Getting the Most From Your Data Centre Consultant

A recent survey of 100 IT professionals responsible for data centres commissioned by data centre specialists Sentrum highlights the trust gap between independent consultant and client. Statistics from Sentrum’s 2009 research showed that 52% of IT managers in large companies expressed an interest in receiving advice and recommendations from specialist consultants whilst in 2010 that trend has increased to the point where 88% of IT managers said they would turn to independent data centre consultants for advice on designing a data centre. 42% of the organisations questioned stated they now felt the need to secure the ‘expert’ advice of consultants – a further 35% admitted that they lacked the detailed knowledge required to complete data centre projects in-house.

So far, so good – but what about execution?

Whilst 97% of the companies surveyed said they look for outside expertise in design or management, just 2% take the original recommendations without change. 9% of those surveyed admit they change the recommended specification frequently and while it is easy enough to put this down to the client not having a clear scope, a more worrying 58% admit this happens quite often.

Where is it going wrong?

There is obviously a clear issue here – consultants are providing advice that does not seem to fit the client’s objective. This can be caused by many factors including:

A vague brief or unclear design objective
Lack of understanding and management buy-in
Consultants attempting to reuse existing designs to save time
Consultants not being clear enough when discussing pitfalls
“The gap in understanding of technical and commercial issues from the project outset between technology and business leaders is a common cause for scope change mid-project”, says data centre consultant David Griggs. “Whilst the CEO and CIO have a vision of a super-efficient, low-carbon facility with reduced operating costs, the CFO needs to understand there can be a significant increase in capital expenditure to achieve this.”
5 tips for a to get the most from external expertise

Establish a relationship early on with a design partner. A good one will be happy to discuss some high level concepts with you, without charge
Use their experience to help you finalise your C level exec briefings and come up with some realistic design objectives
Using off the shelf designs and proven technologies can keep costs down
Once the initial design is produced, roadshow this quickly to identify potential hazards
A staged payment model will ensure commitment from the consultant throughout the project life-cycle. Negotiating such a model can avoid punitive upfront charges.

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