Building data centers is a complex and time-consuming process, often involving dozens
of contractors and hundreds of moving parts.
Missed deadlines, confusion over responsibilities, and impractical schedules can have ripple effects that delay a project by months or more.
Based on our more than 100 years of collective experience building data centers, our team has identified five critical factors in bringing projects in on schedule and within budget.
Five Critical Success Factors in Data Center Construction
1. Procure for Success
Project owners and contractors may each have relationships, discount plans, and volume buying agreements that can reduce the cost of equipment purchases and installation. These should be applied whenever possible, but procurement responsibility needs to be clearly defined.
Base prices can be misleading. Project owners need full transparency on the total cost of procurement, including commissions and surcharges.
For each major asset to be procured, these questions need to be considered:
Who does the buying?
Who handles installation?
Who coordinates with other members of the project team?
Who ensures that timelines are met?
Are there compatibility or regulatory issues to resolve? If so, who is responsible for ensuring that they are addressed?
Are there other avenues that can further save costs?
Accountability is essential for success. Be sure there are people designated to answer each of these questions and that the consequences for failing to deliver are well known.
It is not uncommon to have 15 different disciplines working on a data center at the same time. Tight schedules require that timeframes be realistic and that handoffs occur within scheduling tolerances.
Individual contractors are not necessarily aware of the big picture of the project timeline. They can be looking at the same set of construction drawings but interpret priorities and schedules very differently from the owner. Coordinating tradespeople and tasks isn’t just a task for the beginning of a project; it is a living part of project management that must be continually monitored and realigned.
Designate a sequencing specialist who is tasked with understanding all the elements of planning and construction, knows delivery schedules , and oversees relationships with contractors and subcontractors. The person’s principal job is to ensure that realistic timeframes are set and commitments kept.
2. Sink or Sequence
Missed deadlines have a cascade effect. They create delays that build upon each other and collectively throw off the entire delivery schedule. Advanced planning is critical to creating realistic deadlines and expectations.
Stakeholders must understand what is expected of them and when. They need to agree to deadlines, incentives for exceeding them, and consequences for failing to meet them. Time spent planning and gaining agreement up front pays off in delays avoided later.
3. Get On the Critical Path
Complex projects like data centers require a thorough definition at the early stages, putting the right people in the right place and creating the right channels for communication, exception handling, and enforcement of commitments. Getting this right from initial programming and design to final commissioning of the facility demands a project manager with a proven track record.
Be careful of entrusting too much to the general contractor. They are paid a percentage of the cost of the project, which gives them little incentive to rein in costs. Letting the general contractor manage subcontractors is a case of the fox guarding the henhouse.
4. Don’t Get Stuck with the B Team
Data centers don’t exist in a vacuum; they are part of a community. Local regulations, zoning requirements, community activism, political affiliations, easements, and neighboring business considerations are among the factors that can interfere with project schedules.
Project managers should be aware of the full range of political, regulatory, business, and social issues that need to be addressed prior to completion. Look for partners that have roots in the community and that can satisfactorily address any question the owner might ask about potential barriers to success.
5. Remain Situationally Aware
When choosing a partner to help manage data construction project, remember that they are a proxy for you, the owner. That means your needs should always come before the needs of the contractor.
Use this guide as a checklist when evaluating prospective partners and ask how they would approach each of these critical success factors. Choose a partner that puts your interests first and isn’t afraid to demonstrate that commitment.
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Every person and business in our country has been greatly impacted by Covid-19.
In these unprecedented times, we are coping with everything from homeschooling
and virtual business operations to isolation.
We have seen that we best persevere by supporting each other and that community
and communication are more important than ever.
For many, the new normal of quarantine has reinvented what daily living looks like. It’s now #WFH, virtual family visits, and exercise programs with your favorite YouTube instructor.
As a great portion of our nation and its workforce went virtual, we are reminded of the strong and sustained need for what we do. We recognize the demand for greater technological support and
infrastructure given the remote workforce, many of which will remain virtual
even after stay-at-home orders are lifted.
Gratefully, our industry is poised for massive growth to support new ways of
doing business across multiple sectors. DCi trusts that our ability to transition back to a healthy, vital economy will be most effectively expedited by working together.