Next-Generation Data Centers Focus on
Empowering Human Ingenuity
Payal Kindiger, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Managed Services, gen-E July 3, 2013 2 Comments »
Do you have your social game on? Not Facebook, not Twitter – but the social savvy that will
catapult yourdata center initiatives a quantum leap forward. Today’s most advanced IT leaders are
paying close attention to the paradigm shift represented by new enterprise social and collaboration
technologies, which are transforming the effectiveness of data centers by leveraging the power of
The technology driving these next-generation data centers has risen out of a new capability that
leading analysts refer to as collaborative operations, which supports and captures the unstructured
workflows and collaborative dialog that emerges out of email, instant messaging, phone calls and
other means. Collaborative operations provides a convenient way to retain and manage all of this
activity so that the organization can benefit from the knowledge it contains over the long haul.
At the same time, new advances in the area of IT process automation (ITPA) are being combined
with collaborative operations to drive further gains in data center operations. ITPA solutions provide
the ability to orchestrate and integrate tools, people and processes, and can lead to reductions in
human error, better allocation of resources and faster incident response.
At the intersection of collaborative operations and ITPA is where we are seeing dramatic changes
take shape across the data center. These combined disciplines are fueled by four key pillars —
people, processes, knowledge and automation – and in this article, we’ll explore each of these
pillars and their impact on the data center.
People in the Data Center
When it comes to the new face of IT, people are the first and most crucial part of the equation, and
automation is a mechanism to provide more opportunity for creative work versus repetitive
work. Individuals are happiest when they participate in a community that asks the best of them and
allows them to contribute their potential. By getting the entire organization to participate
in IT through social collaboration and other means, IT processes are improved and experiences are
shared for the benefit of all.
Until recently, the unstructured interactions that make up social collaboration have been rarely, if
ever, accounted for in today’s more conventional ITPA tools. As a result, organizations miss out on
the opportunity to convert these valuable knowledge assets into reusable business intelligence that
can be accessed by support teams time and time again.
But collaborative operations-driven IT approaches are addressing this challenge by capturing and
documenting unstructured workflows and making them available via Wikis and other social tools
that link people, tools and other resources, thereby allowing organizational knowledge to be more
easily available, produced, maintained and consumed. By combining this level of collaboration with
built-in and highly scalable automation, today’s IT leaders are able to eliminate traditional
organizational constraints that hinder productivity and innovation, and achieve dramatic time and
cost savings as well as vast improvements in operational quality.
To provide a brief example of this approach in action, consider the idea that exceptions within an IT
automation process can initiate social collaboration, meaning support staff are alerted when
exceptions occur, and they are then able to instantly interact with live running processes – to offer
their insight, to learn, adapt and quickly take action. All the while, the organization’s process
knowledge is improved and updated in real-time, so that the wisdom gained at that particular point
in time is available for ongoing use.
Processes have always been human centric, and with collaborative operations infused into ITPA
processes, organizations gain the tools to make cross-functional collaboration easier and more
effective, and even more measurable.
Simply put, the mission of collaborative operations technology within today’s new IT organizations is
to increase the dissemination and use of institutional knowledge and automation tools to make
businesses more efficient; provide users a forum to collaborate, share experiences and contribute
innovative ideas in way that benefits the user and their employer; and harness weak ties across
organizational boundaries to strengthen operational excellence, thereby increasing the pace of
innovation and learning within the enterprise.
Industries such as communications, transportation and finance are pioneering the use of social
media and leveraging the power of people to drive success across processes that are critical to
network operations, customer care, provisioning, help desk, cloud services and other business
Peter Drucker once said, “Knowledge is the source of wealth. Applied to tasks that we already
know, it becomes productivity. Applied to tasks that are new, it becomes innovation.” Apply this
same precept to an organization and you’ll see why knowledge management is an IT cornerstone –
and in fact, it is critical for generating ongoing business intelligence, encouraging ongoing
knowledge sharing, and creating a continuous cycle of actionable feedback for use at every level of
At the same time, when it comes to IT skills, clearly there is a crisis of epic proportions confronting
today’s IT organizations. Highly skilled subject matter experts (SMEs) are expensive, and they cost
significantly more than a level one agent to employ. But what if you could empower your level one
technicians to resolve issues that previously could only be handled with two or more escalations?
How much could you save by minimizing escalations?
