IT Challenges of the Mergers, Movers and Shakers – Part 3
Making best use of the information gathered.
In Part 1 of this three-part blog I shared several life experiences and in Part 2 I looked at the information gathering process. In the final part of this three-part blog I look at other aspects of a successful merger, move and acquisition including preparing for every eventuality.
Once gathered and collated the above information will provide a good foundation for a move, merger or strategy. Knowing your IT estate in detail is an essential part of your plan to get you where you want to be. It all sounds so obvious but in my experience it is rare to find an organisation that has all of the above information to hand. There are some rare exemplary examples where organisations have every user, application and cable detailed, but these tend to be in organisations where security is of utmost importance and they need this level of management and detail for compliance reasons.
There is one final point I want to mention here about the detail but not necessarily specifically about IT. The physical desk top environment. When we consider moving someone from one location to another whether it is within the building or to another building we need to put ourselves in their shoes. If 20, 30, 50, 100 a 1000 staff arrive at their new location on Monday morning and can’t find anything this will massively impact on productivity and could upset customers, clients, suppliers, the list goes on. If a move is successful no one other than the people actually involved in the move should be impacted.
“I have seen some brutal desk moves where the IT or admin manager has literally swiped his arm across the desk and swept everything in to a plastic box…”
You really don’t want anyone outside of your organisation to be told that they will have to call back or be called back later because. “We have just moved office and I can’t find anything.” This of course assumes the person being called can actually answer the phone. I arrived at an office in the City for a meeting a few years ago on a Monday morning. I signed in at reception and was told the department I was there to see had just gone through a big internal move and none of their phones were working. The handsets were actually working, but the numbers were assigned to the wrong handsets in other areas of the building. It was chaos. I waited nearly 40 minutes in reception before quietly slipping away leaving them to their mayhem.
This just should not happen. There is no reason why a move should go so catastrophically wrong, yet they do. If things do go wrong the problem must lie with Project Management and the lack of due diligence – days, weeks or possibly months before the actual move.
Due diligence should run to the wire as every detail has a value. If you can reproduce a user’s original physical desk layout in the new location they will undoubtedly be more productive when they arrive. A trip to the new building before the actual move will finalise any outstanding detail like coffee machine location, toilets, etc. If the user sits at the desk Monday morning and has everything laid out in the same way as Friday evening you have the greatest chance of success.
I have seen some brutal desk moves where the IT or admin manager has literally swiped his arm across the desk and swept everything in to a plastic box which was unceremoniously dumped on the seat in the new location. Thinking about it, I have seen office moves carried out in the past and the user wasn’t even aware they were going to be moved until they arrived in on Monday morning. First class people management!
“…it is worth considering spending some time prior to the move training department champions.”
When every last bit of available information about the IT estate is gathered, every last detail of that gathered information needs to be incorporated into a project plan. Consider everything that is going to change, especially if any systems are going to be replaced or upgraded as part of the overall project. The more you change the more difficult it will be to determine whether any problems that arise are due to the relocation or the new system. The best way to combat this is to do as much as possible before the final relocation day and to make sure everything you do is backed up by a thorough test plan. I cannot emphasise this point enough, testing is vital to the success of the move so make sure it is thorough and relevant.
If you are managing a relocation or merger you have some fixed parameters that are not going to budge such as the relocation date and the amount of time you have during the actual move. During these projects IT staff are likely to be stretched so it is worth considering spending some time prior to the move training department champions. For large and complex projects where there are system changes as well as relocations you may want to consider several champions. Maybe one for the phone system, another for desktop systems and another for physical desktop issues. This will free up IT staff to handle the technical issues.
“…when there are some last minute changes to the plan, they need to managed differently, as if they are in intensive care.”
To summarise, we need a thorough audit of the IT estate to include the user environment, systems and passive and active network infrastructure. The detail from the audit enables a comprehensive project plan to be created with everything learned taken into consideration. And finally and vitally a test plan to verify every stage of the project plan. Before I close I just want to look at how these three components would have helped us in the three examples discussed earlier.
A comprehensive test plan would have prevented the static addressing mishap bringing down the entire WAN. It may have even discovered that the DHCP issue earlier enough to afford time to resolve it. Who knows? What I do know from experience is the more thorough the test plan the less likely something will come back and bite you. Somewhere in the test plan (and possibly the project plan) would have been an item relating to access to the network equipment to facilitate troubleshooting or an experienced network engineer on site to assist with troubleshooting when required. This is an essential requirement
While on the subject of the static addressing issue, when there are some last minute changes to the plan, they need to managed differently, as if they are in intensive care. If someone on the ‘Bridge’ was given responsibility to monitor the static IP configuration progress on a device by device basis the problem may have been spotted and resolved before it impacted on the WAN. Had the Bridge been testing each device as soon they appeared on the network it would have confirmed the device was configured correctly.
The totally exposed network would have definitely been picked up with a comprehensive test plan if not with a detailed project plan. A major factor in any security plan is understanding the IT estate and environment in great detail. Unless you understand it you cannot really secure it!
And what about the 90 minute login? A detailed user survey would have definitely picked this up. This is a particularly important point for an incoming Head of IT taking over an IT estate from a predecessor. I have lost count of the number of times an IT person has told me the the network was working fine and the users have nothing to complain about when the reality is dire. The users often have the most valuable information about the IT estate, and the effort required to gather the information is generally worth it.
Before you say it is always easy with the benefit of hindsight, I absolutely agree. But isn’t that the art of excellent project delivery? Use your experience and foresight to build a plan for every eventuality, including last minute unforeseen eventualities.
“We got stuck in the lift at around 7pm on a Saturday evening.”
One final point. I was involved in a big relocation project some years ago. It was a large City currency broker with hundreds of dealing desks, an international WAN and global teleconferencing system. Something occurred that required my team and the customer’s senior IT people to go to a specific area of the building, several floors up. I learned a valuable ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ lesson that day that hadn’t occurred to me before. Don’t have all of the senior resource required to deliver the project successfully travel in the same lift together. We got stuck in the lift at around 7pm on a Saturday evening. We eventually got out and all ended well but it could have easily led to a disaster.
Think about all of the things that could prevent a key member of the team from being on site in your time of need and have a fall back plan ready. Consider the weather (we had a lovely snow fall mid weekend of a major customer move), illness, car breakdown, wife going into labour, pet taken ill or injured – I have experienced them all! Also bear in mind key members of staff going absent after the start of the project as this can be extremely disruptive. If you think of everything you can that could go wrong before the relocation, merger or whatever major event you are planning, you will know what to do should the problem arise. Forewarned is forearmed!