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Preparing for DCIM Culture Shock

Corporate culture may take time to adapt to the impact of DCIM implementation
Corporate culture may take time to adapt to the impact of DCIM implementation

According to my old friend Wikipedia, culture shock is the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or visiting a new country, a move between social environments, or simply travel to another type of life. It ‘s generally accepted that culture shock consists of four phases. In case you’re not familiar, these are; the honeymoon phase, negotiation, adjustment and finally mastery, when individuals are able to fully and comfortably in the “host culture”.

Culture shock, on an organisational level, seems like something which should be factored in when considering implementing potentially transformational technology such as DCIM. The reason, in my opinion, is that the software implementation tends to be driven by one corner of the business – usually facilities and usually by a core need such as asset tracking and management, or capacity management. However, once installed, the usefulness of the software can be quickly assimilated and its reach extended. And in turn, this can have all sorts of implications for organisations, especially if they’re not prepared.

The Data Center Maturity Model suggests as much. Uptime research shows that the majority of organisations are at a basic level of DCIM adoption, perhaps lacking integration, and at most able to monitor data center environments and equipment power use, and adjust cooling accordingly. However, with vendors selling the fullest potential of the software, and those messages being translated upwards to justify purchase, something is getting lost in translation. And that message, I suspect, is the amount of organisational adjustment which is going to be required if you’re going to progress from managing availability to managing capacity, utilisation and efficiency.

Like adjusting to culture shock, there is a logical progression to the way that the full value is unpacked once the software is in use. And that rate of progression can be very much affected by the state of readiness and awareness which exists within the users’ ecosystem. In Schneider Electric white paper #170 (Avoiding Common Pitfalls of Evaluating and Implementing DCIM Solutions) the author, Patrick Donovan says “a lack of commitment, ownership, and knowledge can seriously limit any management system’s success.”

I think Patrick has a good point, in the case of DCIM, its usefulness to the facilities and IT teams, the sales desk (in the case of co-location companies), and financial and other CXO stakeholders could leave the software lacking a champion. In fact, there are companies which have bought DCIM solutions which have been installed and yet remain unutilized for precisely this reason; the purchaser is not the user and the user is not the main beneficiary. Hardly a situation in which you could see any solution, no matter how ground breaking, ever succeeding.

The companies in which I have seen the most successful DCIM implementations have three things in common and they all relate to their business culture:

  1. A DCIM champion – someone senior in the organisation – possibly working together with a domain or subject matter expert, and supported by the software vendor (or channel partner).
  2. A change management process in place for the adoption of new working methods; to ensure that the line of least resistance is not taken (i.e., falling back on old work habits).
  3. Provision for the amount of time, work and commitment that is going to be needed even to get to first base with DCIM.

As with any change, it could be a long road. However, I’m happy to say that those DCIM adopters which have prepared themselves for the potential culture shock which DCIM brings, are also seeing some great results with the software. We’ll shortly be posting a case study about one such adoption so you can see how a leading systems integrator tackled the process.

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