To make any type of software solution work well—and data center infrastructure management (DCIM) is no exception—the software’s functionality has to fit user needs, the implementation needs to be thorough, and ultimately, the user organization has to embrace or “adopt” the software. While a fair amount of attention is paid to the functional components of DCIM, there tends to be less attention paid to implementation and adoption issues.
In an earlier post, I examined the benefits of a lifecycle approach to DCIM implementation services, which follows a cycle of steps such as design, validation, user training, and post-deployment review. But even a fairly well-run implementation can fall short of optimal adoption in some instances, especially if there exists cultural barriers to change that make it challenging to break from old processes.
So what can be done? Is there an approach to delivering DCIM that can make adoption more fool-proof—that does more to ensure the software toolset will be used to its full potential? There is indeed a model that can address this need, and which we’ve had some recent success with in the Pacific region. It’s called the “managed solution” model.
It’s actually a common-sense approach that makes DCIM success a shared journey between the solution provider and the end-user organization. Read on to find out more about what the managed solution model for DCIM is (and isn’t); who it fits; what kind of deliverables are involved; and the benefits it brings.
First off, a managed solution is one where the technology and services provider gives the end-user ongoing help and services for a set number of years to ensure adoption and better use of the toolset to meet goals. What it’s not, however, is traditional business process outsourcing. Under a managed solution, the provider isn’t running the customer’s data centers on a day-to-day basis using DCIM, but rather, assisting the customer make better use of the tool through reviews, check-ups, training, and other services deliverables.
Here’s a simple analogy. Think of a managed solution as akin to a fleet management specialist that helps a user company get the most performance and efficiency from a fleet car or truck. That fleet manager keeps the vehicle tuned and running smoothly, ensures the drivers know how to operate and monitor the vehicle, but at the start of each day, the keys get handed over.
The managed solution approach may not fit every user organization. Some companies are going to have enough DCIM expertise along with such highly effective change management skills that traditional implementation services will bring success. However, there are many organizations who are highly resource-constrained when it comes to data center staff, or who lack deep DCIM experience, and for many of these organizations, a managed solution approach may be just what’s needed.
While it’s true that DCIM is not nearly as complex to implement and as challenging to adopt as some other categories of software such an enterprise resources planning (ERP) system, no company wants to pay for a solution that a few years down the road remains under-utilized, or doesn’t achieve full return on investment (ROI).
To work well, a managed solution approach takes some planning between provider and end-user organization on the deliverables involved. In the Pacific region, we’ve come up with a range of deliverables under four broad areas, looking not just at user training and software support, but also people issues and governance issues. For example, one support deliverable involves quarterly “health checks” on the DCIM software, but we also offer people-focused deliverables such as surveys to pinpoint adoption concerns, or with processes, help in establishing a continual service improvement program for DCIM. These deliverables can be tailored to what a particular organization needs.
The basic benefit of a managed solution is that it ensures better adoption of the software, which in turn drives ROI. The approach helps to ensure that users are building reports in the right way, using the DCIM solution’s monitoring and report capabilities to full effect, and using its capacity planning tools as envisioned.
Ultimately, better DCIM adoption leads to better data center operations. With a managed solution, the prime DCIM objectives that have been set—whether it’s to save energy, or better manage capacity, or increase availability—stand a better chance of being met. And finally, a managed solution makes DCIM success a shared journey—one where the customer is hands on with DCIM, but the services provider is there with a set of deliverables to ensure high user adoption and fulfillment of ROI objectives.