Leadership for the cloud-based data center

When transitioning to a software-defined data center (SDDC), it’s easy to get wrapped up technology and process changes. These four strategies can help IT leaders facilitate a successful organizational transformation and empower team members.

Major changes are underway in the data center, propelled by the consumerization of IT, mobility, big data and the cloud. IT organizations must respond to business challenges much more rapidly than ever before because corporate executives no longer view IT as overhead; today, IT is a way to gain a competitive advantage. Looking into the future, if anything, the rate of change will only continue to accelerate, requiring more integration and automation to respond to the ever-increasing demand.

In a 2014 IBM survey of IT leaders, the focus on future was not driven by cost reduction and improved efficiency, but rather by building data center infrastructure that would help determine success-or-failure of the business. At the time, only one in 10 executives considered their existing data center ready to address pending demands.

Fast forward to today, the middle of 2016, and the cloud is the most significant force behind data center transformation, whether public, private or a hybrid. The influence of cloud architecture has led to the emergence of the SDDC as the clear winner in terms of overall corporate IT strategy.

But the shift to the cloud isn’t just a technical change. It has massive ramifications for people, process and technology. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the technology and process changes; however, many organizations are slow to address the implications for the workforce. The following four strategies can help IT leaders who are transitioning to SDDC facilitate a successful organizational transformation.

  1. Create a Vision

First, as a leader, it is important to establish a clear vision for the future. Not all leaders have the charismatic capability to inspire from a vision alone, but nonetheless, this is the first step in building a coalition with a team that will help deliver the desired outcome: an IT organization that is key to business success. Too many times, leaders act as if the vision is something reserved for back-room conversations with other members of the leadership team. In reality, building a vision that clearly outlines the end-game is essential. Members of the IT team are constantly bombarded with decisions, and the vision statement can act as the beacon that keeps everyone moving in the same direction. While the vision statement should be in support of an overall organizational mission, it should also be specific to the teams in the data center organization.

  1. Demonstrate the Vision

Second, leaders don’t just talk, they lead. If it were as simple as pulling a few people into the room and creating a vision statement, there would be many more successful leaders and many more successful teams. There are a few things that should happen as you socialize your vision. The most important is that team members see leaders acting on the vision statement. As a leader, you should identify behaviors that will demonstrate your personal commitment to make the vision real. The vision isn’t just a single statement or a paragraph or a page-long document. If you aren’t able to take actions that demonstrate your commitment to achieving the vision, neither will your team members.

  1. Encourage Innovation and Creativity

When a leader has demonstrated a clear vision with his actions and conversations, the truth is that a motivated team can come up with ideas that can be transformational. Your objective, then, is to unleash the creativity of your teams. Creating an atmosphere that encourages and rewards innovation and creativity is essential. Find a way to recognize and celebrate innovation. For example, identify a couple of challenges and create a virtual team to address them. Empower the team to come up with a resolution, and recognize them when it’s been resolved. There is nothing more powerful than inspired employees working together.

  1. Take the Time to Coach

Leaders who move up the ladder quickly are often good at “managing up.” However, in a time of change, it is critical that the leader take the time to help individuals achieve personal goals too. That means taking the time to coach or mentor individual contributors. Of utmost importance, individuals may struggle to make the connection between their daily job and the overarching data center vision. Once a leader demonstrates a true interest in the team member’s personal success, the team member is much more likely to go above and beyond to help achieve the team goals.

In the swirl of technology innovation, understand that your people and their individual goals are every bit as important as the technology decisions behind a successful data center. Regardless of the challenges you face, if you can articulate a clear vision, demonstrate that you are working to make the vision a reality, motivate and inspire individual contributors to do more, to be more and to find new and creative ways to succeed, then perhaps technological innovations won’t be the best part of your success.

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About the Author

Russell Hogue, PhD

Russ Hogue is an End-User Computing strategist focusing on select large enterprise accounts. He brings a wealth of knowledge across specialty areas with a background in datacenter management, infrastructure architecture, engineering and operations. With his diverse industry experience, Russ specializes in mobilizing the workforce with virtualized end-user computing technologies with VMware. Ideas expressed here are his own. Russ can be reached at drrussellhogue@outlook.com.