New Director's Blog - Part 4: The Move

An insight into the workings of The Ringing World by Peter G Davies
The opinions expressed in this blog are entirely mine and are not necessarily related to any views or policies of the Board of The Ringing World Ltd.

Logistics

The easiest bit of the move to the new office was choosing the two days of the week which were best for moving (one day for the removal company to pack our stuff and a second day for them to transfer it all to the new premises where we would unpack it). As an aside, there was an initial suggestion that we should save money and repeat the logistics of the move from Guildford to Andover in 2002 when volunteers, including the directors and staff, undertook the transfer of everything in a fleet of cars. However, a review of the greater complexity of the Andover office in terms of equipment and furniture and the fact that both the old office and the new were up (and down) flights of stairs (and the volunteers were six years older!) got this idea kicked into touch in short order!

Production of the RW is actually a continuous process without any detectable break - and dealing with administrative matters such as finances, subscriptions, complaints, merchandise etc. is also continuous. As soon as an edition has gone to the printers, work starts on the next one. In fact, the issues overlap because of the backlog of copy, especially quarter peals. An issue goes to the printers at noon on a Tuesday and therefore Wednesday is the calm after the storm. By Friday, much of the following week’s issue has been assembled and there’s the weekend for contingency planning before final setting on the Monday and another storm on Tuesday morning. So, the least busy part of the schedule into which two moving days could be inserted is Wednesday and Thursday.

But what date? Initially a move before Christmas had been envisaged but after remembering that the Christmas double issue was perhaps the busiest time of the whole year, a date in January became favourite and the 29th was chosen (still in January but giving us some slack in case of problems). So could we meet this date and what did we need to do to meet it?

Those of you who have planned a project (especially a re-hang) will no doubt be familiar with the concept of the "critical path" and, for the uninitiated, this means the sequence or path of tasks in the project which will take longest from start to finish and which will therefore decide the completion date. So we set out to identify this critical path. Purists will point out that ultimately there can really only be one critical path but our initial thoughts suggested there were several, in such key areas as negotiating a lease, modifying the building, planning demands, telephone and IT installation and availability of professional removers. Key to the planning of the move was the removal of some of these tasks from the critical path.

The Building, Elvin House

Those of you who have visited Eagleside House will know that its layout was not ideal. The RW team comprises Robert the editor, Chris D the Manager, Chris C the compositor (nicknamed Compo to avoid confusing him with three other Chris’s), the admin staff, Alison and Christine who alternate a half week at a time and effectively "hot-desk" and Christine who looks after the accounts on the equivalent of one day a week. Only Robert had a separate office. Chris D sort of had one but the rest of the staff were spread around one large room and there was no spare space for such things as storage and packing merchandise. The new office gave us the opportunity to improve this layout and increase efficiency. Would we be allowed to do this? The answer was "Yes" provided we complied with the Heads of Terms from the landlord’s agent which nominated the contractor we had to use, a lovely chap called Pete the Builder (Could he fix it, yes he could!). But could he meet the 29th January deadline? He assured us he could, thereby removing himself from the critical path. But we knew we’d need to keep an eye on him as he was only contactable by mobile and he seemed to do the work in the evenings after his day job, which as a typical builder, was a series of other building jobs somewhere else. He also had an electrician pal who could do the extra cabling we needed for our communications (he said!).

The landlord (Newbury Building Society - NBS) had only just refurbished the first floor in anticipation of letting it but it wasn’t quite what we wanted. Although we opted to retain most of the layout, we decided to have an internal wall removed to create a meeting room which could double as a storage and packing room. There were a few other changes too, including installation of lots of shelving. A simple task? No! The building is listed and any changes either internal or external are subject to consent being obtained from the planners in Test Valley Borough Council. Applying for this is a relatively simple process which can be done on-line via the Planning Portal - but it does require a pile of information such as drawings and site plans to be produced. Unfortunately, as well as the internal changes we also needed a letterbox - the existing door didn’t have one! Unbelievably, the planners (there are two lots - the regulars in Andover and the conservationists in Romsey) initially required a full planning application for this - a perfectly standard letterbox. Much haggling followed including a discussion on what constituted a "standard" letterbox! I think the telling blow which reversed this decision was my quoting an EU Standard on the size of letterboxes - which the planners didn’t seem to know about. Eventually they caved in and allowed the letterbox to be included in the other works, on receipt of a dimensioned drawing of it. But the worry was that the planning process included a statutory consultation period of 41 days, which would take us way past January 29th, unless of course we assumed that permission would be granted …..

Registration of our new address as "35A High Street", to differentiate us from NBS downstairs required an approach to Royal Mail via the local council. This request vanished into a black hole until, as if by magic, a search of Royal Mail addresses in Andover found it was there - and we still haven’t been informed it’s official, nor has the local postman, who didn’t find us immediately (the letterbox remained virginal for some time); NBS were kind enough to forward our mail.

