The road towards the Digital Enterprise is not straight forward and for many clients deciding on a Data Centre Strategy is a key step to towards this target. However creating a Data Centre Strategy is complex as many factors like

  • the current business demand,
  • the existing application portfolio,
  • the move towards cloud based capabilities,
  • the level of IT maturity, the engagement with the business,
  • the structuration of the current IT environment (Level of standardization, the complexity of the current IT setup, the way capacity, scalability are managed etc….….),
  • data and facility security and
  • other aspects

impact the direction of travel.
I have been helping many clients deciding on their Data Centre Strategy and this post will outline my blueprint for planning, developing and delivering a business aligned and business enabling Data Centre Strategy.

Even if the Data Centre Strategy has not ended up as “shelfware” it can be very difficult to ensure that the Strategy can actually be translated into real actions. Broadly the challenges can be summarised in 3 main points:

1. Business Alignment, Scope and Level

  • Aligning a Data Centre Strategy with the Business is easier said than done as there is typically gap / mismatch in language between the business focused Team(s) and the usually fairly technically focused Data Centre Teams.
  • Also it can be tricky to outline and define the actual scope of the Data Centre Strategy – ie should it include business applications or just infrastructure near capabilities?
  • Next to Business alignment and scope there is a question of level of detail – how far / deep should the Data Centre Strategy go?

2. Data Centre “Solution” Content

  • Most of the obvious challenges are “solution” related. In today’s superfast moving technology era it is difficult to stay abreast with all new Data Centre related developments.
  • Having a good overview over all key Data Centre aspects is one challenge, the second is to not to drop too quickly into technical detail.
  • And the third is to ensure the right solution related Data Centre Strategy aspects have been selected.

3. The “actual” Strategy

  • A key point of a Strategy is that it supposed to outline a direction of travel rather than a snapshot of existing or future technical capabilities.
  • Also can it be a challenge to set out a clear communication framework to “sell” the Strategy to key stakeholders
  • Added to these “actual” Strategy related challenges comes the issue that some miss a clear plan that can be executed.      

To successfully lead and deliver a Data Centre Strategy the following 10 critical success factors should be considered:

  1. Never Do It Alone

    • Do not try to shape, lead and/or execute a Data Centre Strategy on your own. Ensure you have a Team
  2. At least one Team member must have done it before

    • Experience is important and cannot be subsidized with a methodology. This is paramount to avoid losing precious time
  3. Effective and efficient Communication

    • With your Team as well as with the client. Ensure that you have a clear view on what information must/should/could be shared with whom and why
  4. Plan activities and events in advance

    • In particular ensure that the content used during key events – like workshops – are well prepared
  5. Make use of tools, methodologies and frameworks

    • “Tools are for fools” and cannot substitute the skills and experience of an Lead Architect / Strategist
  6. Use Customer’s language

    • Do not force the customer to change their “dictionary” – if they have an understanding of what a Service is than go with that definition, rather than forcing them to change.
  7. And stay impartial – you are there to facilitate!

    • Ensure that you reflect back what the business is saying – steer away from content related discussions – particularly in the business space
  8. Speed

    • Try to accelerate by using joint sessions rather than having a string of meetings and telephone conference calls and
  9. Target “Land of milk and honey”

    • Do not start with what is not possible but with what would be the ideal position to avoid starting with constrains
  10. Focus on Strategy

    • This is not a Project solution nor an Architecture but a Strategy. Ensure that this is the main focus for the engagement 

As per Wiki : “Technology strategy (Information Technology strategy or IT strategy) is the overall plan which consist of objective(s), principles and tactics relating to use of the technologies within a particular organization..”
Note that the focus is on Plan and not just on solution – a Strategy should outline a direction of travel with a view on how to reach it (so has to be realistic). And this is still quite a challenge as many Data Centre engagements are driven bottom up and do struggle to connect with real business outcomes.
More on that – like a generic approach and “standard” deliverables – maybe later.

Thanks for reading.

About the Author: Gunnar Menzel has been an IT professional for over 25 years and is the VP and Chief Architect Officer for Capgemini’s Infrastructure Business. Gunnar is also currently the President for the Open Data Centre Alliance. His main focus is business- enabling technology innovation.