Step 1: Including All Players

Aug. 15, 2013

In most business environments, boards of directors or C-level executives formulate a strategic business plan with goals based on customer feedback, market conditions, opportunities and corporate vision. These goals are communicated to various business units, who in turn develop plans and requirements to meet the goals. Whatever the business type, virtually all of the requirements identified to meet the business plan involve some form of IT-related service or resource that must ultimately be supported by the data center. Consequently, the data center has become a catalyst for business and a vital part of the business ecosystem.

Once each business unit identifies their requirements, IT departments review those needs and identify the technologies that enable business units to successfully carry out their plans. IT must then determine the equipment, power and space required to support the technologies. Facilities then use this information to establish their own list of requirements needed to support IT—all while keeping operational costs in check. The end result enables the business units and the strategic business plan to either succeed or fail.

Involving all players of the business ecosystem -- executives, business units, IT and facilities -- in the early design phase identifies the actual requirements and future business direction needed to properly design the data center. Trusted advisors and outside design consultants and contractors should also be invited to the discussion. During this process, published meeting minutes should be distributed to all players, and recap meetings should be held at regular intervals. Primary and alternate representatives should be picked from every team, and the overall success of the project should be part of their responsibilities.

While teams can vary from business to business, following is typical list of the players involved in successful holistic data center design:

Project Sponsor -- Typically this should be a C- level person (i.e., CIO or CTO) or other business level executive.

Project Manager -- Depending on the overall scope, project management should likely be this player’s sole responsibility. The project manager is the overseer of meetings and the individual responsible for keeping the project and discussions on track. The project manager can be internal to the company or part of an outside architectural and engineering team.

Business Unit Representatives -- This could be one or multiple persons responsible for relating their business unit requirements and roadmap of future direction.

IT Technologists -- These individuals can include networking (i.e., LAN and WAN) teams, server teams for each operating system, storage area network (SAN) teams and data center support teams.

Facilities Management -- Any area of facilities operations and maintenance that is applicable should be included in the process, including security, real estate and property management.

Purchasing/Procurement -- These are individuals that negotiate all aspects of the data center purchases.

Outsourced Services -- Whether an architectural and engineering firm, individual consultant, general contractor or integrator (or a combination thereof), most organizations employ outside help at various times during the design process. Engaging these individuals depends on an organization’s resources, skill level and project scope. However, to remain cost effective, organizations need to keep mark-ups and change orders to an absolute minimum. For larger projects, the customer may bid the project as a whole with an established percentage over cost to the general contractor, rather than dealing with separate subcontractor bids and potential surprises. This practice also puts onus on the general contractor to fully participate in the design process and understand all requirements, allowing only customer-initiated change orders to be billed and significantly lowering contingency budgets from as much as 15% to as low as 2%.

Trusted Advisors -- These individuals are typically expert representatives from vendors and manufacturers who can help with the design process surrounding their specific solutions (i.e., switches, cabling, power and cooling solutions). Including these individuals in the process is at the discretion of each discipline.

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