Mention the term WORKFLOW to many long-term data center operators, managers and technicians and you’ll see a change in their facial expression. Perhaps a little fear, maybe some pain and just a hint of embarrassment. The look will be subtle, and you may not even notice it at first, but it’s there. You’ll hear a polite pause, perhaps a smile, and over the course of the next 60 seconds, you’ll feel the conversation be steered (actually tugged) awkwardly towards ANY other topic. Why? It’s part of the dirty little secret that has been kept by many IT organizations for years: Data Centers are built in a highly complex fashion, both hardware and software, and are perfected over long periods of time. Today, many data centers are so complex that once the data center is up and running and its contained applications are functional, most users do NOT want to do anything that could disrupt that harmony. In essence, CHANGE becomes a 4-letter word.
So the horror seen in their eyes comes from the fact that connecting “change” to “workflow” is just a single transformation. Workflow goes hand in hand with discipline, planning and repeatable and defendable best practices. Whereas five years ago there were rewards for midnight cowboys that drove down to the data center in the middle of the night and did whatever was needed to restore services, those types of events are looked at with great scrutiny today. How could it happen? Why did it happen? What was done to restore operations? Where is the documentation of what change was made? What else was impacted? Did the midnight changes solve all the symptoms or did it also create new? All very valid questions, and part of reasons for workflow.
Data Centers can be optimized by streamlining the processes associated with change in the context of all of the other changes being made. Workflow is the technology that manages this change, and is the critical toolset missing from the vast majority of enterprise data centers today. Workflows enable changes to be planned and executed more accurately and in less time. Workflow allows tasks to be repeated again and again by any organization or individual. Workflows provide the foundation for change and can enforce good behavior, all while providing continuous “As-Built” documentation for every aspect of the data center. With this current knowledge, impactful decisions can be made at any point in time.
So back to that ‘look’ on the faces of many data center professionals when asked about “workflow”. It’s the look that says “I know that workflow will help everyone in my company, and the use of workflows decreases costs and shows a level of maturity and high level of discipline, BUT… I JUST HAVEN’T GOTTEN TO IT YET because there are simply so many day to day diversions competing for my limited time and resources”. They know it’s the right thing to do, to get in front of the chaos. They know that using workflows will make everyone’s job easier, reduce costs, decrease unplanned downtime, etc. All of the goodness.
So if you are a Data Center professional considering workflow, you should ask yourself, “if NOT now, When?” Can you really afford to delay implementing DCIM with Workflow? Workflow is not going away and forms the cornerstone of best practices. It’s good business. Andy Lawrence at The 451 Group says, ” it is difficult to achieve the most advanced levels of datacenter effectiveness without extensive use of DCIM” with workflow.
And remember, there are LOTS of 4-letter words that can be used to describe WORKFLOW, starting with “GOOD”!