The Strongest Aspect of Virtualization Is the Human Element

August 27th, 2010

Critical Observations – Chapter 02

Read the title a second time. It is not a cliché although it may sound like one? Having watched various virtualization strategies tried over the years, there is one common or key element, the human factor that makes, breaks, or otherwise confounds some when attempting virtualization or continuing to be successful with virtualization. How it confounds those that misjudge or miss value the human aspect of virtualization, varies. But I have observed the following scenarios take place.

1. Lack of Talent
2. Lack of Commitment
3. Lack of Leadership
4. Lack of Stability
5. Lack of Value

Lack of Talent, is the obvious pitfall, to be blunt and tactless, but there is no other way to explain this failure of the human element. An organization must have the right people, at the right time, to do the right job, inclusive of architecture, engineering and operational support, or the virtualization initiative will fail. I know of one firm that had at one time of more than 25 people struggle for a year with virtualization, and never got the virtualization infrastructure off the ground, out of the lab. I know of another firm with a 5 person team that grew to 7 over a few weeks time implement a virtualization solution in less than 100 days, which saved the firm more than 8 million in less than 1 year, and almost the same the following year.

Lack of Commitment, this factor I have discussed before, this is the idea that management from the top down, supports virtualization, in real, factual, terms, call it putting your money were your mouth is, or championing the initiative, whatever it is called, it is one thing… support for the virtualization strategy from all layers of management, hands down. Establishing a virtualization based culture and attitude, that in effect makes everyone see virtualization as the preferred solution because it is the right solution where appropriate.

Lack of Leadership, this is related to commitment, but different. Unless there is a strong, forceful leadership exhibited throughout the lifecycle of virtualization, which takes years, and significant cost of capital before savings are realized perspective, remember 1 year is a long time for management to wait, virtualization cannot survive. Pre-provisioning must be done; realignment of resources has to be done, etc. Management is not always great at taking risk, when said risk cannot be rationalized away as a nonfinancial initiative. Virtualization is a financial risk, if someone else says that is not so, they have no clue what virtualization as a strategic objective is or requires to succeed in the real world.

Lack of Stability, this is an intangible factor that can impact virtualization in an indirect fashion. If a firm is constantly changes from an organizational perspective, and such a corporate variance is not core to the culture of the given firm, virtualization often becomes fragmented, to many owners, designers, or implementers. Standardization is a foundation stone for virtualization, at least from the host infrastructure perspective, if not the virtual instance operating system baseline perspective. Cost avoidance comes with infrastructure reduction, and consistency intertwined with the logic and objectives of standardization. Standards only exist if implemented. I had a boss once tell me that comment was stupid… That boss was not around for long, by the way. If an organization is not stable and consistent, in a way that it can live with, then virtualization is all but impossible, because the first thing lost is uniform use of established standards.

Lack of Value, this is in reference to the human element without question, not justification of a virtualization strategy from a cost savings or cost-avoidance argument. Moreover, this may be the most important issue of all of the above points. For example, in a hypothetical context, a firm has the right talent, comment, and leadership in place. The firm is stable and aggressive in its development of competitive advantage, which in no small part is based on cutting edge virtualization design and implementation. But this firm does not value its architecture, engineering or operational staff in some way? What happens? Failure to establish competitive advantage based on virtualization, hook, line and sinker. Don’t believe that there is one architect, and one engineer, and even that one operational support staff person that is critical to virtualization success? Well, look again, they are there, they are sometimes visible, sometimes all but invisible. But they exist! If you don’t identify, know, and retain these key human resources that designed, developed, and implemented the virtualization 1.0 strategy in place, the ability to establish 2.0, 3.0, etc., which will continue to save a firm millions for years if not decades to come, knock on wood, will disappear as if by magic. Worse, by letting these key talents walk, a competitor has or will gain as if by magic much if not all of the benefits from years of design and development blood sweat and tears, for a fraction of the human cost. Don’t think this is real? Talk to the headhunters that call these key people each week!

The greatest threat to virtualization strategic planning and implementation, both when starting a new strategy and critical to the continued success of a maturing strategy, is when the economic climate is negative, because every decision that incurs significant upfront capital expense is painful and under extreme critical review before approval. For a virtualization strategy that is mature, and successful this may be extreme, since management is trying to squeeze blood out of rocks, and virtualization is always seen as an obvious target for management to improve expense reduction against. Thus impulse is to not recognize or reward talent, to take said talent for granted, or disqualify the potential for lost of talent. The headhunters know this, and they are out in force, right now, because key talent saves real money, especially when said talent can be stolen away. Recognition and reward funds are always hard to come by at the bottom or while sliding down an economic slump, but to not realize that the best and brightest can leave in seconds? Not take serious action to keep key talent? Well, it happens does it not? Talk about handing the competition a straight forward and effective way to gain or negate competitive advantage! That is the definition of the word… Dolt.

Entry Filed under: A Proper Virtual World

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Robert Kadish  |  September 13th, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Interesting argument coming from a company who’s goal it is to make management of virtual enviroments more simplistic. It may very well be the human element however not every admin or architect can read the software developers mind to understand how poorly written software is supposed to work. I think it may be more constructive to present how your solution is so well designed that an overworked admin can simply click through the GUI and it will guide them through every nuance they might encounter. If you could guarantee that you would not have to seach out the early adopters who are willing to work on a solution at night or on the weekends because they are committed. You could buck the trend and actually sell your solution to the lagards!

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