Secrets of an IT consolidator

The advantages of consolidating a distributed, siloed IT environment are self-evident. You can increase efficiency, offer more and better services, and save money. How to get there might not be so obvious, however.

Carol Sherman, director of Michigan’s data center operations, said it takes a combination of support, partners and, above all, management.

“I managed it closely; I managed it myself,” Sherman said of a consolidation program that began in 2004 and shuttered 37 data centers around the state. “I didn’t allow folks to say ‘no.’”

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But that does not mean being a bully, she said. She did what she could to make the shift palatable. “I paid for the move. I didn’t charge them to consolidate. We didn’t charge hosting fees for several years.”

This was done largely through the savings realized from running three data centers rather than 40. The ability to offer agencies more services with greater flexibility and at a good price also helps. “You can build a substantial business case,” Sherman said.

A project involving multiple agencies cannot be rammed through by a single person or department. Michigan’s Information Technology Department also had the support of the state CIO, who lent his clout to the project. The private sector also has a key role in making a large project a success.

“You look for best practices, good products and good vendor partners,” Sherman said. “The vendors will help you get where you need to go.”

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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