The Clock is Ticking. Staffing Succession Plan Required for Highly-Tenured Data Center Staffs

Time to put a succession plan in place.
Time to put a succession plan in place.

It started as semi-serious analysis on the expo floor of a data center conference. Some colleagues exhibiting at a trade show they had a problem. They were clearly generating less traffic and fewer leads than heir competitor on the same aisle.

Ten minutes watching the respective booths (is there anything more exciting than analyzing trade show booth traffic?) led to an obvious conclusion. The more heavily-trafficked competitor was staffing their booth with guys in their 50’s, who looked like data center managers. t was a demographic edge over their competition, who staffed their booth with personnel significantly their junior, perhaps 20-25 years younger, and dressed a bit more formally. Prospective attendees on the show floor were more comfortable talking to their more relatable peers in the exhibit hall, the 50-ish guys in golf shirts,

The data center management population is not a young group. That’s an observation from both industry events and data center visits. When making a mental list of data center operational staffs, those who impressed were not youthful. In fact, “there’s a young, sharp person with a bright future” is an observation that doesn’t happen as often as it should in data centers.

Is this anecdotal? Sure. But until a study of the age range of data center professionals is presented, we have nothing to go by but observation, and a fairly clear conclusion from the “eye test” is that the key employees at most data centers are well into the back nine of their careers, if not sizing up their tee shot on the 18th.

Is the there a deep bench for replacements or are younger professionals more likely to gravitate toward the application world? Situations vary, but it is worth reviewing the succession plan of any data centers you operate and thinking about the following questions:

  • If the current data center operations leader retired, and a key lieutenant took another job along with a trusted employee or two, who would replace them?
  • As that expertise and institutional knowledge walked out the door how would it affect your operations?
  • Is the exposure that may exist in your older employees an argument for an increased level of outsourcing?
  • Should budget be freed up to add some younger, developmental talent to your data center staff?

Accumulated institutional knowledge is a valuable commodity in a data center world. With the critical nature of data center operations it is imperative that anyone operating a data center has a plan to deal with the possibility of that knowledge exiting the premises.


photo credit:  flickr