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The Stack Archive

Four essential steps to good data centre management

Thu 5 Jan 2017

anne-stokesAnne Stokes, CEO and co-founder of StreamWire, offers useful guidance to initiate change and boost operational professionalism…

I absolutely love working in an environment in which everyone who touches the data centre is making a difference to the lives of so many people. True, many may not fully appreciate the impact of what they do and the importance of it in the grand scheme of things, this is where the drive for operational professionalism plays its part.

Now is a crucial time for us all; our industry is fuelled by the needs of our customers, who are demanding more and more of what we provide, and it is essential now that we strive to be the best at what we do; thereby delivering better value for money.

The internet of things, legislative changes, cybersecurity and increasing audit demands focus every operator on professional development. By improving our skills and enhancing our standards we will be better able to meet the challenges of the future as well as delivering enhanced pride to those professionals we have today in our working world.

There are some who view operational professionalism as the bastion of the data centre ecosystem; I hold a different opinion. I think that as the blurring of roles and responsibilities continues to take place across all of IT, and indeed other business functions, the responsibility rests with all functions.

Our world never stops changing – service improvements never stand still and, as professionals, we are always at the sharp end of new initiatives and enhancements to systems and processes. That being said, a high proportion of those in our industry don’t even have a basic awareness of how projects work; the importance of structured change and the vital role open communication plays in the work environment.

How do we change it?

Change inevitably has to be driven from the top, silos of communication and focus have to be replaced with a clear, stated intent that delivery leaders will fully support the role of operational delivery in a professional and timely manner.

We have all experienced situations where there are delays in decisions being communicated and then people blame IT – or worse still blame the process – and accuse people of box-ticking exercises getting in the way of the end result. More often than not, people get the job done inelegantly only for this to be accepted as ‘the way it is done’. Success then breeds a repeat of a bad process, heightened risk, and tired or disenfranchised people.

I believe that there are four steps that we can all take to reposition ourselves and create a sustainable and healthy approach to operational delivery, not crisis management but good, solid planned management:

1. Seek to understand

All parties must understand what is needed and required by them and the support that each gives the other. There is a story of a person visiting NASA who was greeted by someone in the corridor with a cheery ‘Hello and welcome to NASA’. The visitor politely replied, ‘Hello, what do you do here?’ The answer was: ‘I work here to help put a man on the moon,’ this person was part of the cleaning staff!

2. Honour the standards

Standards of working should not be seen as being barriers or chores, but the cornerstone of continuing professional enhancement. The principles of continued improvement are embedded within process optimisation. One of the many great things about the Data Centre Alliance (DCA) is how it brings together standards, communicates emerging standards but then showcases best in class – all without a political agenda.

3. Lifelong learning

We are lucky to be at the forefront of all change. Technology now, more than ever, is a business innovator and enabler. The role we perform changes lives and this means that learning cannot be confined to the classroom, but is something that has to be at the heart of any business plan regardless of the size of the enterprise. Qualifications and accreditations bring together employers and employees to collaborate on improving and recognising the skills and knowledge of our people. This also helps in mapping careers and identifying skills gaps, something we need to be mindful of, not just for the emerging technologies but also the legacy ones too.

4. Building our community

Creating networks of excellence and operational leadership champions will ensure that we continue to support business and recognise leading-edge thinking and performance. The opportunity to share industry best practice and good governance is compelling. The DCA provides a fantastic vehicle for achieving this.

The measure of success?

Our success will be measured by the quality and effectiveness of the services we deliver and, ultimately, how our customers and the public view the services that they receive from us.

This is binary; successful organisations not only have the right people on board but they have the right price point for the customer. Excellence does not mean expensive; excellence means efficient, effective and robust.

Our opportunity here is to drive capability with professionalism and, in doing so, continue to attract the talent that helps the data centre world deliver what is required now while also positioning us to deliver what we still don’t yet know is just around the corner.

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