'll need someone to help because you can't be in two places at one time. Choose this person well ahead of time and include them in the planning stage.)

Have you helped a client move its IT department? If so, tell us what worked and what didn't.

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Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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