10 Stepping Stones to a Successful DCIM Adoption

Today there is much talk about the real value of DCIM and some are even busy declaring the whole DCIM initiative as a failure. However its far from true and honestly speaking, representing a visionary vendor in this space, I’m actually glad to see some of the hype from analysts and giant vendors setteling, so that we now get the opportunity to talk about what really matters for organisations.

The funny thing is, those that succeed in getting value from DCIM typically follow a similar pattern in their approach to DCIM. Below I have compiled a list of 10 Stepping Stones to a successful DCIM Adoption. Not all organisations have the scale to need all steps, so use your natural common sense to decide for yourself.

#1: Ask yourself why?

This is a critical (however much overlooked) part of getting properly off the ground with DCIM. First you’ll have to ask yourself, why you need a DCIM. Foolish as this might sound, the number of organisations engaging in a DCIM sourcing process, without having defined, what they are trying to achieve, is shocking (typically driven by the hype). Also ask yourself if the timing is right. Are you in the middle of planning a refresh (DC or IT) or are you even planning a new build-out, then timing is absolutely perfect. Make sure you understand you’re going on a journey, that will last some time.

#2: Define your company’s (unique) needs

As a natural next step to the above, you now have to try to narrow down what you’re really looking for. What are the biggest challenges in your day-to-day life (where does it hurt the most)? Where are you waisting time on manual tasks that really could (read: should) be automated? This is also the right time to start finding and engaging your internal stakeholders. Who will support you in this journey? Who will try to make you fail, since they benefit from Status Quo? Think out of the box. Dream!

This is also a good time to scan the market for options, so browse the web, go to conferences, invite vendors in for briefings, etc, but be very careful here! Unless you’re loyal to your own situation, you can easily be thrown off track here. Just because someone has a fancy 3D cooling model doesn’t mean you’ll need it (read: benefit from it). And just because someone can scan your network to auto-discover equipment, does mean it’ll find all of ours. Be open minded and take in all the input, but also be critical and realistic in terms of your own environment.

#3: Assess current state

Now with all this beautiful information at hand, you should have a rough idea of where you’re planning to go. Now asses what your current situation looks like and make gap analysis for all areas. Divide all your current processes, tools and systems input 3 buckets: Stay!, Maybe? and Must Go! Be honest to yourself here! Initiate a scorecard for each requirement to keep track of your assessments. This phase will also give you some initial pointers to potential future integration points between systems.

#4: Stakeholder Workshop 1

Another extremely critical but much overlooked step on the path to success is the first stakeholder workshop. Ideally meet in a room with lots of whiteboards and no tables and chairs. For virtual teams an online meeting room will do (in lack of better) as well. Now test drive all your findings. There will be lots of discussions (hopefully some passionate ones as well), so make sure to take notes. No ideas are bad ideas and everybody is entitled to their opinion! Together refined the requirements using the scorecard and prioritise each requirement into Must Have, Should Have and Could Have and put an ideal timeline against each. The meeting doesn’t end until the group have reached some level of concensus, so make sure you set aside enough time.

#5: Reference visit

Using the scorecard as your guide, you now need to narrow down your candidates of promising vendors. Ask for their references, ideally looking for identical size organisation, similar challenge(s) and comparable industry or setup. Talk to one or more of them and ideally go on an on-site reference visit (remember if you ask for this, also be prepared to assist others later on, by allowing reference visits in your environment). Maybe engage one or more key stakeholders in this part (they like feeling important). During the reference visit or call look for things like business drivers, organisational learning and actual achievements.

#6: Build your Business Case

Getting closer to making a decision, most organisations needs to justify the purchase by creating a business case for it. Now while this historically is a difficult task for a DCIM system isolated (most savings will be indirect), there are ways to work this. Obviously look for both costs and savings, but also make sure you understand the expected impact on your organisation (training, new process roll out, data capture, etc). On the costing side look for traditional costs related to licenses (initial upfront), maintenance / support (annually recurring) and implementation (one-off), but also try to assess more on-going activities like audits, upgrades, etc. On the savings side look for reduced labor overhead (due to automation), eliminated/reduced business impact (downtime), reduced energy spend and perhaps even a potential postponed investment in new/upgraded facilities.

This is not an easy step, but don’t be afraid to involve your vendor in the process. Could be he’s actually done it a number of times before. However do ensure you feel comfortable with the case at the end. It has to be your numbers!

#7: Run a Proof-of-Concept

Sometimes the need for some real field verification is needed in order to further build trust in the business case and for this you’ll engage in a Proof-of-Concept (PoC). Remember however that this is just as much a verification of your business case (the financials) as it is a verification of the products/suites proposed (the technicals). Again use your scorecard for keeping track of the learnings.

This is your one chance of verifying if your assumptions are realistic, so make it count! A well-planned and executed PoC should last no more the 4-6 weeks.

#8: Make a Decision!

While this is a scary step for most, following the above steps up until now, should actually take away most of uncertainty, that normally leads to your doubts. Involve your stakeholders again for a final check for their support, but be loyal to the process so far to avoid emotional inputs. Use your scorecard for guidance – it’ll give the answer you’re looking for!

#9: Stakeholder Workshop 2

Now while you think you might be done or at least getting close to the end, you are actually only getting started! Now the real work starts! Call for another stakeholder workshop, this time focusing on planning the implementation. Focus on things like roles & responsibilities, changed or new business processes, timelines and lessons learned so far. A handshake at the end is mandatory, since you need to stand shoulder by shoulder as this rolls out.

#10: Implement!

Now enough has been said, now its time for action! Make sure you implement the DCIM system as well as the organisation behind it. Roll-out training as new functions comes online and support people in their change process from old to new. Though most vendors will offer you a turn-key implementation, make sure you take an active part in this, putting your fingerprint on the progress. Tweak, adjust and keep learning as you go along.

That’s it! 10 easy to follow stepping stones for your journey to DCIM heaven. Yes, there might be other steps or fewer depending on your organisational setup, but try to align with the thinking process behind this, so you’ll benefit from the learnings of others. Obviously only scratching the top of iceberg for each here, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch for a more in-depth discussion on this.