A DCIM Checklist for Success – Some steps you’ll want to follow

I am asked all the time about some of the best steps that can be taken today which will increase the likelihood of success in DCIM projects. While your mileage may vary, and every organization is different, there is a common set of steps which I see across the most successful DCIM deployments. Your DCIM journey will have much of this same series of steps.

Here is my checklist of how to start down the DCIM path and what to do along the way.

Step 1: Do your research. Read. Talk to your peers at other companies that have invested in DCIM. Conceive a vision for DCIM at your company. And keep reminding yourself what DCIM is at the high level. It includes suites and enhancements, and all of these address data center management at the physical layer. Write your vision down. Think about it. Test it. Refine it. You are the pioneer and are the smartest guy about DCIM within your company (by virtue of the fact that you are starting down this path, otherwise you’d be joining someone else’s journey.) Remember, someone has to start & it’s you! Recruit your fellow adventurers and solicit their innovation support. Think about a 3 year plan together, making sure to identify TODAY’s scope and needs. Don’t try to boil the ocean. Make it realistic. Scoping your plan will yield a rough order-of-magnitude budget, so keep that in mind for the remainder of these steps.

Step 2: Get buy-in from ALL of the stakeholders. IT, Facilities, Finance and the corporate responsibility team. Spend some time getting them to agree with your concept and how it will help them. If you sense dissention, start again and resolve it. Maybe it’s a communication issue. Maybe something else. Like coffee roasting, ONE bad bean REALLY will ruin the whole batch. Not sure who ALL these folks are?? Warning, Warning! Big RED flag and a recipe for disaster. They WILL find YOU along your journey and it will likely be less than pleasant. Find them, include them and partner with them

Step 3: Be realistic with setting YOUR scope and roll-out timing. How much can YOU actually do now? Who are your peers that will help? How much time do you and your peers have? Is this your REAL job, or a hobby? What other resources do you need? How does this impact existing projects, and what is the missed opportunity if you do nothing? Successful DCIM will likely have people dedicated to management of this system, much like any other ERP application or database structure.

Step 4: Take a deep breath and document your existing processes and tools. This will be an eye-opener! Most companies at this point find themselves in a mess of random processes, inconsistencies, and poor process documentation. In today’s data center operations, you’ll likely find a great deal of individual and surprisingly unique approaches to the same common tasks. Individuality in the data center is NOT a good thing.

Step 5: Audit and inventory the capital assets that you already have installed. You’ve spent one or two hundred million dollars (or equiv) on building that shiny data center over the past 3 years, surely you must have an amazing level of detail, right? Wrong. Like the vast majority of Fortune 2500 companies, you will find yourself gathering CAD drawings, post-it notes, spreadsheets and composition notebooks to find it all.

Step 6: Determine YOUR Integration requirements. What will the new DCIM system actually do when plumbed into your world? Forget the trade show demo you saw, this is about defining how your selected DCIM tool will interact with YOUR other systems, your accounting systems, your building systems, your ticketing systems, etc.

Step 7: Establish a roster of users and associated security policies. Who can use the system and what is the span of their access and control? Probably more than you think if done right. I spoke to one company with a modern DCIM that had more than 800 users of their DCIM system everyday!

Step 8: Determine EACH stakeholder’s required outputs (Dashboards, reports, etc.) This is the Business Intelligence we all hear about. It is this critical requirement that transforms raw DATA into actionable information. Knowing the temperature of any given point in space is DATA, knowing what the thermal trends are across a data center for the purposes of balancing cooling chillers more efficiently is INFORMATION.

Step 9: Select a DCIM Vendor. You have just spent 3 months working on the preceding steps, so it is the culmination of that work that must be used to select a vendor. You will be holding the chosen vendor accountable to deliver exactly what you wrote down for a very long time, so take this selection process very seriously. Be more objective versus subjective in this process.

DCIM will reduce your costs

DCIM will reduce your costs when deployed strategically

Step 10: Implement! Finally, right? In your DCIM journey, this is the money shot. Deploy it, and migrate the existing structure detail to the new DCIM repository! This could be weeks in larger cases, so plan for it. Implementation of DCIM should be treated as any other mission-critical enterprise application. The platform for DCIM should be intentional. Successful DCIM will not be installed on a ‘server we had laying around’. Once deployed, validate the deployment. Is the data all there? Are the integrations working? Does the model match the reality?

Step 11: Train your users! Show them how to make the system work FOR THEM. Yeah, That’s the ticket! (Jon Lovitz voice). How many people have been given a login to Salesforce.com, only to have skipped the recommended user training and then find themselves not really understanding how to use the system? Happens everyday! The DCIM application will NEVER be strategic if your users don’t understand it or even worse if they feel compelled to work around it. Train them to make it fit and ENHANCE their world.

Step 12: Celebrate your success! Make sure the company and all stakeholders are aware of the new business value realized through DCIM. That said, continue to test your growing needs and then go back to step #1 annually when budgeting occurs. DCIM will grow. No matter what you cooked in up front, it will grow over time if you are doing it right. There is simply too much opportunity to use this new source of knowledge to streamline your data centers. Keep testing and challenging the processes and the system to do MORE.

Are there other steps? Sure, even the order may be slightly different in each case, but these are the critically important steps I see in the most successful DCIM implementations. In general, the more ‘STRATEGIC’ people feel the DCIM system is, the more likely they will work the system into their daily routine. The more likely they will not only replace older processes, but begin to enhance and streamline those processes.

DCIM will yield REAL savings when done right. Can you say Ka-Ching?

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Mark Harris Fremont, CA
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