Can a flooded server room somehow create value?
Hardly something you think about with your feet in the water when you have to get all systems back online as well as handle all administrative and logistic tasks.
Allow me tell you the story of one such occurrence…
In July 2011, Copenhagen experienced unrelenting rainfalls which created chaos in the city. Streets and sewers were flooded.
The SAP Office being situated next to the ocean, it got badly hit by the record downpour. At first, the server room located in the basement was not even accessible. You could not possibly imagine the devastating situation we discovered after all the water was pumped out from basement. The raised floor tiles were floating around the racks, cooling stations, UPS, and PBX. The water had reached above the elevated floors and to lower levels of the racks.
Of course, we had expected the worst.
During this time, we had begun implementing our contingency plan. We initially focused on the most critical systems, getting them up and running, and checking for loss or corruption of data. Within a few hours, the file servers were diverted to our centralized hub with no data loss.
I have been reflecting on those first critical hours, and the more I think about it, the more I realize how powerful it is to be part of a global organization. The response time from all needed stakeholders was unbelievably quick and efficient. A true depiction of the quintessential team effort throughout an organization, everyone overcame boundaries and went above and beyond to provide help.
After having ensured business continuity, we then concentrated on what needed to be done in the server room. Cleaning, replacing damaged equipment, and getting the server room back to normal took days. What we didn’t replace was the PBX. We simply cleaned it and unfortunately, after a few weeks, the rust started to eat away at the system cards.
At the time, SAP was on the verge of launching the new global Unified Communication solution Lync. Considering the PBX situation in Copenhagen, management decided to turn the Denmark SAP office into the first location with Lync voice capabilities for all current Telco scenarios.
Preparation for the rollout was very thorough. Feedback from all employees was gathered and from top managers to receptionists, from training rooms to meeting rooms, all technical requirements (such as headset types for example) and functional needs (i.e. group calling) got carefully analyzed. The following items represent changes which were made following the feedback consultations:
- Local number attached to Lync client for each colleague.
- Meeting rooms with new VoIP solution
- Reception with a brand new solution to dispatch calls
- New support processes and structure
- Re-designed onboard processes to handle future requests
During preparation time, we took great care in informing all employees on what the changes would entail and what could be expected. We worked closely with the business to ensure a smooth cutover from traditional telephony to a complete UC solution:
- Information sharing via mail
- Posters around the office
- Information via the internal LCD screens around the office
- Information and guides in all meeting rooms
- Information sheets and guides on all desks
The project team that helped us locally worked out solutions for all topics on our requirement list; some were easy, some needed extra attention.
We switched over to Lync over a weekend. In essence, we took the incoming lines from the PBX and plugged them into the Lync gateway. Once all configurations and testing completed, we were ready for the employees to start using Lync.
On Monday morning, our primary focus was the reception where a brand new solution from Lync had been designed for switchboard environments. There was some fine tuning to do but, overall, the transition went smoothly.
We had very few support cases related to our new Telephony solution on the first day; most of the cases were related to how-to´s. This was not only an agreeable surprise but a huge confirmation that our carefully thought-out preparation had paid out.
Neither bad feedback nor negative comments! A few weeks went by and an increasing number of employees began to understand the true value of the transition. From the business standpoint, the following descriptions have been collected during discussions:
While the question at the heart of this article, namely “can a flooded server room somehow create value?” may have seemed initially a bit far-fetched in the reader’s mind, the Copenhagen case clearly illustrates you can take a devastating situation and turn it around to your advantage by seizing an opportunity. The “turning it around” part took an enormous amount of work and effort from all involved, but it the end, it resulted in a big pay-off and the satisfaction which stems from a well-managed and well-prepared implementation of a new technology.