IT

Installation of a new telephone system didn’t appear to come anywhere near the critical path, thanks to Bill Hibbert’s wise counsel to order it from BT early - which was done in mid-December with an assurance that the 29th January would easily be met. That was until we found they had to dig up a pedestrian alleyway to get into the building and nobody knew who owned it. Parallel investigations came to the same conclusion that it belonged to Hampshire County Council Highways, who eventually said "yes, you can dig it up". This introduced a delay and as a result BT revised their installation date to 29th January - moving day! This put them firmly on the critical path and despite a temptation to delay the move, we placed our faith in BT to deliver a working system even as we moved - a mistake!

There were a few other items which initially were well off the critical path but which nudged closer to it as time went on - for example the provision of a separate electricity supply which took the best part of three months! The complication was that some of the work had been required by NBS and some by us - and Pete and his electrician were doing both!

The Lease

Of course, we should have realised from the outset that the obvious critical path was the negotiation of the lease - because that involved lawyers and you know what that means! In fairness, ours was far better than theirs as we were lucky to keep this "in house" by instructing Bob Cooles who gave us an excellent service when we moved from Guildford. Even he admitted that the process this time was far more drawn out than last time. I estimate that of the 200 or more e-mails exchanged and at least as many phone calls made during the planning of the move, the vast majority were to do with the terms of the lease. The details which had to be resolved before all parties were happy were many and ranged from detailed drawings of the interior, how do we share water and drainage costs and heating costs (the boiler is downstairs in the NBS office), building insurance, fire risk assessment, what to do with the curtains we were inheriting if we substituted blinds - the list seemed almost endless at the time. But we made it and, having delivered the signed lease to the NBS solicitors at Newbury by hand at the eleventh hour, the keys were handed over on the day before the move.

The Hard Work

Packing day was a bit of an anti-climax because we could only stand and watch while a team of removal men packed everything in Eagleside House into a huge number of cardboard boxes. The packing was somewhat complicated by the fact that an assessment of the size of removal lorry needed (carried out by eye by a bloke with a clip board) proved to be an underestimate which meant the rather small lorry which came had to make more than one trip between the two locations. That delayed the transfer of our stuff on moving day although this actually proved to be of benefit in spreading the chaos of box reception over a longer period. Chris D lubricated this process with strategically placed labels identifying the office rooms which should have lined up with strategically placed identities marked on the boxes - and most (but not all) of them did. And talking of lubrication, priority was given to commissioning the kitchenette, stocked from the Tesco store next door, the outside wall of which is the view from most of the office. This enabled us to succour the sweating removals men as they struggled up the stairs with a seemingly infinite supply of boxes. Beverages were strictly non-alcoholic to avoid any health and safety disasters!

More IT

Meanwhile, back at Elvin House Bill Hibbert was installing the communications cabinet in anticipation of a smooth connect-up by BT. The BT men duly arrived and connected the phone lines which had been run under the pedestrian access but which required clipping to the outside of the building (don’t tell the planners). The six phones in the office were pre-programmed using the installed cabling and in general the phones side of the work went very well, despite finding defective equipment in the package which had been lying in wait for some weeks. But the exchange is almost as convenient as Tesco so this was easily rectified. On completing the phone installation a hastily-convened course provided training on how to use the new phones (we don’t yet know how to change the interlude music!).

Bill’s endeavours continued as he re-configured the seven PCs and five printers in the office so that they now work far more efficiently than they did at Eagleside. All we needed was Broadband - and this is where the "on-the-day" reliance on BT proved to be ill-founded! I don’t know exactly how many phone calls to BT technical support, their call centres and Fred Bone were made to try to get us connected but it must have got our phone bill off to a good start as far as BT were concerned. By the end of Friday, we had no Broadband and we were forced into various contingency plans for producing the next week’s issue. This included downloading it to a DVD with Chris D on stand-by to use his rally driving skills to get it to the printers.

But Monday dawned, as the storm clouds of the printing deadline loomed, with Broadband working - BT had connected it to the wrong phone line and sorted it over the weekend! Production of the next issue proceeded on schedule as if nothing had happened!

Mission Accomplished!

The office is now up and running and more efficiently than before with staff settled in and happy with their new surroundings. The general layout is much better than at Eagleside with perhaps the most significant improvement being the increase in storage space making for greater tidiness and the addition of a meeting room which means the Editor doesn’t need to move out of his office for a Board meeting. Thought is being given to promoting this room as a suitable location for meetings of, for example, CCCBR committees although access needs addressing and any users would have to bring their own victuals (but Tesco is next door).

As ever, ringers are invited to visit the office to see how the RW is produced although please don’t come on a Monday or Tuesday. But be aware that entry to the office is gained by an access system which has CCTV to reveal who’s calling. So, if your face doesn’t fit, you might not get in!

 

New Director's Blog - part 1

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