Here’s a step by step guide to setting up shop with the best tech for your firm.
Wealth management firms relocate to new offices for any number of reasons. One of the most common causes is that RIAs decide to break away from wirehouses. Successful asset managers also inevitably outgrow their startup spaces. Or the firm simply finds a better deal on commercial real estate.
Everybody knows that uprooting a firm to a new office can be a chore, but few business owners think through the implications for the company’s IT system. With a little foresight, moving offices can be the ideal time to upgrade your tech and move to cloud computing. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get set up.
1) PLAN AHEAD OF TIME TO RELOCATE YOUR IT SYSTEM.
As soon as you decide it’s time to move, create a timeline of necessary events and a worst-case contingency plan if that timeline goes awry. Let’s be honest, something almost always goes awry – either because of internal workloads, contractor mishaps or uncooperative weather.
Moving by committee is dangerous, because if nobody controls the process then critical tasks may fall through the cracks. Telephones may not be set to voicemail or staffers could forget to pack away belongings before the big move. Therefore, designate an internal project leader who keeps the proper people informed at all times of their respective duties.
Tell your tech vendors – such as telecom carriers, Internet providers and cloud computing specialists – of the impending move. These professionals can offer useful advice to your firm on how to disconnect the old office and set up the new office. They also may be willing to cut your firm a deal on services when you express concerns that now might be a good time to look at competitors.
2) EVALUATE EQUIPMENT, DETERMINE WHAT TO UPGRADE & CREATE A CHECKLIST
Inventory all equipment at your firm, from the CEO’s computer to the newest recruit’s telephone wire and every software application with a company license. Knowing what you have is the first step toward knowing what you need to upgrade or replace. For example, perhaps your portfolio manager should have two screens instead of just one or maybe certain software can be upgraded to a SaaS model.
Decide if your current IT team is enough, versus outsourcing to the cloud. Many wealth management firms are ill-equipped to oversee their entire IT infrastructure, given the heavy burden of regulations and devotion of limited resources required to get everything right.
Lastly, factor in growth potential of your business after relocating. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking about your office move in terms of the team you have. But what about next year, or five years from now? If your business does well, it will need more workstations, computers, printers and telephones for the new employees it adds on. It’s much less expensive to relocate once with a dozen extra, unfilled seats on the new floor than to relocate again in a few years after maxing out the new space ahead of schedule.
3) CONDUCT A THOROUGH SITE VISIT WITH YOUR IT PROVIDERS
Pinpoint ideal locations of workstations, wiring and equipment. This is not as simple as it may appear. New office space will have a different layout than your previous space, plus you might have added workstations in anticipation of new hires.
For instance, while onsite you could discover that a workstation lacks a necessary Ethernet port. We recommend two ports, one for voice circuits and the other for data. Another common problem is that your firm may need unanticipated construction work to get traditional phone lines routed to suit your exact specifications. Close doesn’t count if employees can’t communicate with clients.
Check Internet capabilities of the new location. Offices are increasingly going wireless for Internet and adopting hosted VoIP service for telecommunications. Due to the confidential nature of financial information, networks should have separate access for employees versus guests. Don’t assume the new office location has these capabilities. Find out for sure.
The same goes for the server room. Inspect it in person for proper cooling, ventilation, electrical hookup and security features. Ask building security who has the keys to that room. You might need to rely on that person in an emergency, or look into getting a more reliable person for that job.
Be aware of any additional security requirement at the new location. Some buildings require electronic keycard access to rooms, or for firms to use software that logs guests in online before they can reach the office. Know the parameters of any unanticipated software before granting it access to your company’s system.
Do all of this in the presence of an IT consultant. If you lack a qualified team member, someone from your telecom, Internet or cloud provider may step in. However you will not need to worry so much about the server room if you have a reliable cloud-based system, because the vendor handles that.
4) PREPARE FOR THE RELOCATION WITH MOVING PROFESSIONALS
Make backup copies of all you firm’s data, check that the data is fully recoverable and then transport the backups separate from the originals. This way, if the vehicle transporting your firm’s computers and servers gets in an accident, your data remains safe. Again, if a top-tier cloud provider handles your IT needs, you can stop stressing about conducting backups before transporting data. Multiple servers with high-availability failover keep data safe in virtually all circumstances.
Label all wiring and equipment to speed up reinstallation. Professional movers can do this fast and efficiently. It will save hours and avoid confusion. Few things have the potential to hurt morale like forcing non-IT employees to figure out how to connect office devices just so they can work on them.
Create and distribute a contact list of all staff. You might want to share this with the professional movers or keep it internal. Either way, keeping tabs on people is a good policy when moving their work equipment and expecting them to arrive in the new location on the first day – instead of at the old office.
5) TEST ALL YOUR CONNECTIONS IN THE NEW LOCATION
Your firm is done with the move when you know everything functions as intended. Ensure all phones, computers and printers are at their proper workstations. Call each phone and send emails to all addresses to see if they are received. Use each desktop application, search operating systems for important files and verify that software passwords remain intact. Even if it seems like none of these things should be problematic, the larger your staff or less coordinated your movers, the higher the chance that at least one of these things will need fixing.
When handled correctly, an office move will occur without any disruption of service to clients or compromises in the strength of your firm’s IT infrastructure. Quite the contrary, relocating offices presents a unique opportunity to modernize hardware, software and business continuity processes.
Moving to the cloud frees small to midsize RIAs from the hassle of building out internal tech teams, and it allows larger asset managers to keep track of all their data without diverting attention from their core competency. In fact, firms that have already moved to the cloud can eliminate some of the steps described above. If your firm is planning to relocate offices, feel free to use this guide and to contact External IT for more information.