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This article was co-authored by Catherine Nadeau, Senior Manager, Management Consulting, KPMG  in Canada 

The relocation of a head office or place of business is an important step for an organization. It must be carefully planned to ensure the continuity of the services offered, internally as well as externally, and to make sure that everything runs smoothly and seamlessly for both employees and clients.

Unfortunately, information management is often overlooked and the resulting challenges become apparent at the last minute.

The current open office space and hoteling trends translate into less storage space (common shelves, filing cabinets, etc.). Furthermore, the reduction in the number of desk drawers forces employees to reduce the volume of paper documents. Employees must do so quickly, often with little support, based on their own knowledge and the available tools. This can regretfully lead to the violation of various laws, contracts or policies, reduced productivity, but also lost opportunities. The following elements are among the most frequent:

  • Mass digitization of documents without distinction, resulting in:
  • An explosion of volumes of documents on network directories or email servers
  • The preservation of harmful documents longer than prescribed by the defined retention periods, and
  • An increased use of internal bandwidth and reduced network performance
  • Digitization without support using ad hoc processes can lead to the loss of information (missing pages, poor quality, misnamed or misfiled digital documents, image format digitization which restricts full-text searching)
  • Loss of legal value for certain official documents if the digitization does not comply with regulations and digitization standards
  • Increased shredding resulting in higher costs or overflowing bins, which can lead to privacy breaches when documents are directly placed in the recycling bin
  • Mass destruction of documents without first identifying the applicable retention periods
  • Shipping numerous boxes for archiving (internal archiving or third party archiver) with little or no indexing, which can result in unintentional archiving (e.g., office supplies), lost documents, and an explosion of recurring archiving costs
  • Reduction of office space and focus on increasingly electronic work (paperless office), without providing adequate tools and environment for employees (e.g., 2 or 3 screens, ergonomic desks and chairs, lack of space for meetings or to take calls, etc.).

Ideally, as soon as you start developing your relocation project, you must include the informational aspects (those mentioned above, among others) in your relocation plan, and involve all competent resources (information management, archiving, communications) and lawyers. If document management professionals are part of your organization, they should join your relocation planning and execution committee along with your resources from the legal department and other groups (information technology, logistics, communication, etc.).

Thinking about information management at the outset will allow you to develop an action plan that includes at least the following steps:

  • Create or update a summary inventory of paper documents (in both employee offices and common spaces) to fully understand the current volumes and be able to identify what can be destroyed, archived or digitized
  • Assess the difference between the current spaces and the planned spaces for paper documents, to identify the volume that must be processed before the relocation
  • Develop or update tools to help employees prepare their own relocation (e.g., simple document retention and destruction rules to eliminate whatever can be eliminated, digitization procedures, information recording and classification procedures, etc.)
  • Raise awareness and knowledge of employees of the various measures, which includes awareness of privacy breach risks (e.g., recycling vs. shredding)
  • Supervise the activities and make sure everything is done and ready in a timely fashion

It is essential to establish a synergy with the IT team for the digitization, in order to plan the required logical storage space for the documents that will be digitized, knowing that digitalized documents take up more space than documents created in digital format. It will also be necessary to implement or allow access to optical character recognition solutions. It is also very important to work closely with the IT team to plan the installations in the new building and the equipment in employee offices, meeting rooms and work rooms, in order to ensure the creation of a work environment that promotes a paperless or "paper on demand" office.

A relocation is also a unique key moment to consider and implement process changes, by introducing procedures and technologies, whether it be transition to the cloud, system decommissioning, migration, digital transformation, etc.

Finally, regardless of whether your organization is relocating on another floor, a block away or in another town, your employees must be supported to ensure everything runs smoothly, with as little impact as possible on them, your operations and your clients, while reducing costs and mitigating risks. The key success factors are good planning, support and sound change management.

If you are planning a relocation and have some concerns or want to make sure that you are on the right track, don't hesitate to contact your KPMG team.