What Everybody Ought to Know Before Moving A Data Center
In 1999, I had the unique opportunity to participate in the construction of the new San Francisco International Airport (SFO) terminal project. This was a massive undertaking at a very busy airport. Keeping track of all the construction and the sequence of events and their dependencies wasn’t done with a single tool. It required an entire army of project management specialists, a wide range of tools, and endless status update meetings.
Subcontractors began their morning with a mandatory coordination meeting. Held in a hot, dusty construction trailer, it was standing room only as the general contractor outlined the sequence of events for the day’s work. The outcome was choreography of how each subcontractor would participate or would stay out of the way to permit the task to complete.
After a few months, I noticed some subcontractors consistently performed their work on time and others struggled with their work queue. After shadowing several of these groups during the project, I was surprised to find what set these contractors apart.
While they all used the automated project management tools required by the general contractor, the highly effective subcontractors used something very simple to drive their productivity.
A Daily Punch List
The daily punch list was a single sheet with checkboxes for the tasks to be completed. It was assigned at the beginning of the shift and returned at the end. Gantt charts weren’t permitted in the field. Supervisors hyper-focused on the tasks and a separate team fed the giant project management machine of the SFO airport. The electricians completed their work side by side welders, carpenters, and painters. No one stopped an electrician during her workday to pull her into a meeting to explain her percentage complete or predict when she would finish with that task.
For Information Technology projects, we still cling to serving the project management tool du jour. We feed it constant status and we want a perfect prediction of the future. We waste the specialists time with status meetings and variance reports and re-planning.
As you struggle with your data center relocation project, think about the power of that punch list. Instead of focusing on manipulating the latest technical tracking tool, focus on the work at hand.
Before you can organize anyone else, you need to organize yourself and I recommend you begin with a punch list before you move to a project planning tool like Microsoft Project. But what makes a good punch list? I studied the punch lists of all the subcontractors at the SFO project and developed seven required categories every punch list should contain:
1. **Status** — This is a numeric scale of 0 to 4 indicating the disposition of the item. 0=not started, 1=Serious issues of schedule or resources or constraints, 2=Some concerns, 3=Task progressing, 4=Task completed.
2. **Item #** — A numeric integer assigned to each specific task.
3. **Description** — The brief task description.
4. **Next Action** — What is expected to happen next.
5. **Owner** — The primary owner of the task.
6. **Possession Arrow**— Explicitly declare when the owner needs another resource to move the task forward. Possession arrows drastically improve the dynamic of getting tasks completed.
7. **Due Date** — For those tasks where milestones affect the overall project. It’s very important to understand that putting due dates for every task is counterproductive. This will draw you back into focusing on dates instead of focusing on completing work. Use due dates for the very important tasks and not the minutia and you’ll already be light years ahead of most project managers.
What do you put on your initial punch list? Simply start listing all the disconnected tasks swimming around in your mind. Reduce your anxiety by emptying everything concerning your data center move onto that punch list. This guide is filled with prescriptive tips in every section. When a tip matches your situation, put it on your punch list, assign an owner and next action.
Adults differ in how they best learn. When I conducted workshops on data center moving, I discovered that busy professionals are mostly distracted even when physically present in the classroom. I would receive e-mails long after the workshop was over to help them find topics covered in class. That’s the reality of the world today. We can’t possibly absorb everything and recall it perfectly at the moment of need. Because the punch list is such an important tool and I want you to revisit it at the moment of your need, I’m providing a link to retrieve my punch list template.
Learn more, Get the Book “What Everybody Ought to Know Before Moving a Data Center” by Blaine Berger.