Bringing together the data center and the board room

Bringing together the data center and the board room

Date: Oct 09, 2009

The Bick Group's Andrew Parham and Bill Russell discuss how data center staff can get the attention of the board room for important projects, and why there is no longer a disconnect between the organization's objectives and its data center.

Read the full transcript from this video below:  

Bringing together the data center and the board room

Hi, Mark Fontecchio here from Tech Target, and this is another installment
of a Search Data Center TV. With me today are Andrew Parham and Bill
Russell from the Bick group. They're at Data Center Consultancy. We're
going to talk to them a little bit about the disconnect between data center
managers and C level executives.

So, guys, can you talk to me a little bit about that disconnect? Why is
there a disconnect and why does it matter?

Andrew Parham: Well, I think that the disconnect starts with the fact that for
many, many years they've been disconnected. Data center managers don't have
ongoing conversations with their executive officers. In many cases, I'll
have a discussion with a CEO of an organization, and I'll mention the name
of a data center person and that CEO has never heard of that person. So,
there is a disconnect.

The challenge for us now, though, is that there is not a disconnect any
longer between the strategic future of businesses and the data center.
These things have become very tightly aligned. You've got the C level
reading and learning more about options that are out there. You've got then
the data center guy, though, who has never spoken with the C level, who is
a little concerned, if he's honest, if he's human, a little concerned about
what would happen if the company no longer had a private data center.
There's a natural human tendency to be a bit defensive there and lacks
confidence in what he needs to do, which is he needs to take the first step
towards the executive office, take the proactive step. That's a scary thing
to do.

What we help our clients with and what we coach them to do is look, there
are many ways to engage in this discussion. One way is, let's put on an
event together. Recently, a couple of weeks ago, I put on an event. We
brought in James Staten from Forrester Research, and everyone knows
Forrester. We brought in James Staten for a day. We said to some of our
closest clients, we said, "Listen, we're going to bring this guy in. He's
going to talk about some of the trends. What he's going to talk about is
going to follow this basic dimension. Invite one of your C level guys to
come with you. We're going to play golf and have dinner. We'll sit around
and do round table discussion."

We did that and it was very successful because the executives that were in
the room got to say, "Look I don't know anything about any of this, but
here's what I do know." They got to talk about what they're thinking about.
The data center guys were able to have a nice interchange. It was social.
There was no pressure on the data center guy to be the smartest guy in the
room because that was what James Staten was there to do, but it created the
beginning of a dialog.

We synthesized that, put it in a little book and let them take. That's one
example. Another example, though, is I think just putting a basic five or
six slide deck together. It starts with quotes that are showing up in the
Wall Street Journal and in business publications and explains what Cloud
computing is and how it may or may not impact the business and just start
there.

Bill Russell : Yeah, there are a handful of articles every week in the Wall Street
Journal that you can start with. What I tell data center managers every
time I get this question, the best place to find the dialog that you want
to have is in the annual report or in any presentation that the executives
are giving down to the organization.

We have found, in fact, a client we've just engaged with... What we ended
up doing was taking their annual report, looking at it and saying, three of
the five initiatives can be served by the data center. Let's frame this
back up, and essentially the executives' words right back to him of, this
is how the data center is going to help serve the organization's objectives
and where you're heading.

A lot of time that... It's almost comical because you walk into somebody's
lobby and they have their five things there. The data center managers walk
past those every day, and they don't connect with the business and how they
can serve those five key initiative that are going on in the organization.
We found that the framework for the conversation is already there. The
desire for the conversation is already there. A lot of times, it's the data
center manager really taking the first step to start the frame of
conversation, having the confidence to walk into the room and say, "I have
something valuable to the organization. I can see how we're going to serve
and propel the organization."

Andrew Parham: The thing is that you... I always say, he who owns the handout owns
the meeting because you become the leader and you're leading a good thing,
and go straight at the very thing that you're concerned about, go straight
at cloud computing. Bring it up. Put it out there. Define it. Don't hide
from it. Definitely don't sound defensive.

