When 270 artists moved into Industrial Light and Magic's new San Francisco headquarters over one weekend in August, they faced an environment where everything was different. From how to get into the building to where shared printers were located, everything would be disorienting.

"People were going to be terribly confused when they came into the parking garage," says Kevin Clark, director of IT operations. But he wanted their workstations to be the one "familiar zone" they could count on. So he challenged his group to present users with fully operational systems that would operate just as they had before the move.

He outsourced the physical move and set-up of the machines so his staff could focus on testing. "That was critical because we didn't have the manpower to do both," Clark says.

Then he carved up the old and new facilities into geographic areas and assigned zone leaders who were responsible for the end-to-end move of IT equipment in each area.

At the old facility, the staff photographed each office and taped the image to the desktop prior to the move. When equipment arrived, the set-up was checked against the photograph to ensure the placement was as consistent as possible.

Then the staff began testing each system, following a "hot-sheet" checklist that included items such as a physical cabling check and connectivity test. Add-on devices such as mice and graphics tablets were also tested. "In this environment, there are some funky set-ups. Some people have two or three mice, and there are graphics tablets," he says. The staff tested them all.

Methodical testing
As the staff began testing, the zone leaders made sure everything was checked methodically. "It's easy to get ahead of yourself, so you want to move one step at a time," Clark says. "We touched everything several times and made sure everything worked." Once tests were completed, the hot sheet was taped to each system's monitor.

The staff had also gained valuable experience from previous moves in the multiphase project. "The biggest thing we learned is to include our service desk in the process," he says. Using two-way radios, the staff logged trouble tickets so the service desk could track problems as they were encountered over the weekend.

"That put [the service desk] in a much better position to support the move the following week," he says.

The planning paid off. When people began arriving Monday morning, they focused on orienting themselves to the office's physical layout and concerns such as the location of shared printers. Then they sat down at their desks. "They were back to work by 10am," he says.

There were a few minor issues. For example, when testing, the staff logged on with administrator privileges, so some problems based on local profiles didn't show up until the users arrived. But most people were immediately up and running.

"We haven't had any significant downtime, and this is an environment where we have a new phone system, new gear, and it's all working," Clark says, adding, "I think we have exceeded expectations."