First task if you are building your first data center, fire the executives

I am spoiled spending a bunch of time with executives who have built many data centers which also means we spend time in bars and talk about all kinds of stuff.  What is one of the most hilarious observations is watching what occurs when companies build their first data centers.  The mistakes are funny, but expensive.  Chatting with a guy who has built more than many would build in a lifetime, it hit me.  "How about if the CFO/CEO fired the IT data center staff as the first step after the data center project is approved?  Then went out to the data center community to hire a free agent, experienced data center expert who knows how to design, build, and operate data centers."

Why would you do this?  Because, as soon as the data center project is approved, the #1 goal of the DC project team, composed of the real estate, facilities, and IT staff is not to lose their job in one of the biggest projects they have ever done.  As opposed to the #1 goal of an experienced executive is to design a data center which aligns with the business model of the company.  They have worked on many different version of data centers and know the trade-offs made in design that affect performance, cost and operations.  They have the confidence of experience and are not scared of losing their jobs as they know there is a long line of people who would hired them.

Morale could be bad when you fire the top guys, but don't get rid of the people who do the work.

The rank and file at Patni must have grown nervous seeing you fire so many executives. How are you handling employee morale?

First, I've done a lot of town halls. Second, I've made it very clear that beyond the executive level, I'm not letting anyone else go. Third, we've shown a huge difference in transparency between the way we do things and the way Patni did. That's gone a long way with people. Things are quite positive right now, but it will take a few quarters to work everything out. If we grow revenues quickly enough, people will trust us.

If you hired top data center talent for $500,000 a year salary with a two year contract you will save this big salary cost before you even start operating the data center as an experienced data center executive knows the way the numbers work in data center design, construction, and operations.  You could subscribe to all the consulting, analyst, and vendor advice you want, but very rarely do you find someone who has actually been the end user who has design, build and operate data centers.  There are about 7 guys who come to mind that could be data center free agents which are the same guys I thought of that use good management practices.

Robert Gates's 7 management rules for managing the Pentagon, some good ideas for Data Center Executives

TUESDAY, JUNE 21, 2011 AT 10:36AM

I am lucky to spend a lot of time with some really good data center executives.  When I read this WSJ article on Robert Gates's 7 rules for managing the Pentagon it reminded me a lot methods I see these guys using.  I can name about 7 guys who use these methods.  Can you?  One who used these rules is my dear departed friend Olivier Sanche.

The ironic part of using this strategy is the data center team who is looking to build their first data center may rethink how it approaches the data center project if they think they may be fired and replaced by an experienced data center executive.

The funny thing about this idea is I got a bunch of people thinking they would be up for the free agent data center position if became an industry standard practice.  And, the guys who would be most scared is the data center consultants, analysts, and vendors as the free agents shift the negotiating power.

Posting this blog may put at risk my working for a first time data center executive, but the CFO/CEO may contact me to ask who a data center free agent is and what they could do.  And, I actually enjoy having CFO data center discussions as they ask good questions on how to spend their money.