Proper Planning Includes Preparing for the Unpredictable

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No matter how flawless a plan may appear, there is always the potential for unanticipated challenges. Realizing that challenges can crop up – and clearly articulating steps to deal with them – is essential to the successful and timely completion of any data center project, whether it’s a system constructed from standard hardware and software components or an engineered-to-order (ETO) project.

Developing a standardized and predictable process that can adapt to last-minute changes or unanticipated hazards requires forethought and planning. But creating a framework for dealing with potential problems can minimize delays, ensure continuity and curtail frustration.

Asynchronous activities

Expecting steps of a plan to fall into place exactly as detailed in a project outline without considering potential pitfalls is unreasonable. A process developer has no control over some elements of a project, including:

  • Project changes: A standardized process should be flexible enough to adapt to change without triggering process delays or defects, and without adding unnecessary costs. Changes to the project can be triggered by information brought forward after the process has been outlined, alterations to vendors’ equipment or services, or changes in the system requirements requested by the user.
  • Product defect correction: Missing, damaged or faulty parts can occur in any system. The burden of correcting a defect falls to the product supplier, but the standardized process should take into account the possibility of defects and define the manner in which interaction with the supplier will be facilitated.
  • Process defect correction: Errors related to missing data, sequence of steps or even missing steps can occur. Delays and costs can be minimized if a recovery strategy is built into the initial standardized process.

Any of these can be experienced at any time during a project. By anticipating potential problems, specific and sequential steps can be included in a standardized process and assigned to an “owner” so costs and delays caused by any of these flaws are minimized.

Engineered-to-order projects

A project featuring highly customized equipment or services requires focused attention to detail. A standardized process can be expanded to accommodate added steps required for engineering design, a system test (to confirm it operates as designed) and commissioning (by which the whole system is tested to ensure it operates correctly in the on-site environment).

As with any standardized process, each step of the process requires specific information about who owns the step, an explanation of the work to be performed in each step, data needed for the step to be completed as well as the expected output (data produced) by the step which will be needed to complete subsequent steps in the process.

Expert oversight

A data center project – whether ETO or a standard project – requires expert oversight to keep the project on budget, provide continuity, maintain a schedule, and provide status updates, among other tasks. Creating a responsibility assignment checklist means everyone is aware of who “owns” each step and task. A clearly defined owner can ensure efficient and successful completion of the data center project and minimize the likelihood of “dropped balls.”

Developing a standardized process for a data center build creates predictability, efficiency and scalability for the provider and the ultimate user.  For more information, read this APC by Schneider Electric white paper, Data Center Projects: Standardized Process.