SmartAdvice: Understand The Landscape And Players When Consolidating Servers
Approach the politics of server consolidation with solid research and executive backing, The Advisory Council says. Also, highlight intangible benefits and find the value others miss to get IT-project funding success.
Editor's Note: Welcome to SmartAdvice, a weekly column by The Advisory Council (TAC), an advisory service firm. The feature answers two questions of core interest to you, ranging from leadership advice to enterprise strategies to how to deal with vendors. Submit questions directly to email@example.com
Question A: We know that we could save money by consolidating servers currently scattered across business units. How should we address the political issues around getting the business units to give up their servers?
Our advice: One should approach this initiative with caution and practicality, and do a thorough analysis before implementation.
Some organizations are so dysfunctional that almost nothing works. I have come across organizations where employees showed up not to make progress but to block it. Past results are a clear indication of future performance. If the organization has a legacy of failed projects, there's need for analysis of the root causes, and for addressing them prior to any major initiative.
Barring these extremes, most organizational politics can be addressed through logic and negotiations.
The key to politics is in understanding the landscape and the players. Get a clear understanding of the history and dynamics of the organization. Also understand the personal agendas, motivations, and hot buttons of the players.
Start by getting executive sponsorship, preferably on the business side. Using the sponsor's help, approach other key executives to identify the team. This ensures that key players are engaged and supportive.
The first task of this team is to create a project charter that clearly lays out the vision, objective, scope, assumptions, approach, plan, and participants.
Get everyone--sponsor, executives, and the team--to sign off on this charter.
The team then prepares a business case that clearly articulates ROI. This business case is the basis of addressing the logical concerns of the key stakeholders:
Set realistic expectations
Conduct thorough business impact analysis
Identify key risks, their impact and mitigation strategy
Be prepared for a discussion on the following:
While setting savings objectives keep in mind these key trends
Hardware prices are falling
Business cycles are shortening
Service-level expectations are increasing
If cost savings estimates are based on hardware savings alone, then this is a losing battle.
Forward or backward consolidation? Why?
Logical or physical consolidation? Why?
Rationalization across servers? When and how? Why?
What are the key facts such as capacity utilization? Peak loads? Connecting pipes?
Now you're ready for negotiations.
Remember, negotiations are a give and take process. Before you expect "them" to understand you, ask yourself, "do I understand them?"
Executives may oppose this initiative for two primary reasons:
Logical reasons, such as security and service level concerns.
Budgets: How will this affect their ongoing budgets?
The former is addressed through the business case.
The latter requires more work. Executives, like generals, do not concede territory. It cannot be taken by force, either. Hence, one has to try a combination of tactics.
Deftly use executive sponsor pressure.
Link compliance with compensation drivers.
Make it worth their while to lose some money and control. They can gain more in some other area.
Make sure that there's equity across the business units, i.e., one must not give up more than the other.
This political battle hasn't ended with the "go ahead" decision. The "go ahead" may be a strategic retreat in the face of overwhelming odds. They might wait to subvert the implementation and still achieve their objectives. For you, failure here will end the project and leave you damaged for future adventures. Hence, careful planning can and usually does save the day:
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