When a student completes medical school their first case isn’t on the heart transplant team. They have to start with work that matches their skills, knowledge and techniques that they have developed in their training. Typically they would start with diagnosis and treatment of non-life threatening cases, and then work their way up to harder cases. It is the same with new data center technicians, as data center operations guru Steve Carn explains.
Training is critical in achieving a high level of quality when operating a data center. We have found that the best training method is one-on-one and starts with the lowest risk procedure. However, that approach isn’t always scalable and can take many resources. Just as first year doctors are not on the transplant team, it is best to align the complexity and risk of a procedure to the technician whose skills, knowledge and techniques best align with that procedure. Over time, all technicians are able to perform every procedure within their specialty to the level of quality expected.
Quality is critical. It is no small task to attain the desired level of quality across all technicians, all data centers and all locations. All technicians need to master four basic ideas to ensure their success:
- Execute. This includes performing every procedure as it is documented and ensuring quality over speed, regardless of workload or external pressure to execute. It takes time to develop the skills necessary when there are over 200 procedures. These procedures cover more than just technical work, as there are procedures for communication, escalation and general operations around the data center environment.
- Escalate. Technicians must escalate to their manager whenever a procedure is not working correctly, if they have been assigned a procedure that they have not been trained to complete or if the procedure is not aligned with their capabilities.
- Common sense. Successful technicians apply common sense and pause to understand each work procedure before starting. Common sense is critical to achieving the level of quality we’ve committed to our customers. They ask questions like:
- “I’ve been tasked to shut down this switch, but it looks like there is traffic activity, so I’ll call the requestor to confirm.”
- “The host name for the server I’m about to work on is confusing, I’m going to call to clarify before I start.”
- Communicate. There can be up to 8 or more stakeholders to communicate with when performing complex procedures. Written, verbal, email, work logs in tickets, instant messages, voice mail and texting are all typical methods of communication. Our technicians are trained to provide precisely detailed, timely and relevant updates to ensure clarity on what was been done, what has just completed and what the next steps are. Referencing the exact asset information reduces possible confusion whether discussing 1 asset or 30. If communications aren’t clear, the technician needs to follow up, moving all digital communications to the work log and call the requestor to clarify. Most importantly they need to stop to escalate the request if communications are not clear.
In order to support our technicians with everything they need to be successful and develop their skills and capabilities, we provide several training methods; procedures to help them get started and reduce errors, like check lists, we put training online and use documents, audio and video to ensure content is understood. Repetition is the key to making sure a technician knows the procedures thoroughly. The behaviors that reduce or eliminate errors and increase quality are encouraged and rewarded.
The result is extremely high levels of quality, exceptional customer service and experience, increased availability of services and reduced time to perform certain tasks.
Who would you like operating your data center, a careful surgeon that has gone through and excelled in every training procedure, or someone who has been working in the center for a week and is left on their own?Contact Steve Carn by email at StephenC@vmc.com or 877.393.8622.