Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Data Centre Relocation Calendar

I'm past the half-way point in relocating a 500-server data centre. The servers are a real variety -- a typical medium-scale business data centre. We're using mostly internal resources, supplemented by some contractors like myself with data centre relocation experience.

I chose not to come in and impose a relocation methodology on everyone. There are a lot of reasons for that, some of which were out of my control. Rather than using a methodology out of the can, I tried to foster an environment where the team members would build the methodology that worked for them.

This turned out to be quite successful. One of the items that emerged fairly late for us, but was very successful, was a shared calendar in Microsoft Outlook/Exchange. (The tool wasn't important. It could have been done in Google Calendar. Use whatever your organization is already using.)

The shared calendar contained an event for every relocation of some unit of work -- typically some service or application visible to some part of the business or the public. Within the calendar event we put a high-level description of what was moving, the name of the coordinator for that unit of work, and hyperlinks to the detailed planning documents in our project shared folders. The calendar was readable by anyone in the corporation, but only my team members could modify it.

What struck me about the calendar was how it organically became a focal point for all sorts of meetings, including our weekly status meeting. Without having to make any pronouncements, people just began to put the calendar up on the big screen at the start of most of our meetings. We could see at a glance when we might be stretching our resources too thin. The chatter within the corporation that we weren't communicating enough diminished noticeably.

Based on my experience, I'd push for a calendar like this much earlier in the project. We built it late in our project because I had a lot of people on my team who were reluctant to talk about dates until they had all the information possible. We got so much value in having the calendar that I think it's worth it to make a calendar early in the planning stage, even if the dates are going to change.

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