3 Tips for Scaling Your Business: Data Center Operations
Earlier this month, our IT department completed a data center upgrade that aligns with the plans for the growth we expect over the next 2-3 years. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, it was an important step for us, giving our team, as a whole, greater flexibility, security, and capability – three attributes that we really value as an artificial intelligence company. Our recent upgrade got us thinking about growth, in general, and some of the key factors in planning and executing a successful scale-up. Here are three key, high-level actions to emphasize when you find yourself ready and able to scale up your company.
- Make and use accurate growth forecasts. Seems obvious, right? But it is more than simply, “Guess and be right.” Predicting future growth is tough. In business, forecasts are used most notably for revenue growth, profitability margins, and other financial documents. Financial analysts use forecasts and future cash flows and tons of other numbers to make educated (and often wrong) guesses about the growth of companies. But unlike a financial analyst, infrastructure forecasts look at more than just numbers; you’re concerned with those core activities of your business, activities you understand better than external reviewers, and you are the best evaluator of the future of these activities. Be realistic about your growth, but be a little bold too. Expect to innovate and find ways for your positive outlook to come to fruition. In our case, we anticipated increased call volumes, more complex in-house application designs, and other back-end infrastructure needs which helped us forecast the necessary uptick in required computing power. But remember: the more accurate your forecasts, the more successful your upgrades will be.
- Consider the needs of all facets of your business. While there may be a specific primary business function that necessitates the scale-up, don’t forget to consider the support activities as well. To improve efficiency, you should be prepared to scale up all facets of the business. Repaving a highway is a high value activity, but if the lane lines are not repainted in straight lines and according to traffic patterns, the upgrade really does not help anyone. Think holistically about your scale-up and don’t forget the lane lines of your business. We scaled up to prepare for growth in the activities mentioned above (call volumes, in-house apps, etc.), but essential in making our scale-up decisions were other considerations – marketing support, project management applications, sales databases. Though these were not the main reasons for the data center upgrade, they were relevant in how we made decisions about it.
- Seek buy-in from stakeholders. Growth is an exciting goal for managers to reach, and a scale-up can be the physical manifestation of reaching that goal. At the same time, though, in order for a company to grow successfully, its managers need buy-in from key people who are affected by the growth. In the spirit of March Madness, consider a basketball example: Duke Basketball hasn’t always been great; they’ve grown into a powerhouse. But in growing, Coach K needs players, coaches, team managers, and even athletic trainers to accept his vision for greatness. He needs fans to support his program and media members to talk about it. All of this requires great coordination and significant internal and external buy-in. For the consistent success of your team, do your best Coach K impression: locate your stakeholders, both internal (employees, board members) and external (clients, partners), and communicate with them! Disclosure and understanding between managers and employees, clients, and other key members of the growth process will make for a smoother scale-up. Keep your stakeholders in the loop and make them feel they are a necessary part of the process – because they are. It is important to remember that while growth is great news, it is still a transition; they can be called “growing pains” for a reason.
Keeping these factors in mind helped us to make smarter choices in our data center upgrade. As your company continues to grow and approaches scale-up options, they could help to make your upgrade smoother in the short and long term as well. Our business has been growing like crazy and even though we have plenty of horsepower for our current needs, at this pace, the scale-ups just implemented are just a prelude to the next round.
About the Author: Charlie Schrier
Charlie is a Content Marketing Associate at SmartAction and an MBA student at Loyola Marymount University. He graduates with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship in May and hopes to work in strategy management. When he’s not blogging, Charlie watches, coaches, and plays a lot of basketball.