As a data center manager, you are probably used to being pitched to; whether it’s outside salespeople offering products and services or staff members proposing their ideas. What happens when the tables are turned and you have to get buy in for a data center project? What’s the best way to pitch the C-Suite?
Justifying a capital investment is no easy task, despite the fact that data centers keep business moving. And, though the perceived value of the data center has risen, along with the demand for speed and processing power enabled by it, so has the pressure to continually prove worth.
Communicating the Case
Recognizing the urgency for an upgrade isn’t enough; you must be able to translate it into a convincing business case. Russell Senesac, Data Center Business Development Director, Schneider Electric, suggests, “Begin by asking: What are we trying to achieve in the data center? Then conduct an assessment of inventory to prioritize and determine cost versus value.”
Goals must be clearly defined — i.e. longer term cost savings, improved resiliency, better safety, greater sustainability or all of the above — to help determine the most effective investment. Then you have to gather evidence to back up your claim.
“One of the biggest mistakes people can make when presenting a business case to the C-level is not having data to support it. You don’t want to give anyone a chance to poke holes in your proposal because you don’t have enough information,” Russell says.
Speaking the Language
It’s likely you are already pulling regular reports on important metrics in your data center. Use the relevant aggregate results to construct the big picture and substantiate your case, but take heed in how you present the information.
“The key is to format these reports so they can be consumed by executive management,” according to Russell. “They are not experts in power and cooling or networking so you need to be able to have a business level discussion.”
In other words, you have to speak their ‘language.’ It can be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome. Data center managers have deep specialized knowledge. Finance and business negotiations call for a different set of skills not typically used in the role. Yet, CFOs want to know how much you need and why; they won’t relate to technical jargon.
One of the ways to break through the barrier of semantics is through the use of smart software. Russell points out that data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools can enable the construction and customization of reports in ways that mean you don’t have to be an expert in business.
Steven Carlini, Sr. Director, Data Center Global Solutions for Schneider Electric, adds, “You can also leverage our tradeoff tools.”
In the past, IT consultants would have to be brought in to figure out which applications were best on what platforms. Then the physical infrastructure experts would come next. “Now, you can easily figure out what size data center you need and model it out before building or upgrading anything,” Steven explains. “Based on the variables you enter, the calculators provide results that can be used for budgeting or energy planning purposes and to prove the ROI of your business case. Changing the variables will change the results, so you can easily rework the specifications to meet your requirements and quickly revise upon request.”
So new technology and innovative resources have made getting to the bottom line of a data center investment much more turnkey, which makes the bottom line for pitching the C-suite easier to reach.
Used to tactical execution, data center managers can (and must) take a more strategic approach when trying to get buy in for a project. Rather than simply coming to the table asking for money, they can now show up with a plan and validation of how a near-term investment will save money in the long run. Why would any CFO say no to this?
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