Identifying your top data center management problems is a foundational point for any Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) project. Knowing the data center problems that you’re trying to solve helps you create your RFPs and RFIs, evaluate POCs, select and implement a DCIM software solution, and ultimately determines your criteria for initial success.
Unfortunately, defining your data center management challenges is more difficult than it sounds. And with so many competing priorities from the data center, facilities, IT, infrastructure, network, and other teams, how can you whittle your problems down to the few that will everyone agree on?
Once you have an idea what your data center management problems are, ask these six questions to clearly identify the issues you want to tackle with your DCIM project.
1. Are these problems the real problems?
Before you can identify your top data center problems, you need to gain an understanding of the different issues that the key stakeholders are experiencing. These can range from obvious problems like running out of power capacity and observable inaccuracies in asset inventories to less concrete issues, like the frustration of work orders completed incorrectly. However, keep in mind that these issues may, in fact, be “presenting problems,” symptoms of deeper, more complex challenges that might spur initial complaints but aren’t what’s truly wrong. You may need to investigate further to identify the underlying causes and make sure that implementing DCIM software will help you address them. You want your problems to be as well defined as possible so everyone is aligned on the issues and how they can be solved. Also, make sure that these problems are worth solving.
2. Can I address these problems with DCIM software?
DCIM software can solve a wide range of data center management problems, but it's not a magical cure-all. Once you’ve identified the issues that are actual problems, honestly assess and deprioritize those that can’t be solved easily or straightforwardly with DCIM software. Remember that you're trying to limit your initial project to solving only one or two problems. By restricting your pool of problems in this way, you’re able to focus your efforts, avoid wasting time and project resources, keep expectations realistic, and ensure that your criteria for DCIM success are achievable.
3. Do these problems affect business-critical data center operations?
Once you’ve limited your pool of problems to data center management challenges that can be solved with a DCIM tool, you can start to narrow your focus to the problems that have the most impact across functions, teams, or your entire organization. In many cases, this starts with data center operations, resources, and processes that are essential to the business. Focusing on these problems also helps you create criteria for prioritization that all stakeholders can agree to. Any problems that do not meet this criterion should be deprioritized.
Note: Another way to answer this question is to consider which problems align with company-wide objectives or initiatives and to prioritize accordingly. Taking this approach can also ease the way to gaining support and approval for your DCIM software project.
4. Can these problems wait to be resolved?
As many data center teams know, not all data center management problems need to be resolved immediately. Even high-priority projects usually have some lead time, and the actual execution of the project may take longer than expected. The point of this question is to understand and prioritize based on the urgency of the problems and their causes. It's also important to acknowledge the consequences that deferring the resolution of problems may have on mission-critical data center operations.
One caveat: Major events that have strict or fixed timelines, like a data center move, expansion, colocation, or migration, may require special consideration as you define and prioritize your problems.
5. What is the scope of each problem?
One of the main reasons for focusing on your top one or two data center management challenges is that you are looking for quick, achievable wins. When you try to solve problems that are too large in scope for your initial project, you may end up lengthening your timeline and decreasing your chances of success. Instead, once you’ve achieved success with a few small wins, build on it and slowly expand your project.
6. What is the human element in these problems?
When discussing data center management problems and the ideal ways to identify and prioritize, you might think that being detached and unemotional gives you the best chance of making the correct decisions. While that might be accurate in many cases, don’t dismiss the people factor out of hand. Excitement and advocacy for your DCIM software project can increase significantly among upper management and data center team members when they feel like their problems are being solved.
The problems you ultimately decide to tackle in your data center software project will vary based on your objectives and other factors unique to your organization and data center. The questions outlined here are meant to spur careful consideration of your real data center management problems and to help you apply filters or criteria to reduce your issues down to the top one or two challenges. Leveraging these questions as you determine your own top data center management problems and using the final output to inform your project will help you ensure that your initial DCIM software implementation is a success for all stakeholders.