How Firstline IT managed its own office move

Firstline IT were bursting out of the Oxford, Howard Street offices where they had been based for over ten years. They needed space to seat a growing number of IT engineers; space to accommodate its burgeoning colocation and cloud-hosting business; and space in which to hold meetings with clients who were increasingly coming to Firstline for IT strategy advice and help with complex projects.

They chose their new premises opposite the BMW factory on Oxford’s Eastern Bypass because it had the space they needed, and also because it was little more than a shell. They could organise the space and facilities exactly how they wanted them.

Firstline outsourced the building and decorating work to a specialist office refurbishment company. But of course they had all the IT and telecoms expertise they could ever need in-house. John Crozier, Operations Director, and Nim Nagalingam, Technical Director, were in charge.

Planning the Move

John and Nim were in absolutely no doubt that they needed a fibre-optic leased line – and that was all they would need, as they planned to use VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) for the telephone system. This meant that they would be doing away with traditional copper telephone lines and dependence on a local exchange. All their telephone calls would go through the internet, allowing them to take advantage of the technology’s potential for supporting collaboration and team-working. They also devised a cunning plan for making sure that they could keep the same office telephone number and that there was no disruption at all during the move.

Because they knew from experience that it can take at least three months for the relevant suppliers to organise a leased line, John put in the order a good six months before move day. But even this turned out not to be enough. ‘Whenever a new cable is installed on private land, you need permission via a “Wayleave”,’ he explained. ‘Firstlineowned the new building, but the wayleave had to be signed by the ground landlord, who was based in Luxembourg and could only be contacted through layers of lawyers and management companies. None of them could really understand the importance of the document, so it took ages to get it signed.’

Luckily for Firstlinethey were not under any particular time pressure, so the delay was irritating but nothing more. Meanwhile, Nim pressed ahead with the other part of the plan. ‘We planned to change our phone system but we certainly didn’t want to do it at the same time as the move. So we “virtualised” the number in advance, which meant that we set it up on an IP platform. When it came to move day, we didn’t have to change our number or lose a second of connectivity – we simply connected to the telephone number from the new offices.’

For a month or so they ran the two offices in parallel with a connection between them. John was the first to make the move, as soon as a connection was established, and the engineers followed him, two by two, over the space of four weeks. Eventually there was nothing left in Howard Street but a box and a line, and that was the move completed: ‘We were committed to being here and committed to not being there any more,’ said John.

Tips from the Experts

John and Nim’s top tips for office moves, based on their own experience

  1. Don’t try to move in a hurry; think of the maximum time you think you’ll need and then double it, because something will always go wrong
  2. Put your connectivity requirements on your ‘deal-breaker’ list when you go to look round potential new premises
  3. Make sure you have got all the relevant permissions and know where cables go in and out of the building before you complete
  4. Don’t expect to save money during the move; you may save it afterwards, but don’t scrimp when it comes to the actual move
  5. Allow for at least a month’s overlap between the two premises
  6. Plan in advance and make sure you’re working with reliable suppliers