Collaborative operations practices help organizations resolve the skills crisis by capturing the
knowledge of SMEs to create an “actionable” and dynamic knowledge repository driven by an
enterprise social media platform.
Collaborative operations allows organizations to realize the true potential of IT operations by
unleashing the knowledge hidden within the different teams, groups and people throughout the
company; identify and capture processes to more effectively manage increasingly complex
networks and support requirements; and create an “actionable” and dynamic knowledge repository
driven by an enterprise social media platform.
Last but not least is automation. The IT automation space has spawned a host of powerful
automation tools that encapsulate the knowledge and best practices that organizations have
developed through the years. Creating automation today is becoming as easy as drag and drop —
and emerging new automation tools are giving IT teams new ways to save time and resources, and
reduce the repetition that takes the innovation out of IT.
The combination of collaborative knowledge sharing with the ability to easily automate processes
results in a solution where the sum is greater than the whole of the parts. By embedding
collaboration in event management processes, run book automation and help desk workflows, the
entire organization becomes engaged and empowered to resolve issues faster and more efficiently.
Taking it a step further, when a customer care solution, for example, integrates with leading CRM
and contact center tools to deliver a truly social-centric experience for automating customer service
and support (CSS), a more holistic and effective approach to customer care is taking place. By
supporting existing CSS processes and tools and even embedding social collaboration to deliver
powerful automation capabilities directly to contact center personnel, IT is enabling customers to
solve their own issues quickly and efficiently.
Through a more collaborative approach to IT, all participants in the customer care resolution
process are also able to share and collaborate on support procedures – even interact in real-time
with SMEs across the organization. The result is reduced customer churn through better quality of
service; increased productivity, with agents able to do more in less time by capturing knowledge
from social threads into a case or ticket record; and reducing the percentage of transferred calls
Ready to Dive Into Social Collaboration
While some IT organizations may think they’re not quite ready to dive in and take advantage of this
type of social collaboration technology, there are a growing number of real-world deployments
today that are leading the way. These deployments bring traditional back-office processes to the
front line – allowing users at every level to automate troubleshooting at the touch of a button;
search for resolutions based on intelligent, guided workflow schemes; access new system data to
ensure up-to-the-minute information is in play; and interact in real time with subject matter experts
to quickly get to the root of complex problems.
For example, one leading Internet service provider with multiple offices across the U.S. is using an
ITPA solution with embedded social media to support its network operations center, which in turn
supports its customer care organization. Through the use of Wikis and other integrated
collaboration tools, customer service representatives (CSRs) are able to quickly and easily leverage
the expertise of knowledge workers across the organization. When a CSR runs an automation for a
customer, for example, the system pulls information from a variety of sources and provides a high-
level analysis of that information with warnings and corrective actions. It stores these results in a
database, which allows the CSRs to go back and review the output of those automations. This
searchable knowledge base gives CSRs the answers they need quickly, while significantly reducing
the need for them to seek additional support from elsewhere in the organization.
Another company — a communications service provider (CSP) facing the 24/7 support demands
required for its high-speed Internet and cable modem offerings — has redefined its approach to
data center operations. As end users and customers increasingly lost patience as service failures
occurred, executives were ready for change. The CSP deployed a social-powered ITPA platform to
configure automation schemes, and has been able to expedite response and remediation times for
both lines of business. It set up the system to receive instant notification of technical issues,
allowing automations to go to work right away to identify the problem and make use of pre-defined
processes to correct all common issues almost immediately. And with social tools integrated into
the system, technicians are able to quickly seek out expert help over the network should they need
it, and stay abreast of evolving resolutions and fixes. With hundreds of hours in time savings
projected each month, the CSP has also gained a preventative edge that allows it to identify
problems before they reach a certain threshold.
At the intersection of automation, collaboration and enterprise social is where you’ll find next-
generation data centers. And those that are making use of the power of human ingenuity by
employing a more collaborative-driven approach to automation are breaking down traditional
organizational and process constraints and achieving new cost and time savings that they never
By harnessing the knowledge and power of groups with IT process automation to create significant
value and efficiencies for data centers, these organizations are able to capture knowledge that is
typically lost in other enterprise systems. Users are able to leverage their shared knowledge to
collectively modify, automate and create new processes to support customer triage, remediation
and other critical actions. Best of all, the knowledge bank that they build becomes a reusable and
actionable asset that can be adapted over time to best serve the organization.