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Fatal Fallacy 2: Believing That the Roles and Responsibilities of Key Individuals Are Clearly Defined and Understood

Our second fallacy contains three parts:

  • Identifying the key individuals who participate in facilities management. These individuals may include data center managers, their direct reports, the head of a company's facility department, and outside suppliers directly involved in providing a stable physical computing environment.

  • Defining the roles (what actions are expected) and responsibilities (the scope of authority and accountability) between a company's facilities department and IT's data center management. Clearly scoping out the areas of responsibility and, more important, the degree of authority between these two groups usually spells the difference between resolving a facilities problem in a data center quickly and efficiently, versus dragging out the resolution amid chaos, miscommunication, and strained relationships.

    Suppose a power distribution unit feeding a critical server fails. A computer operations supervisor would likely call in electricians from the facilities department to investigate the problem. Their analysis may find that the unit needs to be replaced and that a new unit will take days to procure, install, and make operational. Alternative solutions need to be brainstormed and evaluated between facilities and IT to determine each option's costs, time, resources, practicality, and long-term impact, and all this activity needs to occur in a short amount of time—usually less than an hour. This is no time to debate who has responsibility and authority for the final decisions. That needs to have been determined well in advance. Working with clearly defined roles and responsibilities shortens the time of the outage to the clients, lessens the chaos, and reduces the effort toward a satisfactory resolution.

  • Effectively communicating to all key individuals involved their roles and responsibilities—and ensuring that they understand. The lines of authority between an IT infrastructure and its facilities department vary from shop to shop depending on size, platforms, degree of outsourcing, and other factors. The key point here is to ensure that the two departments clearly agree upon, communicate to their staffs, and ensure compliance with these boundaries.

The fallacy arises when one or more of these three parts—identification, definition, and communication—is believed to have occurred but in actuality has not. The fallacy becomes fatal when the data center and the facilities department each believe that the other is following up on an incident—that can result in major extended outages due to neither group taking action.

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