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«Data Center Consolidation: Top 10 Best Practices for Project Success David J. Cappuccio Many data center consolidation projects fail to meet overall ...»

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Publication Date: 2 May 2011 ID Number: G00212551

Data Center Consolidation: Top 10 Best Practices for

Project Success

David J. Cappuccio

Many data center consolidation projects fail to meet overall expectations, and rarely are

completed on time. By focusing on the best practices discussed in this research, CIOs

and data center managers can be assured that their consolidation efforts won't get

sidetracked for the wrong reasons.

Key Findings HR must be an integral part of the project in its earliest stages.

Lack of communication is the biggest detriment to a successful project.

By moving common services and low risk first, the potential for problems in later phases will drop dramatically.

Recommendations Identify personnel impacts as a first step, and develop a comprehensive plan to deal with them.

Communicate often and in detail, eliminating rumors and false information sources.

Benchmark before and after to validate success and stop misperceptions before they begin.

© 2011 Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Gartner is a registered trademark of Gartner, Inc. or its affiliates. This publication may not be reproduced or distributed in any form without Gartner's prior written permission. The information contained in this publication has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information and shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in such information. This publication consists of the opinions of Gartner's research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

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There are many reasons that organizations embark on consolidation efforts, ranging from simple expense management to reasserting central control authority over a highly distributed environment. Regardless of the reasons, understanding the benefits, risks and hidden problems that may thwart your progress is critical to the success of the project. During the past few years, we have talked with hundreds of organizations that have completed consolidation efforts of all sizes. This research discusses many of the best practices that have been used to ensure a project's success.

The primary best practices used in consolidation projects are as follows:

–  –  –

Define Objectives and Metrics for Success For everyone to be on the same page from the start, it is important that you clearly define the objectives of the consolidation project and the metrics that will be used to define success. Too often, the objectives are just assumed, and, in the end, it may be a success from one viewpoint, but deemed a failure because management was looking at a different objective. This then leads to the next best practice, on communication.

Communicate Constantly This has proved to be one of the most consistent success factors in consolidation projects.

Communication can take the form of formal corporate meetings, outlining the purpose and business goals of consolidation, ad hoc mailings with project updates, weekly newsletters, or even online portals.

The key reason for constant communication is not necessarily to keep the world informed of the consolidation team's activities (although this is also important), but to ensure that a consistent message is delivered to the whole organization, from a consistent vehicle. In many consolidation efforts, the first critical issue that needs to be addressed is employees' concerns regarding what will happen to their current job responsibilities once the project is completed. When clear, up-todate information on the project is lacking, or compartmentalized, rumors will begin to spread about what is happening — often based on faulty information — which can quickly cause severe morale issues and, in some cases, can critically derail the project timelines.

Publication Date: 2 May 2011/ID Number: G00212551 Page 2 of 6 © 2011 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved.

Put People First Many project teams believe they are focused on people first by getting key personnel involved with project planning at a very early stage. However, this is only one facet, and it involves people who, in most cases, will be full supporters of the project. Best practices have shown that getting the HR team involved at project inception is the most critical piece. At the very first meeting, where the concepts and goals of the project are discussed, an HR representative should be present, because first and foremost, these projects affect peoples' careers both positively and negatively. Some people will likely need to relocate offices, often moving homes and families, while others may be asked to take on different roles after consolidation, or perhaps may even be released due to downsizing.

These issues and potential solutions need to be understood at the outset, and an employee risk assessment should be created to identify the key issues that will likely arise, and where the pain points will develop that need to be addressed first. As soon as the project becomes public knowledge, these issues need to be addressed — and individuals talked to — to avoid serious morale problems and to stop misinformation from spreading from any disenfranchised people.

Put Common Services Second For larger projects, the decision about what to consolidate first often can make or break a project.

Rather than just focusing on individual sites as consolidation targets, or the largest potential financial benefit, successful projects often focus first on consolidating common services — those services that may be duplicated at remote sites, but that can easily be replicated and supported centrally. Moving these services first has the double effect of involving multiple sites in some facet of the project, essentially getting all stakeholders involved, and providing visible financial benefits to the overall project (such as reduced complexity, central support, improved licensing, etc.).

Leverage Supporters In many cases, when there are multiple sites to consolidate, each site or business unit head has his or her own reasons why his or her site should be consolidated first, last or not at all. These issues can quickly reach a severe level of political gamesmanship, especially when a business unit is convinced that its IT operation is already working just fine, and sees no real value in the consolidation exercise. A best practice for dealing with these issues is to leverage the project supporters first. Create a heat map that defines the risks and benefits of each targeted site to be consolidated, and focus on moving the least risky (and most supportive) site first. In some cases, incentives are created to help those early volunteers, but the project motivation is to move them successfully, and then to use that success, and the early volunteers' satisfaction, as a proof point that IT knows what it's doing with the project, and that subsequent moves can expect comparable levels of success.

Leap Frog — Learn as You Go Consolidation projects can be complex exercises and are often completed while under intense scrutiny from senior management and parts of the organization that are being relocated. The most intense scrutiny often comes from those who either have no faith that IT has the skill to succeed, or are determined to undermine the project to delay their own moves or invalidate the business case to avoid moving altogether.

Since these moves rarely happen smoothly, a best practice is to break them into multiple steps, focusing first on the simple, less-risky activities to test and validate the move process. More than likely, some part of the process will fail, but because the risk to the business is slight, project managers will have time to hone the process. Each subsequent move results in a tighter process Publication Date: 2 May 2011/ID Number: G00212551 Page 3 of 6 © 2011 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved.

so that, when critical systems or customers are moved, the process has become a well-oiled machine.

In addition, during these individual moves, equipment that is freed up at the old sites can be systematically relocated to the new site (between move steps), to be used for subsequent moves.

This leap-frog effect becomes an effective way to develop a strong move process, while also reusing older equipment in a controlled, low-risk way.

Build Momentum As part of the communication strategy for a consolidation project, it is recommended that you deliver a continuous stream of information to the organization. This is especially critical during the early stages of the physical move process, when all potential move candidates are paying very close attention to the move teams activities. One very effective technique we have seen is to highlight those successes via a newsletter or information portal, highlighting the benefits of the consolidation in business terms (e.g., improved performance, productivity, responsiveness to clients, etc). Also, if the leap-frog technique outlined above is used, then as each individual move is completed (especially the early ones), use the newsletter or portal as a marketing vehicle to demonstrate how effective the team was in achieving, or exceeding, its goals. As multiple moves are completed (easy ones first, more difficult ones later), the overall message is one of success upon success upon success, which will help build momentum within the organization, or build a strong perception that the consolidation effort is on track, is hitting targets and is beneficial to the company. This momentum will have a secondary effect of pressuring those outlying business units that may have been naysayers in the past into getting actively involved in the project and their subsequent move.

Reuse Equipment, or Leverage Contracts While the leap-frog technique is an effective way to reuse equipment during consolation projects, often the desire is to move onto newer equipment as much as possible, while still keeping capital budgets reasonable. Depending on your current contract expiration dates (or depreciation schedules), some creative solutions can be attained with your vendors. In particular, negotiate for early availability of equipment at the new site to be used as swing gear. Depending on contracts, this equipment either can be an early replacement of equipment at the "from" site or can be used as part of a serial number swap program, extending older lease terms, but on newer equipment with the same terms and conditions as the equipment it replaces, thus negating the need to move equipment between sites. These techniques are often used by vendors as a method of guaranteeing their position of dominance at the new site well before the project is completed.

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