April 17, 2012

Brainstorming about a Collaborative Data Center

Meg Aranow, the former CIO of Boston Medical Center and now a principal at Aranow Consulting recently assembled several of the IT leaders in Boston to discuss opportunities for reducing costs and enhancing infrastructure by pooling our collective resources.   Here's her guest post describing the exploration:

"I recently met with IT leadership from Partners Healthcare, Childrens Hospital Boston and Beth Israel Deaconess, all teaching affiliates of Harvard.  The topic around which we convened was to discuss the idea of a collaborative datacenter.

With the potential upside of staffing and procurement efficiencies stipulated as a launching point for the discussion the conversation turned to what it would take to make it happen.

There were issues of (very) long term lease obligations, the cost of re-routing communication lines and the daunting spectra of demanding SLAs.

Clearly all of these challenges could be met by the combined IT talent…given a solid business case, time and resources.  But it was also clear that given all of the demands IT departments are already facing  – several of which are federally sponsored - this particular business case would have a hard time swimming to the surface.

Although I had been ready to engage in a vibrant discussion about competing business priorities, there was a vibe that nothing short of either fortuitous opportunity (i.e. the coincidental conclusion of independently negotiated leases) or a mandate would get enough attention to even be debated.  The business case we built would have needed to be great, not just good or promising.

I am not sure if a collaborative datacenter is a good, never mind the best, idea.  But the more general observation is that the current climate makes it difficult to devote resources to the exploration of new ideas.  Most of hospital IT is consumed with 1) the day-to-day support and tweaking of what already exists and 2) projects in support of the legally mandated future initiatives.

We concluded the meeting thinking it might be an interesting idea to some day explore if there were time.  But not now. "

Thanks for doing this Meg.  In a world of infinite demand and limited IT supply, all CIOs feel "time bankrupt".   The alignment of opportunity, regulatory mandate, cost pressures,  politics, and prioritization is definitely a perfect storm that occurs only rarely.

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