Almost every day, I find myself at my local Safeway, picking up food for the next dinner or a running in to get a forgotten item. The grocery store is across the street from my complex, which makes it easy to plan badly and be very spontaneous. The “cost” is low and I can always use more exercise. So I don’t operate proactively and thus, have the luxury of responding to our “in the moment” food desires. It works for us. When I share this experience with a friend who lives in a remote part of Colorado, he said they didn’t have that opportunity; it is a 45-minute drive to town, so they have to plan. It’s even more critical for residents of remote parts of Alaska. They must plan meals and buy food for at least a month at a time. And they have to alter their plans or pay more based on what is available.
As I made yet another trip to Safeway, I found myself wondering – how many data center managers operate exactly as I do? How many are trapped in the “weeds” of day-to-day operations, just trying to survive, while assuming that their next “provisioning” will be as easy as mine is? Unless your office is at HP or IBM (or similar), you can’t get the hardware you need when you need it, at the price you want for your company. You have to plan. You have to work with the business to understand future needs, so you can minimize your costs and have just what you need, when you need it.
But as a colleague pointed out, it isn’t just hardware planning. Many of your fellow employees view IT services as if it is a local resource, like my local Safeway. When they need a new service or capability, it should be as simple as a “walk across the street.” But in IT, we all know it isn’t. This too means working with the business to help them understand the effort and resources required to deliver on the services they want to offer. It’s teamwork, and teamwork means planning. Just as my husband and I sit down regularly, so I can present him with menu ideas, the IT process is a collaboration resulting in a “meal” that both sides enjoy and can support. When this alliance is functioning, sometimes the business will okay a trip across the street to Safeway (getting hardware even when it isn’t a great deal or hiring some consultants to speed the process.) But without that alliance, IT sees the provisioning of services like a 7-day sled-dog trip; the business sees it as a quick trip to Safeway.
On a side note, sometimes I just open my fridge and plan a meal around what I have, going for some innovative combinations. You can do this too, by looking at the resources you already have (people, hardware and software) and putting them together in new and different ways to offer a better service experience.