After almost 10 years of calling it home, last month we said goodbye to our much-loved HQ on the cobbled lane of Thistle Street North-West and moved into our new digs at Greenside.
Much of the process involved with relocating a business of this scale existed outside the scope of our normal activities and expertise and we faced some huge challenges along the way. This is how we made it happen.
Back in April, I was asked to project manage the move. We quickly assembled a project team full of strong subject matter experts from across the business with a collective goal of creating a vibrant, collaborative working environment for our colleagues to thrive in for the next decade and beyond. No pressure there then.
Planning how to deliver a project outside your immediate skillset and comfort zone is always a daunting prospect for any project manager. Throw in a hard deadline and commercial penalties for failing to meet said deadline and the nerves multiply ten-fold.
As a fin-tech business, we tend to use various agile ways of working to deliver change. Usually these are linked to developing software, but I decided we’d at least try to replicate familiar frameworks and break down the various tasks into bite-size chunks to be delivered in two-week delivery cycles, known as sprints.
The road ahead
As a group we identified our main project deliverables:
- Design – Create that vibrant, collaborative environment
- Technology – Future-proof all business infrastructure at our new location
- Communication – Prepare staff for the move while keeping advisers and third parties in the loop
- Working practices – Look for opportunities to imbed new practices to maximise productivity and boost staff morale
- Commercials – The grown-up stuff
- Transition – Plan and execute a smooth transition of all business areas and key infrastructure to our new location with no disruption to advisers.
Our next big challenge was to ensure all our internal tasks could be built into a plan that worked with the wider design and construction programmes.
Working with our design partners, we scoped the business requirements for the new office during the ‘scheme design’ phase (deciding against the requests for sleep pods and hammocks!). We then entered a ‘design freeze’ stage at the beginning of August. This was a huge milestone to hit, as the big decisions on furniture and fittings had to be made by then.
Our in-house graphic designer Brad was in his element during this phase. Imagine a Dad taking his rather excited kid to a shopping centre and saying “go mad”, before wincing at the cost of everything they wanted. I valiantly tried to keep us in budget, only to be met with the typical response: “But it’s so cool man…”
Getting to deadline day
The sixteen-week construction works then began to turn what was a shell filled with rubble into what we very much hoped would tick the ‘vibrant, collaborative environment’ box.
Entering the design freeze phase also helped us think about a realistic target move in date, and initially we went for 18 December. For any fellow contingency loving geeks, I’m sure you’ll share my immediate concern at the logistical nightmare this date presented us, given that any slippage would take us into the festive period. Delaying the move until January also didn’t feel like the right thing to do, so instead we rather ambitiously went the other way and brought the deadline forward to 11 December as the day our HQ-based staff would report to Greenside for the first time.
The more we thought about achieving this date, the more perfect it felt. The Friday of that week was also our Christmas party. It’s the one day of the year that all our amazing sales team, who are scattered across the length and breadth of the country, visit the office for a team meeting and to catch up with office-based staff. We saw this as a great chance to show them our new home. So, now just the small detail of making our office move happen quicker than planned.
There’s always teething problems when moving, whether it’s moving house or moving offices. Our biggest risk was not having the infrastructure in place for the ‘go live’ date. We had a major setback when network and telecom providers missed key deadlines and initially gave us new install dates for the new year. But instead of giving up, our internal project team worked tirelessly to escalate the issue. With some fantastic support from third-party contacts, we managed to get the right people to pull out the stops at the right time.
Despite some further last-minute glitches, including a Christmas embargo on digging up the streets of Edinburgh (you couldn’t make it up), we eventually managed to have all the key infrastructure in place with enough time to allow for all network tests to take place pre-move. At this point we breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Around the same time the construction works were completed. A huge amount of credit goes to our construction partner and their sub-contractor teams for making this happen – the effort they put in to help us achieve our ambitious target date was unbelievable.
Aside from our lovely staff, the only thing missing was the various furniture and fittings that caused so many tête-à-têtes between Brad and I all those months before! As everything began to arrive, I remember for the first time feeling a glint of pride at what our wee project team had managed to pull off in just over eight months. It reminded me of a quote by Margaret Mead that we had on the wall of our previous HQ:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
While our modest success might not have changed the world, it’s a great example of what a small group of determined people can achieve through proactive collaboration. It’s why I love what I do.
On Monday 11 December, our HQ-based staff reported to Greenside from 8am and we were business as usual from 8.30am as planned. The rest of the week went to plan too. On day one, a member of staff told me: “I love it. It makes the last HQ feel like it was just an office that we worked in, whereas this feels like ‘Nucleus’ already.’ A huge compliment to everyone who helped make this happen.
I believe our project team has achieved the goal of creating a “vibrant, collaborative working environment for our colleagues”. The challenge is now set for us all to “thrive in it for the next decade and beyond” and make our product the very best it can be for advisers.