Mark Fontecchio: One of the things that I've heard from data center managers is that
there are multiple layers of management between them and the corporate
executive. So, how do they navigate through that? Is a short PowerPoint
presentation enough, or do they need to give that to their supervisor who
then moves it on up the line?

Andrew Parham: Well, it's delicate. I think that the key is, is that whoever it is,
whether it's the data center manager, the director of data center
operations, the CTO, the CIO; whoever it is, the first step is to develop a
point of view. Whoever you are; wherever you are in the organization,
develop a point of view about the future.

Then, go to your supervisor and say, here's a point of view that I have.
Deliver it in a way that it's fact based and that you're passionate about
it. They will go get the meeting. They will want you there because you know
more than they know, and the last thing they want to do is show up and have
that meeting and get stumped. That's how you do it. That's how you make
yourself more relevant to your boss. That's how you get your boss in the
room, and you end up being a part of it.

It really comes down to he who is convicted and he who is a student of
what's happening, is going to be the ones who's going to be in the room.

Bill Russell : In developing the point of view, at this point we have a point of
view, but what's really more important is that everybody develop a point of
view about cloud computing and to internalize it and to support it. I was
talking to afterwards who said, "You know, I can't imagine taking my
applications out into the cloud and what's that's going to require." Well,
that's a point of view. I mean he's essentially saying that the cloud
cannot service his data center. We'll typically push back and ask a series
of questions around that to find out, as they will also get when they go
into boardroom.

They're going to get a lot of push-back. They're going to get people saying
. . . If they say, the cloud has no space, they're going to say, "Hey, I
read the Wall Street Journal. It says the cloud is the future. It offers
economy of scale that you currently can't provide in your private data
center." Support what you're saying. Support why the cloud won't service
it. We, a lot of times get, it's security or it's a compliance issue.

Mark Fontecchio: OK, so, let's say that a data center manager puts this presentation
together before the board and is very objective about it, including about
cloud computing which you've said is the cloud is going to be a storm and
not a shower. Are they working themselves out of a job if they do this?

Bill Russell : No, because that portfolio, well, no, because number one, the
portfolio of applications that are running the business, let's assume that
they all end up residing in some third party data center. Who is going to
manage all of those relationships? Who's going to define all of those SLAs?
Who's going to devise the continual evolution of the disaster recovery
strategy? Somebody needs to, and it can be that person. That's number one.

Number two, I don't think that the private data center is going away. In
fact, we expect that the private data center will actually continue to grow
over time. It's just the need for computing capacity and storage capacity
is growing so much that as that overall pie grows, the share that the
private data center has may diminish, the relative share, but the absolute
square footage, the absolute capacity, may actually grow.

Andrew Parham: Right. So, what we think or what we've seen, our clients who are
experimenting with the cloud today, what they're saying to us is they see
hybrid strategy. They see that there are going to be applications that are
critical and the information sensitive enough that they're going to want to
still retain that in their private data center.

Then, they're going to want to start to leverage the economy in a scale
that are available to them, either in facilities through co-location or in
computer storage through cloud offers. What they see is maybe, in the
future 60% of all applications are going to reside in their private data
center whereas 20% might be in co-location and 20% might be in the cloud.
In that sense, it is a little bit evolutionary and not revolutionary,
because there are very few organizations that we see going 100% to the
cloud unless you were starting a new organization today from scratch.

If you came to me today and said, I need 100 servers and we're a start up
organization. I'm going to answer, if I can. If I can architect the
applications, that's where I'm going. I'm not going out and saying the
first million dollars you have to spend with this organization is building
a data center and ITM structure. Makes no sense.

Mark Fontecchio: OK, guys. Thanks for talking to me, and thank you for watching
another installment of Search Data Center TV.

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